Life above the rim

As Nelson Boachie-Yiadom (’17) finished his fifth suicide run, he fell to his knees exhausted and gasped for air. Teammate Anton Foy (’15) grabbed him by the hand and pulled him to his feet, placing an arm around his shoulders for support. Although Boachie-Yiadom has only been a member of ASL varsity basketball for a few weeks, he is certainly making an impression, gaining the trust and respect of his teammates as well as his coaches. “To support each other and feel a team atmosphere has been great,” said Boachie-Yiadom. “I only met [my teammates] a few weeks ago but I know I always have a shoulder to lean on.”

Boachie-Yiadom started playing basketball at the age of 7 when his mother decided to take him to a school practice. “For the first few weeks I hated basketball,” he said, laughing. “I absolutely hated it.”

However, a few weeks after his introduction to the game, Boachie-Yiadom made up his mind. “I was sitting in my bedroom thinking. I decided to give basketball another go, not for my mom, but for myself. Then it really just took off from there,” he said.

When he was younger, Boachie-Yiadom was quiet and kept to himself. Standing at six feet six inches tall, Nelson often felt awkward among his peers. However, as he grew up, it was through basketball that he gained confidence. “Basketball built up my confidence, helping me make new friends. Being tall doesn’t make a difference anymore,” he said.

One of two freshmen on the varsity team, Boachie-Yiadom is not intimidated by the age difference between him and his teammates or his opponents. As well as playing for ASL basketball, he has played on U16 and U18 club teams. “Since I’ve played on [club teams], I’m used to playing with people that are older,” he said.

As his skills have developed, the word basketball has grown to mean hard work for Boachie-Yiadom. “Basketball is all about giving all your effort. If you work hard then everything else takes care of itself,” he said. “You can have all the talent, but if you don’t work hard it means nothing.”

Head varsity basketball Coach Joe Chodl believes that Boachie-Yiadom has brought this mentality with him to ASL. “He has a positive attitude and is a hard worker,” Chodl said.

Boachie-Yiadom is always looking to refine his game and his hardworking attitude, as well as his “coachability,” which helps him become a better player with every practice. “He listens to what the coaches say, he thinks about it, and then he implements it,” Chodl said. “[That to me] is a very coachable player.”

Boachie-Yiadom’s teammates have also commended his work ethic. “He’s a hard worker and you can tell his love for the game by how he wants to be the best,” fellow varsity basketball player Nick Muoio  (’16) said. “Good isn’t good enough for him.”

Over the past few years, Boachie-Yiadom has looked to the NBA to develop further as a player, modeling his game after Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City Thunder. Boachie-Yiadom studies Durant, a player with a similarly tall and thin physical build, to “try and learn all his moves and understand how he gets his points.”

Nelson!

Like Durant, Boachie-Yiadom influences the game with both his offensive and defensive skill sets. Chodl said, “I believe he will be one of the best defenders in the league as a freshman.”

Coming to ASL was an enticing prospect for Boachie-Yiadom. With friends already attending, high academic standards and a good basketball program, Boachie-Yiadom did not hesitate to apply to the school. “I wanted to play basketball here as well as get a good education,” he said.

For Boachie-Yiadom, there is a big difference between the basketball programs of his former school, Harrow Secondary, and ASL. At Harrow Secondary, talent rather than hard work is rewarded. “If you were talented that [was] great, but —–here everyone puts in the work and you can feel the chemistry being built,” he said. Boachie-Yiadom singled out communication as the most important factor for building team chemistry. “[In the ASL basketball program] everyone is talking to each other. It’s a smaller world,” he said.

With strong team chemistry and hard work, Boachie-Yiadom believes the team can have high hopes for this season. “Right now everything is going very well. Everyone knows their role and place on the team,” he said. In his first four varsity games, at a tournament at the American School of The Hague, Boachie-Yiadom was awarded a spot on the All-Tournament team comprised of six players from the four teams that competed. “I think if we continue to work hard, we should do well at ISSTs,” he added.

One element of ASL basketball that Boachie-Yiadom adamantly believes is important to success is school spirit. “Here at ASL, we have the fans,” he said. This season, Boachie-Yiadom is especially looking forward to playing in front of the ASL crowd. “I’ve never played in front of such a big crowd,” he said. “I’ve seen how passionate they get here, everyone on our side, motivating us to win games.”

Usually, Boachie-Yiadom’s pregame ritual is quiet, as he listens to music on his own and thinks about how he will help the team. “I like to stay relaxed, composed and imagine myself making plays, passing, shooting, dribbling, defending,” he said. However, for him it is the fans that boost his energy and give him confidence. “I think at ASL, the hype our fans bring to the games will allow me to do things I never thought I could do.”

Dunking the basketball is a skill that requires great athleticism to play above the rim. Among his physical and mental skills, Boachie-Yiadom brings this “element above the rim which is certainly fun and certainly makes a statement,” Chodl said.

Boachie-Yiadom’s combination of height and athleticism allows him to dunk easily. “Dunking feels good,” he said. “For the team [dunking] brings hype, gets everyone excited [and] gives us something to build around.” Although he’s never dunked on anyone, “that’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while,” he said with a laugh. “It’s definitely a goal for me this season.”

Just as basketball helped Boachie-Yiadom overcome social struggles as a younger child, he believes basketball will help him later in life as well. He hopes to someday play Division I basketball at a university in the U.S., and from there “just work hard and maybe have a chance to play professional basketball.”

Boachie-Yiadom’s relationship with basketball is strong. It has helped him on and off the court, given him many opportunities and helped him make many friends.

Basketball is his passion. “I’ve had some rough times on the court, I’ve had moments where I thought of moving on, but I would never think of quitting basketball,” he said. “I love the game too much.”

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