Third-year forward has been making an impact since returning from shoulder surgery
In 2016, 18-year-old Sami Ghandour left Lebanon with the intention of playing basketball in Canada. Today, he is a member of the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team.
“It’s actually one of the best experiences ever,” Ghandour said. “Coming to Canada from Lebanon, basketball has always helped me out. It allowed me to make a lot of friends that I’m still very close with, and I’ll be close with them for the rest of my life.”
Ghandour was actually born in Fergus, Ont., but grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He moved to Lebanon at 13 years old for high school.
At first, Ghandour had no clear idea of what it would be like to play basketball in Montreal. “My expectations at the beginning were that I thought I would come and play,” said Ghandour, now in his third year with the Stingers. “However, I didn’t realize that I never played basketball at the level played here before.”
Another thing that marked the Stingers’s forward in his debut with the team is that he was younger than the other first-year players.
“A lot of the rookies were older than me because they went to Cégep,” Ghandour said. “They were 20 or 21, and I was 18 years old in my first game. I was like the little kid on the team, so it was hard for me.”
Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic also noticed how Ghandour’s age had an effect. However, he said the forward’s progression with years has been impressive.
“He could rarely get on the floor in his first year here,” Popovic said. “[You could see that] physically, he was 18 years old with a bunch of 20-year-old players. Yet, he never stopped working. Sami is one of our smartest players. He is a competitor, and he’s playing high level basketball. We don’t need him to score, we need him to do a lot of little things.”
Ghandour explained that all he needed at the beginning was adaptation. He said it helped him a lot to get to where he is today, especially when he arrived in Canada uncertain about the future of his basketball career.
“I just came and played, but it actually turned out perfectly,” Ghandour said. “It’s all a process. I went through it, and look where I am now. It helped me out a lot.”
Rebounds are something Ghandour excels at. Players are statistically awarded a rebound when they pick up a loose ball that rebounds on the hoop of a basket after a missed shot. Ghandour explained that the Stingers coaching staff put a lot of importance on them, especially in the position he plays.
“Our main goal is that, when they miss a shot, we don’t let them get a rebound and another shot,” Ghandour said. “One shot and it’s over.”
Ghandour missed the first two games of the season due to a shoulder injury, leading to his first-ever surgery, which was a scary experience for him. Ghandour came back on Nov. 22, 2018, when the Stingers played the McGill Redmen. For the occasion, the forward finished the game with a team-high nine rebounds.
“Going through surgery for the first time, in my head I was thinking ‘this could be it’,” Ghandour said. “It was possible I couldn’t come back and play this game I love. It was hard physically and mentally. However, the trainers did a really good job. I came in three times a week, every week, to try getting back to it. I actually came back earlier [than expected]. I wasn’t supposed to come back until after Christmas.”
Popovic added that Ghandour’s presence in the lineup makes a big difference on the team’s overall game.
“I feel like Sami can cover multiple positions at the same time,” Popovic said. “He talks a lot on defence, which is something we stress on. He’s really one of our most core guys. He wants to be a good player, and he wants to win. We’re really happy with that.”
With three games left in the regular season, Ghandour said the team is taking it one game at a time, with the goal of making it to the nationals. However, he admits that an all-star mention would be something to be proud of.
“We’re trying to get this trend of going to the nationals and being that top-ranked team,” Ghandour said. “We want to be out there [and compete every year]. However, I would personally like to make the all-star [team]—that would be good. Coming from where I come from and from not really playing in my first year to now being a starter, it would be a great accomplishment for me.”
Main photo by Clare Redman.