In a city as big as New York it’s hard to stand-out, especially when about a million other people are gunning for the same thing you’re doing. In a place where almost every kid has hoop dreams, Alassane Camara has found a way to carve out his own lane and do it his way.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches Camara commands the attention of everyone in every room he steps in. Seeing a tall lanky kid walk into any room often grabs the average person’s eye, and that has been one of his calling card for him on and off the court throughout his life.
A child of Malian immigrants and Harlem bred Alassane grew up in a traditional African household where his parents emphasised education and school above everything. When he was away from home he spent his time playing on concrete courts honing his raw talent as a short scrawny middle schooler.
Camara said, “I basically learned how to play ball outside on those courts. Used to get tossed around by the older guys but that shit got me ready for when I played guys my age.”
For the lack of size and strength, he managed to find a way to to create his own lane to get the respect of those same older guys that never made anything easy for him. Those courts in east Harlem turned him into an assassin on the court.
Camara described playing street ball saying, “Playing street ball makes you tough not even going to lie, it forces you to make no excuses because they don’t care if you little or young, they trying to embarrass you.”
The trend of making an impact wherever he went followed him from the streets to the gym as he saw success early. In middle school he won his school district’s championship on a team that featured him and a current Seton Hall University point guard Anthony Nelson. Even though he wasn’t the best player on the team he made sure to leave a lasting impression on those watching. With his silky smooth jump shot, ability to get into his opponents head and trash talking, Camara always found a way to catch the attention of anyone who was watching.
“I used to find anything to get people to get off their game, I don’t why but I just loved getting under the other teams skin,” he said. “Like at an early age I just hated losing and I was willing to do anything to win a game.”
Whether he knows it or not Camara’s competitive nature originated from those very courts of Jefferson Park in Harlem. The street basketball culture of New York City is almost unmatched by any other place in the country. With parks and courts such as Rucker park and Dyckman being globally known in the basketball community, it’s no wonder it has impacted Camara who has played in both places. The streetball culture has followed Camara in every level of his basketball career. From middle school, to high school, to prep school and college he has carried the lessons and skills he picked up from those concrete courts he spent so much time on.
In high school those watching him only saw the the ferocity of his “win by any means necessary” attitude grow. While playing for the Manhattan Center Rams in the AA division (the top high school division in the city) he led his team in scoring in his final year averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds. But he was no longer the same lil scrawny shooter he was when he first started by his senior in high school he had grown to 6 feet 5 inches. He evolved from a sharpshooting guard to versatile combo guard who had the athleticism to go with his natural scoring ability. The growth he had experienced over the years saw him take the street ball style that was so frowned upon and turn it into something that was to be admired. His mental approach to the game was purely born from those courts.
Camara said, “By my senior year I made it a point to get better and prove I was a problem for anyone, and seeing all these other people at street ball tournaments around the city made me want to go out there and kill and make people respect me.”
Camara’s high school coach, Charlie Jackson, spoke glowingly about his ferocity on the court. “The kid plays with a fire and emotion that is raw and he leads by example. You can tell he has either brought up to hate losing or its just in his DNA that never say die attitude.”
Through watching the Alassane Camara play basketball, it isn’t hard to notice where his roots in the game come from; street ball.
Camara reflected on his evolution in basketball saying, “Street ball for me was like a given, I never really looked to deep into it but thinking about it now I learned a lot from those courts and tournaments.” He said, “I gained my hate for losing there, I perfected my craft there, it helped me gain a work ethic I could use off the court.”
“Only thing I hated was that the concrete is terrible for my knees, but that’s for another time,” Camara said with a smile on his face.