Transfers travel from overseas to basketball court

Transfers travel from overseas to basketball court

Senior Mihael Maric prepares to pass the ball to a teammate while trying to keep it from getting to the hands of a player on St. Maria Goretti. Maric is one of several international students who have joined the basketball team in recent years.

Grace Kim, Online Chief

A lot can change for a person within a short year.  Changing schools, much less countries, can transform one’s life.

Senior Mihael Maric, from Croatia, arrived at JC for his senior year, just one of multiple foreign student-athletes who’ve attended JC.

“One of my coaches in Croatia told me about JC.  He went to high school in Maryland, and he told me a lot of good things about JC,” Maric said. “I have some friends who came here and they told me that it is possible to go to school and play basketball, which is what I want to do. They also told me that life is beautiful here, and I wanted to experience it.”

Although it’s Maric’s first year on the men’s varsity basketball team, he has been chosen as team captain.

“I didn’t expect to be team captain, because I am new to JC, but when coach [Tony Martin] told me, I was happy and proud.  It is challenging to be a strong leader and good role model. It is easy to be a leader with this group, because everyone wants to work hard and do their best,” Maric said.

Maric does not know whether he will be attending college here or in Croatia.  “I have not applied to colleges yet,” Maric said.

As far as recruiting players from foreign countries, according to Athletic Director Larry Dukes, JC doesn’t enlist the athletes.

“We really don’t recruit the basketball players. People get in touch with us that have kids in their countries, or they know of kids
through contacts with other coaches that are looking for opportunities for their kids to come to the US and play and go to school.  We probably see 10 to 20 requests a year,” Dukes said.

According to Dukes, typically one to two student-athletes are accepted per year.

“It’s [admission requirements] no different than any other student coming into JC, and no different from the other foreign students coming into JC.  They have to meet the academic requirements for students entering, they’re interviewed and tested done by the Admissions office, and a recommendation is made to the principal on whether they should be accepted or not,” Dukes said.

The major components of acceptances are proficiency in English, affordability for the student, and availability of a host family,
according to Dukes.

Foreign student-athletes have been a presence at JC beginning seven years ago, with
the arrival of Jakub Kusmieruk, class of ’08, from Poland.  Other current student-athletes include juniors Mike Owona and
Christian Owona, and their brother, sophomore Lionel Owona.  The brothers came their freshman year from Cameroon, and already have plans to continue on to college.

“There is no difference [between players] on the court.  We all speak the same language: basketball.  Playing basketball here
helps [us] get better, to learn a new thing every day, and to learn how to play the game. I can’t stop thinking about my family and friends back home [though], I miss them a lot. I keep contact with my family and friends via social networks such as Facebook and Skype,” Christian said.

After college, Christian says that he wants to become a specialized surgeon as well as play a high level of basketball. He says that he will play basketball in college, believing that it will open several doors in his life.

His twin, Mike, doesn’t know what he will do after college, but he is sure that he will continue to play basketball after college.  “The way people play basketball is totally different from my country and it [the game] goes faster [here]” Mike said.

“The way people play [basketball] definitely is a different style. I’m planning after college to get a job and make a living of that.  I want to continue to play basketball because I like it and be able to get a scholarship in it,” Lionel said.

“Most of the kids that I’m familiar with rarely go back to their home country.  I cannot remember one that did not go to college and get a degree.  Mihael might go back. I think that his life and his homeland are pretty good, but most stay here,” Dukes said.

Grace Kim is the Online Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.