The value of a basketball player is often quantified through stats, metrics that evaluate in-game performance. However, as sophomore Justin Bassey has demonstrated throughout his basketball career, valuable contributions can come not only on the court, but also off it.
Before coming to Harvard and emerging as the men’s basketball’s top perimeter defender as a freshman, Bassey immersed himself in a variety of service work at his high school, leaving a legacy through surface projects in his hometown, and gaining a lot in the process.
The Denver, Colo., native went to high school at Colorado Academy, a prestigious private school in nearby Lakewood.
In his time there, Bassey was a four-year letterwinner and captained the team during his junior and senior seasons. He finished his career as Colorado Academy’s all-time scoring leader—accumulating 2,159 points—and he was twice named to Colorado’s all-state team.
Bassey said that his initial exposure to the sentiment of service work developed when his high school coach asked his players to help out at a Unified basketball tournament, a tournament affiliated with the Special Olympics for those with disabilities.
“That was something that was super cool growing up, being able to ref and run the scoreboard and understanding how to set it up, what students are going to need who are going to participate in it, what kind of accommodations we would have to make, like reserving gym time,” Bassey said.
“Doing that from an early age always kind of emphasized the relationship between basketball and community building.”
The connective power of sports was also made evident to Bassey when he competed on a travel basketball team with players that came from families with a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
He noted how this experience put his place of privilege into perspective after he saw this disparity in opportunity.
“It’s crazy despite us coming from what couldn’t be more different backgrounds, here’s something that ties us together through playing basketball,” Bassey said.
“After seeing that, I really wanted to find a way. Is there something that can bridge the gap between our two lifestyles but also do so in a meaningful way that will actually make an impact?”
For his high school coach Steve Hyatt, Bassey was an extremely vocal player with an impressive basketball IQ.
Moreover, the budding basketball star had an “impeccable” work ethic and was “not afraid to put the time and energy into something he loves, into his passion.”
“He always keeps everything in a positive manner,” Hyatt said. “He’s a happy go-lucky. He likes to joke around, he likes to have fun, that kind of thing. He’s not an introvert. He’s a bright kid, but he’s not an introvert. He’s very outgoing. He’s very talkative, and I think he adds a lot to practice, to the team just because of who he is, his personality.”
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