We chatted to the basketball ace, Alasan Njie-Morgan and his mum about his American Dream and becoming an accidental role model
Talented Acocks Green basketball player Alasan Njie-Morgan is living his sporting dream after receiving a scholarship to the US last year. Having learned his craft at Nechells-based club Birmingham Rockets, 14-year-old Alasan has made the journey across the pond to take up his place at the well-connected Phelps Prep School in Pennsylvania where he’s getting to grips with boarding and the American system. We caught up with him last month while back home in Brum for Christmas.
Birmingham Rockets’ links to Houston-based coach Donte Mathis made Alasan’s move possible with some Covid-related complications of course. Ordinarily, Donte attends the Rockets’ International Summer Camp where he would have been able to see Alasan in action in the flesh. But with the camp postponed thanks to the pandemic, a highlights tape sent to the coach was the next best thing and the lucrative offer came in on that basis. Phelps School has a reputation for developing high-level basketball players and Alasan will spend four years there prepping for the next step.
It’s a big move, but Alasan seems incredibly mature. His mum, Sai had planned to travel with him and stay for six weeks to settle him in, but a change in travel policy at the eleventh hour meant Alasan had to go it alone which was possibly harder for her than him. Sai says: “I’m so happy for Alasan, but I do miss him too.”
Sai recognises the difference Alasan’s achievements have made to youngsters at Rockets and feels the players are working harder having seen what’s possible with commitment. The club, mainly based at Nechells Wellbeing Centre, has a thriving junior programme involving 800 young players a week – and while Alasan never set out to be a role model, he says he sees the difference in them too.
Rockets managing director Rob Palmer says: “Alasan is an incredible young man – a model student and an outstanding basketball player. At 14 he has the world at his feet yet he remains well-grounded and focussed on the work he has ahead of him. His commitment, willingness to learn and ability to develop his natural talent has seen him progress so well.”
Having started playing basketball for fun at Rockets aged just nine, Alasan knew by 11 that he wanted to do something with basketball long term and he put in the hard work. With the support of his family, who made significant sacrifices, he was able to travel all over the UK to compete at the weekends sometimes staying overnight.
Now on a path that takes him closer to his goals, Alasan is embracing it, has settled well and says the schoolwork is easier than his old school Ninestiles Academy in Acocks Green where fellow pupils and teachers are so proud of him. Sport’s a great way of fitting in and Alasan says: “I can’t complain – there are only seven boys in my class plus the team has helped me to fit in really quickly.”
He’s only just begun his basketball career in the US but Alasan is focused on the next step already, building towards a scholarship to college in the US, so he’s playing as much as he can with the same grit and commitment he honed here in Brum. Phelps School has great basketball connections in the US, so the future is looking bright for this Birmingham export.