For Class of 2014 forward Therence Mayimba of Team Takeover (DC), AAU tournaments serve two purposes. Like most players, Mayimba hopes to improve his game and gain exposure. In Mayimba’s case, however, he is also adjusting to the American basketball scene and more importantly, life in the United States as a whole.
“I’ve had eight months in America since coming over from Africa,” the Gabon native explained, “Right now I’m just learning the game, and there are a lot of different things to learn about.”
Playing at D.C. area powerhouse Montrose Christian, Mayimba is in elite company. Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is a Montrose alum, as are Memphis Grizzlies guard Greivis Vazquez and Toronto Raptors forward Linas Kleiza.
Vazquez (Venezuela) and Kleiza (Lithuania) both moved to the Rockville, Md. school from overseas, and the 2011-2012 roster had three foreign-born players, not including Mayimba. Seniors Kevin Larsen (Denmark), Yuki Togashi (Japan), and Michael Carrera (Venezuela) and sophomore Kevin Zabo (Canada) teamed up with Mayimba to give the Mustangs squad an international flavor.
As one might predict, the presence of other overseas players on the Montrose Christian roster has proved invaluable to Mayimba.
“We have Yuki, Kevin (Larsen), Michael, and Kevin (Zabo), and it is very good. We’ve learned how to play with each other…We’re like brothers.”
The Durant comparisons are inevitable for Mayimba, a 6’7” forward with elite length, incredible athleticism, and good touch on his developing outside jumper. Hard-nosed and aggressive, the rising junior can get to the rim with ease and finish after contact.
Still, what stands out most about Mayimba is his work ethic on both ends of the floor, his enthusiasm, and hustle on defense.
“I focus on defense because there are many players who can score,” he said, “I can score too, but I prefer to focus on defense, rebounds, and blocks.”
A standout for Team Takeover’s championship-winning 16U squad, Mayimba firmly established himself as one of the top prospects participating in the Southern Hoop Group Jam Fest.
After a season at Montrose Christian where a crowded senior frontcourt limited his minutes, expect Mayimba to make a large impact in his junior year with the Mustangs, and attract attention from many high-major programs. Reports indicate that Maryland, Georgetown, and Villanova all are very intrigued by the
As far as recruiting goes, Mayimba has bigger priorities. He is confident in his abilities to impress college coaches, and does not want to be weighed down by the constant stream of interest from coaches and questions about favorite schools.
“There are many colleges I hear from, but I just send them to my coach…right now I don’t worry about it. I’m just interested in working on my defense, shot, and every part of my game,”
Off the court, Mayimba is adjusting to American culture. Coming from Gabon–a country with a population of about 1.5 million people–he has assimilated well since his move to the DMV, getting along with teammates, taking advantage of his opportunity to play basketball, and improving his mastery of the English language.
Mayimba laughed when asked about his favorite part of living in the United States, and responded the same way any average teenager would.
“The food,” he answered confidently, with a large grin across his face.