Ohanian comes from Lebanon to achieve basketball success

ohaniancourtesy of sportkello.com
Imagine when deciding to go to college that you would have to fly over 5,500 miles across the world to an area in which you only know one person. Simon Ohanian is a guard on the Men’s Basketball team and is from Beirut, Lebanon and made that exact decision of the summer in 2011.

“I knew I was going to come to the States because I wanted to get my education from here and go home when I got my degree,” said Ohanian.

Ohanian’s uncle lives in Loudonville and convinced him to come to Hudson Valley.

Ohanian’s uncle and only family member in the country is his motivation to succeed as a person and a basketball player.

“My uncle is the one who pushes me every day. He is the one who brought me here and told me to come to Hudson Valley and he is my number one motivator,” Ohanian said.

This is Ohanian’s second year at Hudson Valley. He is a mechanical engineering major and this is second year playing on the basketball team.

“Being in the engineering program makes it 10 times harder than it would be,” Ohanian said. “I’m so used to doing all my homework in French and over here it’s all in English, so it’s really different.”

French is just one of the four languages Ohanian speaks fluently. He also knows English, Lebanese and Armenian.

“I was talking to his uncle and I found out that he knew four languages,” said Mike Long, head coach of the Men’s Basketball team. “Four? I can barely get through one.”

Ohanian found his home away from home on the basketball court, but there are some adjustments he has had to make.

“I’ve always played since I was 11. I fell in love with the game,” Ohanian said.

At Collège Protestant Francis, Ohanian’s high school in Lebanon, he lead his team in scoring in his junior and senior years and averaged over 30 points per game.

“Kids don’t play any defense at home, and they aren’t athletic either,” said Ohanian. “Over here guys are athletic and play way better defense.”

His teammates also tried to make him feel welcome, but they were interested in Ohanian’s journey.

“It’s a different country and I have an accent and everyone was just kind of curious [about] where I was from,” Ohanian said.

Basketball is one thing that he had in common with his teammates and his coach, but he struggled early on.

“In the beginning of practice I think he was struggling with what I was trying to put in,” Long said. “I think now he’s starting to understand what he has to do and learning to slow down.”

Ohanian believes his playmaking ability is one aspect of his skill set that will translate smoothly to college basketball in the United States.

“I run the fast break well and I create plays for my teammates,” Ohanian said.

“His aggressiveness is something that is good, but we have to teach him how to be aggressive and not foul,” said Long.

Ohanian averages 3.3 points and five rebounds per game this season in his first five games. But had nine points and nine rebounds in the three point loss to Adirondack last Wednesday.

“When Simon went in I thought he did a great job, he hustled and I’m pretty sure he lead us in rebounding,” Long said.

In a game or in practice, regardless of the situation, Ohanian will give it everything he has.

“His effort was never a question. He runs baseline to baseline harder than anyone we have on the team,” Long said. “He does a remarkable job and he’s a pleasure to coach.”

His goals after Hudson Valley also inspire him to overcome his struggles.

“I’m chasing my dream to be the first Lebanese-Armenian to ever play not only college ball, but [division one] as well,” Ohanian said. “I want to play pro overseas and take over my father’s engineering company back home.”

Between practice every day, being a mechanical engineering major and adjusting to life in upstate New York, Ohanian still manages to maintain a 4.0 GPA.

“When I’m not playing basketball I’m always in the library doing work and when we travel I have to take all my books with me so I don’t fall behind,” said Ohanian.

Having a full schedule helps Ohanian stay focused, but he still misses his family half way across the world.

“I miss my parents, my friends and definitely the food,” Ohanian said. “My uncle does a good job of filling the gap though.”

Ohanian is looking to transfer out of Hudson Valley to play basketball at Stony Brook or SUNY Binghamton. If not, he still plans to pursue his mechanical engineering degree at RPI.

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