Academics Plus Coach John Harrison is glad his first impression of senior forward Chabala Musonda was correct.
The first time Harrison saw the native from Zambia, Africa was when Musonda came to Academics Plus as a ninth grader. While Musonda is an excellent soccer player, he had never played basketball before when he stepped onto the Academics Plus campus.
"The first time I met him, I thought he looked like an athlete," Harrison said. "I asked him what his name was and if he had ever played basketball. He said no sir, I play soccer."
Harrison said Musonda is a phenomenal soccer player. What attracted Harrison was Musonda’s 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame and his long arms. Harrison said Musonda is also smart and speaks two to three languages.
"Since then, he has worked extremely hard and has become our vocal leader," Harrison said. "He wasn’t very good at first. When he would dribble the ball, he would dribble it out in front of him because in soccer you keep the ball in front of you. He still does it at times. He is that kid that surprises when he hits the court."
Musonda said when Harrison asked him to try basketball he was O.K. with it because he had played other sports and was good at them. Also, back home he had watched street ball videos and was anxious to see what basketball was about. He has learned from his basketball experience.
"What was surprising is they say hard work pays off," Musonda said. "I thought it was just a saying. It was hard in 10th grade not playing, but in 11th grade I got to play more."
This season, Musonda is a starter for the Falcons. He is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds a game and has recorded four double-doubles. Harrison said he understands the game better.
"I like to float him around the high post because he can turn and shoot," Harrison said. "He doesn’t do well facing the basket and is a streaky shooter. He used to think every shot was a good shot but is learning and understanding what a good shot is. He loves basketball now."
Musonda, one of the team captains, has one goal for this season. His main objective is for the Falcons to make the state tournament.
"I want to make guys work hard so we can make state," Musonda said. "When people get their heads down, I make sure they work hard."
Accepted to several colleges, Musonda is not sure where he is going but would like to continue his soccer career after high school.