December 4, 2012

Baisa lands his 'ship

Kevin McCarthy

You just never know the who, what, when or where upon stepping into the vortex of college basketball recruiting. A solid performance here or even an impressive stretch there and a coach could fall in love. That's just what happened to Devante Baisa of Tracy's Kimball High, Bay Area Blue Devils and West Valley Basketball Club and now he's set to become a member of the Seawolves.

photo of Devante Baisa

The 5-foot-11 Baisa caught the eye of the Alaska Anchorage Assistant Coach Cameron Turner while playing during a southern California tournament this past summer. Turner was there to watch one of Baisa's taller teammates but came away impressed with a certain backcourter. The two talked a lot during the next weeks and Baisa then took a visit up to Anchorage in September.

"I met a lot of the team," Baisa said. "There was a good vibe and it felt like a good fit for me. I fell in love with it."

What makes the accomplishment even more remarkable is that Baisa suffered a serious knee injury prior to his sophomore season. He was in the process of transferring from Valley Christian [in San Jose] to Kimball when "I went up for a layup, hit a wet spot on the floor when I landed and I heard a pop. I looked and saw my knee off to the side."

It was off to the emergency room. An MRI showed a fractured knee, that "took the posterior cruciate ligament with it."

Three surgeries, six screws and a doctor recommendation not to play again later, Baisa began rehabbing.

"It was life-changing and humbling," Baisa explained.

Any chance to get back on the court, let alone earn a college scholarship seemed impossible. According to Baisa, "it had always been basketball for me. When I was born, my Dad was whispering in my ear that 'you're going to be a basketball player.' It's in my family. My Dad was an all-league player during his high school years."

Facing the long odds of not playing the sport he loved since early childhood, Baisa entered rehabilitation. No, make that attacked rehabilitation.

By spring, a different future seemed possible.

"My knee felt much stronger, actually feeling better than before the injury," Baisa offered.

He went about trying to find a club basketball team, not an easy team since coaches were leery of his injury.

Bay Area Blue Devils Coach Ed Hawkins said yes.

That got Baisa back on the court, the start of his long road back.

So what does he bring to the court?

"I work well off the pick-and-roll, my mid-range game is good and my three-point shot has gotten a lot better," he explained. "I can get to the basket with my speed and dribbling [skill]."

Asked his best moment on the court, Baisa said, "It's hard to say...probably leading my eighth-grade CYO team to a championship and being named the most valuable player."

Academically, Baisa has always achieved. He has a 1630 SAT score and been an honor roll, straight A student even though taking AP classes. He's looking to major in computer science at Alaska Anchorage.

As for well wishes, he offered "first, God of course, I thank Him for everything. Plus, my parents because I couldn't have any better parents. They have molded me into who I am. Plus, Gary Reikes and the Reikes center staff for getting me back into shape and basketball ready. I also want to thank Charles Roth of the Tracy Outlawz, Ed Hawkins of the Bay Area Blue Devils for taking me in and Al Grigsby and Bobby Bramlett of the West Valley Basketball Club for pushing me towards my potential."

Alaska Anchorage Coach Rusty Osborne has led the Seawolves to seven consecutive winning seasons and five tournament appearances out of the D-II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, whose other members are Alaska Fairbanks, Central Washington, Montana State-Billings, Northwest Nazarene, St. Martin's University, Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and reigning national champion Western Washington.