By Matthew Davison
For one Rams men’s basketball star, who was only a rookie the last time his team played a game, the pandemic hiatus helped bolster a blossoming career.
In late August, second-year guard Mouhamed Alga took to the court in the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 tournament in Kigali, Rwanda. Alga had the opportunity to represent Senegal, the country he moved from when he was 11-years-old.
“I learned a lot. I had the chance to talk to a lot of people that are more experienced than me,” he said. “There were a lot of pros that had some great, great careers.”
Alga was faced with the challenging task of playing against experienced players after not playing the sport in over a year and a half. He mentioned how difficult it was initially to find his rhythm and adjust to the pace of the game after months of being limited to open runs or pickup five-on-five at local gyms.
He said he believes that in those two weeks in Rwanda, he evolved not just as a player but as a person thanks to the help of his teammates and coaches.
“They gave me advice on how to get my career started, how to get the job done…how to carry myself,” said Alga. “From that point, I’ve learned to grow as a young man.”
The 22-year-old guard was the youngest player on the team and started out the tournament playing limited minutes. Alga also talked about having to earn the trust of his coach Boniface N’Dong, a former NBA player.
“You can’t just come up and get everything you want, you have to work for it. You have to earn it,” said Alga, adding that this approach meant he had to make the most of every minute on the court.
Alga began the tournament playing less than 20 minutes per night, but in the game where his team captured the bronze medal against Cape Verde, he played a personal tournament-high 30 minutes. He finished the event tied as the team’s third-highest leading scorer with 9.2 points per game.
He likened this progression to his first year with the Rams. The 2019 recruit out of Thetford Academy prep school gained more responsibility as the season progressed, became an integral part of the Rams’ offence and eventually Ryerson’s 2020 Male Rookie of the Year.
Now entering his third year with the team, Alga has suddenly been thrust into the team’s veteran leadership group. He said that in his new role, he hopes to help his teammates off the court, teach them how to take care of their bodies and how to carry themselves like professional basketball players.
Alga recalled how during his first year, former Rams forward Keevon Small was the veteran he could go to for advice. Now he’s hoping to pay it forward.
The 22-year-old shooting guard, is likely to have a larger role on the team this year than when we last saw the Rams play. However, Alga is excited to display his development for U SPORTS basketball fans.
“They will probably see a more mature player,” he said. “I’ve worked on my weaknesses, so they will definitely see a different player.”
From Senegal to Toronto and to Kigali, Alga sees each day of his basketball career as a dream come true. It’s this mentality that pushes him to continue working hard.
“If I have an opportunity to play against the best in the world…it definitely motivates me to work even harder,” said Alga.
“From now on it’s just continuing to work on trying to get better every day.”