Learning to fly

John Browne
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Rookie Memorial Sea-Hawk from Tanzania is a quick study

Tanzanian Alpha Kisusi takes a jump shot during the Memorial Sea-Hawks’ men’s basketball practice this week at the old MUN gym. After red-shirting with Peter Benoite’s team last season, the 20-year-old rookie has earned a spot in the teams’ starting lineup thanks to a summer spent developing different aspects of his game. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Alpha Kisusi acquired a taste for fish and chips this past summer in St. John’s, and he was happily surprised about the weather.

The 20-year-old from Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, has adjusted well to his new surroundings, including his new basketball team. Kisusi will make his Atlantic University Sport home debut tonight with Memorial Sea-Hawks against Cape Breton Capers at the Field House.

Kisusi red-shirted last season after arriving at MUN in January. After a successful academic semester, he stayed in St. John’s over the summer and worked on his game while helping out a MUN hoop camps which he says was a good experience.

It’s been an easy transition to Newfoundland and Labrador and Kisusi has fit in well with his teammates, most of whom this season are around his age.

Mainly, he says, it feels great to get the opportunity to come to Canada and play university basketball which, he said, is something he’s yearned for his entire life.

Life in Tanzina was pretty comfortable for the 6-3 wing. Both his parents are engineers and work at the airport in Dar Es Salaam, and Kisusi attended an international school which is something not every Tanzanian has the opportunity to do.

While he misses his family, Kisusi said he remains connected with them via Skype.

Kisusi, who is working towards a business degree, with a minor in geography, has a 23-year-old brother, Joseph, who is considering coming to MUN for his masters and potentially play some hoops.

“He was a much better basketball player than me and he probably still is,” Kisusi said with a smile.

Kisusi is happy to be a Sea-Hawk and has worked hard over the summer to earn a starting spot on the team.

Now, he said, his goal is to try and work on every aspect of his game to make him a better player.

“I need  to work on my shooting and penetration … stuff like that,” said Kisusi, whose first language is Swahili, but who speaks very good English.

Kisusi debuted for the Sea-Hawks last weekend in Halifax, where Memorial dropped a pair of games to the Saint Mary’s Huskies. He scored 10 points in MUN’s 95-51 loss Saturday and 14 points in 37 minutes in the team’s 80-62 loss Sunday. He had eight rebounds and six assists in the two games.

Sea-Hawks’ coach Peter Benoite is pleased with Kisusi at this point, pointing out the African was one of the team’s best players against SMU.

“He played with confidence, played very aggressive and showed that he has the tools to be a very effective scorer in the league,” said the MUN mentor. “He’s still making mistakes, but the mistakes he’s making are either fixable ones or ones that you can accept because he is trying to make something happen.”

Benoite says Kisusi’s progression since a preseason tournament at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., “has been exponential.

“He was very nervous in Laurentian and wasn’t able to get himself going. His play was erratic and he was almost trying to play too fast.”

However Benoite said Kisusi has settled himself down and is playing with more confidence.

“He’s started to understand what he has the ability to do,” said Benoite.

“You could even see the improvement in him from (last) Saturday to Sunday. He’s only going to get better the more he plays. He’s going to be very tough to stop in this league once he gets some experience under his belt.”

Having said that, Benoite added Kisusi has a lot to work on, as any first-year would.

“He’s still learning the game and getting his spatial awareness within a defensive and offensive system.

“I would like him to use his athleticism on defense a bit more. He has the quickness and ability to be a very good defender, but I’m not sure if he realizes it yet. Once he does, he can be an effective player on both ends of the floor.”

He also needs to work on his shooting, said Benoite.

“Coaches in the league will quickly realize what they need to do against him and they will try to take away his penetration.  

“He needs to develop his jump shot so he can keep the defense honest and open up some driving lanes for himself. If he can extend his range to the three-point lane over the next year or so,” added Benoite, “he will turn himself into a pretty unstoppable player in the league.

“But keep in mind,” the MUN mentor cautioned, “he’s still only a rookie and we are asking him to do a lot. He will have good days and bad days, but there is no doubt he can be an impact player in the league.”





Organizations: Atlantic University Sport, Sea-Hawks, Laurentian University

Geographic location: MUN, Tanzania, Dar-Es-Salaam Cape Breton Capers Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Halifax Saint Mary Sudbury Laurentian

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