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Hard work (and a little luck) brings varsity recruit from across the globe

By Michelle Osmond

Tanzanian native Alphaeus Kisusi started playing basketball when he was 12. It has since become a sport he claims he "can't live without." Mr. Kisusi is hoping to play for the Sea-Hawks in September but the story of how he got to Memorial involves luck along with the dedication and enthusiasm of some Memorial employees.

Peter Benoite, who coaches the men's Sea-Hawks basketball team, met Mr. Kisusi at a basketball camp in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, last summer. But it wasn't the first time he'd seen him play. Back in February 2011, Shona Perry-Maidment, director of Student Recruitment, took a trip to Tanzania to spread the word about Memorial. She was approached by a student who handed her a DVD and asked her to give it to the Memorial coach.

Mr. Benoite had already been exploring the idea of recruiting players from Nigeria but after watching the DVD and talking to Mr. Kisusi's coach, the idea of doing a camp in Africa began to form. With lots of support, the camp became a reality.

"The purpose of the camp was twofold, to give the kids there an opportunity to develop their skills and promote basketball in the area, as well as for me to search for possible recruits for our basketball team," said Mr. Benoite. "There were a number of kids at the camp that I was interested in, but a lot of factors are involved when recruiting international students. As it worked out, Alpha was the best fit for us academically and basketball-wise and we offered him a scholarship to come and play with us. After meeting with his parents, they were in full support and were very excited about the opportunity."

Mr. Benoite said folks from the basketball world in Tanzania were very supportive of the camp and Mr. Kisusi's scholarship to Memorial garnered some media coverage in his home town. Representatives of the Tanzanian Basketball Federation and the National Sports Council came out for the official ceremony.

So far, Mr. Kisusi likes Memorial and is adjusting very well. He's doing an undergraduate degree in geography and a minor in business (and doing a lot of basketball training).

"My professors are really friendly, plus I am getting along with other students ... I think my biggest challenge would be getting used to the climate. I mean, it's really cold here compared to where I am from where it's always summer."

Mr. Benoite noted they are already organizing another camp, but they need more sponsors to make it a reality and to make it an annual or bi-annual event.
"I envision the partnership growing, and I even hope to be able to take some of our athletes with me to help out at the camps, to give them a great experience and the opportunity to help people in other parts of the world," added Mr. Benoite. "That's the great thing about basketball, it can be a great bridge to bring cultures together and we are already seeing that with our basketball team."