Alphaeus “Alfa” Kisusi admits the first thing he did when he decided to come to Memorial University from Africa was to find St. John’s on the map.
Kisusi, who is from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, didn’t know were Newfoundland was.
He does now. And he’s shown himself eager to find out what’s in store for him in his new place of residence. The 19-year-old arrived in St. John’s at
3 a.m. last Thursday and showed up to his first Memorial Sea-Hawks basketball practice at 5 p.m.
Kisusi was recruited over the summer through a camp in Tanzania held by MUN head coach Peter Benoite.
However, while Benote is glad to have him, it isn’t likely Kisusi will see any action in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference this season.
If the Sea-Hawks were fighting for a playoff spot, the decision might have been different. But with eight games to go, MUN is in last place in the AUS standings with a 1-11 record. This weekend, Memorial is on the road for a pair of games against the UPEI Panthers.
“I don’t want to waste his year of eligibility,” explained Benoite. “I’m 99 per cent sure he won’t be suiting up this season. If he had been here at Christmas time, I’m pretty sure he would have.”
There are other reasons behind that thinking.
“He’s coming late as it took a while to get his visa, so I’m concerned about him catching up academically and getting through school,” said Benoite about Kisusi, who is studying geography at MUN.
“It would be pointless to throw him into basketball right now, and have him suffer academically. I don’t think he will have any troubles, but (it is) always difficult to catch up if you have missed some classes.
“Our main focus will be to get him settled and to help him with his courses.”
Kisusi had other options for his future, but coming to Canada was ”a dream I’ve always had,” he said. So he had no reservations about moving to Newfoundland after meeting with Benoite.
Kisusi is here on an Athletic Financial Award, a scholarship MUN can provide under Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) regulations which allow the university to help him out with his tuition.
“I thank God every day for this scholarship and this opportunity,” the humble, soft-spoken Tanzanian said.
Although he’s ready to contribute now, he understands he may have to wait.
“I’m quick and I try my best, but I’m not that good yet,” said Kisusi, whose first language is Swahili, but who speaks very good English, learned at an international school.
He played in a local league Dar Es Salaam and with the national team in Tanzania, where basketball is second only to soccer in popularity.
“I liked his skill-set when we did the camp, but he has a fair bit of work to do training-wise. He needs to get into the weight room,” said Benoite about the six-foot-three, 160-pound guard, who will stay in St. John’s over the summer.
“He is very athletic. He can shoot the three and get to the rim, but he will have to adjust to the style of game here.”
Benite said Kisusi looked good and “had some nice takes to the hoop,” at his first MUN practice.
“We kept him out of our five-on-five stuff, as obviously he doesn’t know our offence or defensive systems right now
“He has good quickness and can handle the ball. Keep in mind,” Benoite noted, “most courts in Tanzania are outdoors, so it will be an adjustment for him shooting-wise.
“But he did shoot the ball well when I was in Dar Es Salaam this summer, so I expect him to be fine in that regard.”