FSW basketball player from Africa rising in sport he started four years ago

Mohamed Sylla, a Freshman FSW basketball player, didn’t always know basketball was a realm he could compete in — or even be dominant in.

Africa native Sylla was playing sports out in a field more often than on a court.

“It’s Africa. We all know how Africa is,” Sylla said. “It wasn’t easy. It was hard for me, and I wasn’t even playing basketball. I was playing soccer.”

But, at 7-feet tall, it was probably a matter of time before someone would suggest he try hoops.

“I had a chance to go to a basketball camp in Angola,” Sylla said. “I didn’t even know how to play basketball, but they invited me to the camp, so I was like damn.”

The phrase “ball is life” is a popular one among young American basketball players, who have been playing their entire lives. Again, growing up on the Ivory Coast, Sylla was still relatively new to basketball. It wasn’t until four years ago, someone noticed Sylla’s height, and his pathway into the game began.

“I remember the first time I started playing basketball; I didn’t know nothing about it,” Sylla said. “I had no skill, but I was athletic, so it wasn’t that hard for me.”

Sylla lacked the touch that comes from playing basketball over a long period of time, so his offense suffered. But as an athletic, 7-foot athlete, he was instantly a force on defense and on the boards.

Eventually, Sylla popped up the FSW Buccaneers’ radar, and they were desperately in need of a big man.

“It was getting very late. We were kind of scrambling around, and Coach Murphy, our head coach, got a call,” assistant coach Kente’ Hart said. “[Mohamed] fit all the bills of what we were looking for in a big man. He runs the floor really well, blocks shots, alters shots at the rim.”

In six games this season, Sylla leads the Bucs in blocks and 2nd in rebounding. That’s not bad for a kid who has only been able to say, “Ball is life,” for the past four years.

“He definitely has a chance to be a really good player,” Hart said. “A mid-major, if not a high-major player, in the next two years.”

Sylla’s experience has been an important, driving lesson for himself about what he can achieve, and it’s something that can likely apply to others who set goals for themselves.

“Sometimes, I think about it. I say, ‘You’ve done all this in three of four years,” Sylla reflected. “That means if you keep going hard, you can achieve more. You can do more. That’s kind of motivation for me.”

Reporter:Andrew Keesee
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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