August 11, 2015

Eshra making noise

Kevin McCarthy

Imagine entering high school and deciding because of a love of basketball and the desire for a college education to venture over 5,500 miles to another country. Add in not speaking the language of your new nation. Youssef Eshra has taken on such challenges and is thriving, testimony to his inner strength plus a hunger for achieving the best possible opportunities in life he can.

photo of Youssef Eshra

The 5-foot-9 Eshra, the Mission Trail Athletic League (MTAL) Most Valuable Player in both 2014 and 2015, attends Oakwood High in Morgan Hill and plays with the Top Flight Elite organization during the spring and summer.

The MTAL is not laden with numerous D1 prospects and won't be mistaken for some of the power conferences say in Sacramento or the East Bay, so Eshra is relatively unknown. But that's changing as Steve Hu wrote about him in late June: “5-foot-9 junior guard Youssef Eshra has a quick dribble that allows him to create offensive space as his perimeter release is quick and accurate.”

The analysis by Gerry Freitas after the May 30 Bay Area Memorial Day Classic was even more of an endorsement: "One of the pleasant surprises of the event-showed he clearly belongs on the 2017 radar. Real athletic one man with speed and quickness. Pushes the break consistently and effectively, sees the floor very well and is a good passer. Finishes well-on the break and in the half court and can shoot it ok with 3-point range.”

The youngster, whose family lives in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, endorses his “speed, quickness, court vision and ballhandling” as among his better basketball skills. With an innate ability to not only see the court but forecast where his teammates will be moving to next, Eshra modestly attributes this farsightedness to “I got older and more mature and I watch a lot of games.”

Unlike many, he also acknowledges, “I always have to work on my defense since I'm one of the smallest players.”

Coming from a country where soccer, tennis and cycling are the major sports, especially the former, it was a simple reason for his taking up basketball. “I started out playing soccer because my brother did. He then played basketball and I followed. I've loved the game since I was 10.”

About those earlier language difficulties? “I'm a leader on and off the court,” Eshra offered. “I step in if one of my teammates is in trouble with a referee or another player.”

He also owns a 3.2 grade point average—above a B average. “I'm doing pretty good.” Eshra is looking to focus his college academics towards becoming an athletics trainer.

Citing two moments as his best hoops memories to date, he offered winning the Bob Hagen Tournament this season via victories over Christopher High, Aptos High and host Gilroy High—“we played really hard” plus his play for Top Flight Elite in a recent tournament in southern California. “We played in front of a bunch of college coaches and I did well in scoring, passing and defending.”

Even at his age, there's a very mature setting of personal and academic goals. “I want to make sure I keep respecting my [host] family and siblings and to get a B in geometry.”

Possessing a complete absence of entitlement, Eshra both understands and appreciates his opportunity. “I want to be a really good basketball player and now that I came here I have a chance.”