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Friends on, off the court

Talent is not always enough to achieve greatness in sports. As much as it takes depth in a team’s lineup to succeed, a pair of players can often be complete gamechangers. Zubeir Hussein and Machot Magok of NAIT’s men’s basketball team are beginning to look like surefire prospects to help the Ooks in the future.

The players’ friendship began at the Stadium rec centre where they frequently played against each other and developed a friendly rivalry. But, it was truly at Ross Sheppard high school where the two became best friends. Hussein and Magok trained, hung out and eventually became city champions together when Ross Sheppard claimed the title in 2015.

“That was the best team I ever played on,” said Magok. It is no coincidence that the duo are currently both playing at NAIT. Armed with academic and athletic goals, Magok and Hussein talked to NAIT coach Mike Connolly about trying out for the team.

“I knew these kids from their high school playing days,” said Connolly. “They are good young local players.”

When asked about his choice in taking Magok and Hussein onto the team this season, Connolly stated, “They both had good coaches in high school so I knew they would be better prepared to make the jump to the next level. These kids had to work for their spots on the team and are still working to earn minutes in our rotations.”

The two are currently the only rookies on the men’s basketball squad this season.

Magok and Hussein fully identify their on-court relationship as a dynamic duo. “Machot here is a shooter and I consider myself more of a facilitator so I can see him open and I know he will make it, so I trust him with the ball,” Hussein said.

Their established co-dependence and trust seems to be a fundamental part of their combined basketball growth.

When asked to compare themselves to a famous duo in basketball, the pair chose Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard and McCollum are known for their friendship that translates into incredible on-court play. Magok and Hussein hope they can display similar abilities on the court as they gain more experience in college basketball.

Even when asked about a comparable celebrity ‘bromance’ to theirs, the pair were able to answer perfectly in synchronization. “There’s no bromance. No bromance,” they laughingly replied.

Connolly believes the relationship between the duo is not as important for their on-court play as it is for them to thrive as student-athletes.

“It will be difficult for them this year in their growth and development and confidence. Their friendship will help them through this,” he said.

In the coming years, Connolly hopes for the pair to discover and recognize the amount of training and preparation it takes to compete at NAIT’s level.

“We just want them to improve and learn this year, so in years to come they will be able to step in and take over when we graduate our senior players,” said Connolly.

Moving forward, the duo hopes their high school basketball success will translate over into their NAIT career.

– Jory Proft
Photo by Stephanie Cameron

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