Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2022. 11:27 am CST.
Photo Courtesy: Nisani Mendez, High School sophomore starting guard
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belizean student Nisani Mendez from Belmopan, following his dream of playing Division I college basketball in the United States, got himself accepted into Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a high school in the state of Georgia, and has now completed his sophomore year while playing basketball.
Over the last year, Mendez who just turned 17, has been playing as a point guard and shooting guard for the Rabun Gap Eagles averaging 10.1 points per game. To go along with that he is also averaging 6 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He also plays with Team Swish, a travelling team from South Carolina.
Born in Belize City on May 20, 2005, the 6’2” Mendez grew up in Belmopan where he completed his primary school studies at Quality School International (QSI) of Belize. His love for basketball was such that he played for the Belmopan Trojans and for the Clinton ‘Pulu’ Lightburn’s FutureShock, one of Belize’s best youth basketball teams, if not the best.
In an exclusive interview with Breaking Belize News (BBN), Nisani’s mother Kathrine Mendez, Director of Belize EU Corporation Unit in the Ministry of Economic Development, said her son was assisted by Michael Pascal of Marigot Development Corporation of Dominica to access an academic scholarship at Rabun-Gap in Nacoochee Georgia. Rabun Gap is a boarding school with an athletic programme, she said.
Kathrine Mendez told BBN that Pascal “has a programme to get students from high school to join boarding schools in the US as a pathway to college. You pay a fee for him to guide you through the process.”
“You have to take a secondary school assessment test. To get into his programme, you have to be very good at something like excellent in music, drama, arts, or sports. He said he doesn’t normally do sports, but he would try out Nisani,” Ms Mendez said.
Nisani was accepted at Rabun Gap as a Grade 10 (second year high school) student and joined the school last August.
Since late May Nisani has been home for the end of year vacation but is today returning to Georgia to further his training and rejoin his school in August for his junior year. And he’s heading back with high hopes.
“My mom wants me to leave, she doesn’t want me to stay,” he said jokingly while at the same time saying he was serious.
Now things are going to be easier for his second year as he knows what is expected of him to achieve his goals.
“The change was hard, I had to adjust academically and athletically to the standards in the US but now I’m playing well with my high school team representing Belize,” Nisani told BBN. Nisani said he trains three times a day with a fitness coach, gym coach, and a basketball coach explaining that he trains harder at his high school than he did all week here.
“I’m getting college interest so I can stay in the United States for college,” he said, confiding that his head coach tells him that he has the potential to play Division 1 ball. In January, Nisani made the 2024 Top NCAA Watchlist.
Nisani advises young ballers to stay focused.
“Stay true to the grind, stay focused, don’t let anything distract you,” he said.
But now that it’s time to leave, his mom, who is traveling with him today, said it isn’t easy letting go.
“Well, Pascal had to tell me ‘Let him go because he has a bright future’,” she said and laughed thinking that he’s going again.
“But it wasn’t easy because he left when he was sixteen. His dream is to go to college on a basketball scholarship and learn to perfect his game and play Division I. I’m learning to let go because it’s his dream that he is following, no?” said Ms Mendez who is very supportive of her son.
Other than basketball, Nisani is interested in sports journalism.
A long journey awaits him, but with the interest and dedication he is showing, success appears down the road.
Bon voyage, Nisani! Best wishes and all the success from the BBN team.
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