The American Dream is alive and well these days. Maybe harder to achieve, but that isn’t deterring those people who believe hard work, dedication and faith are all they need to get their slice.
In fact, Gabon-native Therence Mayimba said that was one of reasons he was motivated to come to the United States. The land of opportunity, offered him just that: A chance to achieve greatness and make his family proud.
“I came to the United States to take advantage of being in a good school, and basketball comes second,” Mayimba said. “That’s what I love, that’s what I want to do, that’s why I play basketball, but school comes first.”
The second of his parents’ three children, Mayimba said that while it was hard for his family to send him away, the prospect of going to a great school and possibly playing basketball in college and the NBA was enough for them to send him to America.
When he found out that he would be able to study and play in the U.S., he said he thanked God every day for his blessings and for being given an opportunity to show he is ready to do great things.
“I think God responded to me, so I feel like I have to be with him and thank him. God is everything to me,” Mayimba said.
A product of Joe Touomou, Mayimba said that he went to an African tournament with his country when he was approached by popular singer, Serge Maboma.
“He saw me play one day, and he told me what I am, what I play for and what I came from,” Mayimba said. “He told me that if I want to be a great player he can help me, ‘cause he knows some people who can help me to come to America.
“I tell [Touomou and Maboma] what I wanted to do, what was my dream, what was my purpose and [coach Touomou] trusted me. [Touomou] came and saw me play and said ‘Okay I’m going to help you out.’”
The rising junior at Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) said he wanted to make his family proud of him: He wanted to have his degree, to finish school and to then be an athlete.
Mayimba said he would like to major in engineering in college and that his favorite subject is math. He said his dad told him if he can do math, he can do anything and that has fueled his interest in not only math, but subjects that deal with infrastructure.
When he arrived in the United States nine months ago, Mayimba admitted there was a big culture shock. Coming from a country with a little over three million people and where sports are not nearly as celebrated as in the U.S., he said he had some major adjusting to do.
Overcoming the English language and the regions colloquial terms and phrases were some of the biggest challenges he while he transitioned to the American game.
“I was really confused, really confused cause it was weird,” Mayimba said. “I remember a teammate from Montrose Christian, every morning he used to tell me ‘What’s up?’, and I was like ‘What does that mean?’ I didn’t know what ‘what’s up’ meant.
“I have teammate named Kevin Zabo and he speaks French, so he helped me out with English and everything. I use to tell him not to speak too much French with me because I wanted to learn English really quick.”
Once Mayimba learned how to explain himself, everything became a lot easier he said. Practice, which was challenging due to the language barrier, was suddenly much less difficult, and once he picked up the American format of basketball, everything started running smoothly from there.
Well-known for his superb defense and ability to score, experts have frequently compared Mayimba to former Mustang Kevin Durant. Mayimba, a 200 lbs, 6’7 small forward, said his defense is his strength; whether it is help side, talking on defense or blocking an opponent’s shot. He simply loves playing defense.
On a team with six seniors ahead of him, Mayimba was unable to show this and received limited playing time as a sophomore. This year, however, he is an upperclassman, and his command English is leaps and bounds from where it used to be.
“I think I’m going to play a lot this year and explain to myself and prove to everyone that I can be a good player,” Mayimba said. “I know I’m going to start.”
But Mayimba said he doesn’t just want to start, he wants to flourish against Montrose’s nationally-ranked opponents. He said he loves playing against tough teams because it gives him an opportunity to measure his development.
As of now, Mayimba said the main thing he needs to work on is his shot. He said he knows that if he wants to reach the NBA, he will have to develop a more consistent shot and offensive arsenal.
Playing for Nike EYBL powerhouse Team Takeover (D.C.) 16U has helped Mayimba continue to refine his skills against some of the best competition in the country. A league that has produced NBA stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker, is helping Mayimba hone his defensive skills, while steadily improving his offensive repertoire.
Mayimba’s improved play has garnered the Scout 2014 top 60 player attention from a lot of different schools recently. Considered one of the best small forwards in his class, coaches are jumping on him early and trying to keep tabs on the rising junior.
“There are a lot of schools who are interested in me,” Mayimba said. “But I just send them to my coach, because I don’t really want to focus on college right now. I’m only going to 11th grade, I have to focus on school and working right now.
“I know a couple schools who are interested in me though: Indiana, Miami (Fla.), Villanova, Georgetown, Texas, Harvard, Virginia Tech and Maryland.”
Though he doesn’t have a favorite, Mayimba said he likes Maryland’s campus and has been to the school a few times with friends.
“I like the school,” Mayimba said. “They have a great program, they produce great players over there and I like the academic part the most."
Since he is focusing on school over the next year, Mayimba admitted that he doesn’t know that much about Maryland.
Regardless, he said a school’s basketball reputation will only be one factor in his decision to go there. Mayimba reiterated that a school’s academic prestige will weigh the most in where he decides to go.
“I’m not going to play basketball for my whole life,” Mayimba said. “I will have to stop basketball one day, so I will use my degree to have a good job and to take care of my family.”