July 14, 2010

Finding a New Home 8,307 Miles Away From His Own

Story Written by Student Assistant Carolyn Linck ‘11

While many SCU students travel from far away to come to school at Santa Clara, few have journeyed as far geographically or personally as new Bronco basketball player, Yannick Atanga.  The 6’8” freshman is originally from the west African country of Cameroon, more than 8,307 miles away from his new home on the Santa Clara campus.  Moving away from his entire extended family when he was 17 to attend Besant Hill School in Ojai, California, Atanga feels his unique background coming first from Africa and then from boarding school will help him as he adjusts to life at SCU.

“I didn’t know anything when I came to America,” said Atanga. “First, I hardly spoke any English. I didn’t have any idea how living here would actually be. The language, the food, the culture, every single thing was new to me. I was like a little kid. I got to learn everything over again.” 

Though transitioning to life in the United States wasn’t always easy and he still misses his family, friends and the food back in Cameroon, Atanga believes that moving to America has made him both a better person and athlete. 

“I’ve definitely grown up a lot. Me coming here (to America) was a crazy decision and it took me six months to decide. The beginning was really hard but you feel you become a different person. You see things differently. I’m not saying I’m going to forget where I came from, but I learned and adjusted. It’s way easier for me to be here now.”

Aside from growing as a person, Atanga believes he has also grown tremendously as a basketball player during the three years he’s been in the U.S.

“At home you pretty much learned the game by yourself. You do whatever it takes to make a basket. People don’t care about footwork. They just want you to make a bucket. Here, every detail counts – can you run the floor, get a rebound, change a shot. That definitely put me in a situation where I had to improve.”

Now, gearing up for his freshmen year and first season of Bronco basketball, Atanga believes he’s ready to excel on and off the court immediately.  The education and training he received at Besant Hill prepared him well for college life.

“At my last school we had to balance school work and basketball too. I don’t know if it’s going to be more intense in college, but I’m sure I’ll adjust to it. It’s just getting used to the process. I came from a boarding school so the process of living in a dorm and being responsible for my decisions is something I’m already used to. It’s not like I flew straight from Cameroon to Santa Clara. I was in my school for three years, so now it’s like going from one dorm to another.”

Atanga, a forward, is equally confident that he’ll be able to contribute to the Santa Clara basketball team right away by playing his role and “doing what he does best.”

“First, I’m going to be a good teammate, a good friend and compete every night – at every game, every practice.  I just want to bring it. I’m going to run the floor, get rebounds, defend, block shots and contribute as much as I can offensively.”

Looking forward to his debut season for the Broncos, Atanga, who maintains a fearless attitude, is excited but not nervous.

“It’s basketball. I never get nervous. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing LeBron James. Once it’s game time you just go do what you’ve got to do. I hate being afraid. Extra concentration is what I get, not nerves.”

Atanga and the Santa Clara basketball team will open the 2010-11 home season in the Leavey Center on November 12 against CSU Bakersfield.