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From Shattered NBA Dream To NBL: The Story Of Faisal Aden

KIU Titans Point Guard Faisal Aden harbours no fond early memories of his birth country Somalia. Perhaps rightly so because he fled the war torn country with his family at a tender age of two years to nearby Kenya.

Five years later, the family left Nairobi and found refugee in California, United States. Amidst all the hardships, for a family that did not grasp English at all, Aden found solace in the game of shooting hoops. He always envisioned himself playing in the upper echlones of NBA – one of- if not the most coveted Basketball leagues

“Basketball, kind of just fell in my hands,” Aden tells The-SportsNation, reflecting on his family’s move to the ‘Land of Opportunity.’

The seven-year kid in San Diego California showed raw talent by playing alongside his elder brother Fatah Aden who was playing with his friends “and I wanted to earn their respect by holding my own against them.” He also moulded his game through watching all the home Los Angeles Lakers games on TV where he developed deep love for the Legendary Kobe Bryant (RIP). “He really inspired me. I wanted to be just like him,” Aden adds.

Faisal Aden in action for Washington State Cougars. Courtesy

The Breakthrough, But….

Aden, after his High School at Bowie (Arlington) and God’s Academy in Texas, joined Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Florida in 2008. As a Freshman, he averaged a respectable 20 points and the stats never deteriorated. He later moved to Washington State in 2010 where he had a blistering start and lived to the billing.

Thanks to an injury to first choice point guard Reggie Moore, Aden found a berth in then Coach Ken Bone’s starting lineup, and fate would have it, never disappointed. He averaged 22 points in the first two games where he singlehandedly tore Southern University and Idaho apart.

He went on to win the highest award of player of the week, an accolade NBA players like Damian Lilard and Draymond green have won also.

He continued to flourish, averaging 15 points (14.5) per game, and grabbed the attention of Basketball faithfuls before a career ending injury reared in it’s ugly head.

And it was then when he got the attention of everyone! He remembers: “I worked really hard to make a name for myself at the college level. I got the attention of some NBA teams. Walking to class talking with agents who represent teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks telling me they really like me.”

He narrates with a tinge of regret: “The same week the devastating ACL injury happened calming everything, it was a huge blow to my NBA dreams at the time. But God’s plan is always greater.”

This was in January 2012 during a game against Arizona Wildcats in a nationally televised game when he suffered a career threatening knee injury while attacking the basket.
“It was really sad because I was coming off the best games of my career helping my team beat the two top seeds in our conference. Before the game, I was interviewed by ESPN, all the bright lights were on me.”

Earlier, he was the team’s second scorer just behind Klay Thompsom who later became a three-time NBA Champion with Golden State. Klay, a five-time All Star, is regarded as one of the greatest shooters in NBA History.

Aden had niggling knee issues, and he thought it was the usual injury. He was ruled out of a subsequent game, did an MRI scan and later on, it was confirmed that it was an ACL (anterior Cruciate Ligament). He recalls: “At first I didn’t know what an ACL injury meant, so I was still upbeat. “It was only when I saw my coaches reaction to the news that I felt it was serious. I was extremely broken hearted and it was one of the toughest moments of my life and career at that point.”

Faisal Aden with a knee injury. Courtesy

The Press reported: “He’s torn the ACL in his left knee, and will miss the rest of his senior season. Tough break for the Cougars, and even tougher for Aden, who was playing the best basketball of his career just before the injury.”

It was all over for Aden.

Start Stops – Never The Same Again

After he tore the ACL in his left knee in January 2012, Aden’s life and career was never the same.

In August 2012, Aden started his Pro Career with Leuven Bears in the Belgium Basketball League after he missed out on the 2012 NBA draft. However, his stay was short lived after the medical check up showed that he had not fully recovered from that knee injury.

Later in November, he was picked in the 2012 NBA Development League Draft Santa Cruz Warriors in the 3rd round. He was days later traded to Texas Legends in exchange for Dominique Johnson. His spell in Texas was also short lived and on November 21, he was among the five players waived by the team after featuring in just one game on the pre-season.

He returned to Europe a year later in February 2013 where he signed with Italy’s Virtus Roma. He failed to make a mark and was released after two months. There, he had averaged 4 minutes and 2 points in only six games, and the exit was surely inevitable.

Later on, the nomad joined German Beko Basketball Bundesliga side Rasta Vechta for the 2013/14 season to help the newcomers. On September 23 2013, he left the club before the season tipped off. He had played 10 test games but the coaches decided that he was not good enough and hence his contract was terminated.

He had years off before extending his trek and in 2018, he joined Kenya’s Equity through Tanzania’s Oilers and later had stints with KPA before joining Rwanda’s REG.

Aden with KPA in Kigali. FIBA

You Can Trust Your Life With Him’

On April 2, KIU Titans made their title ambitions known when they announced the acquisition of Aden. The marquee signing reveals: “The president of KIU Titans (Nasser Sserunjogi) kept close contact with me via WhatsApp for a year. And we came to an agreement right after my quick season with REG of Rwanda.”

“I have always been interested here. Just being in contact with the president. With Covid, league being shut down gave me the opportunity to sign. I want to win a championship nothing less.”

Sserunjogi, who doubles as the FUBA President, says that Aden is a ‘special breed’ and he knew what he brings on the table when he signed. “He’s a clutch player who will win you that game single handedly when everyone is off on a given day. He’s a kind of player you can trust your life with. Having played at higher level, he brings a lot game experience to the team. Signing him wasn’t that difficult because he wanted to play in Uganda. He loves Uganda, so when I reached out to him it was a blessing,” says Sserunjogi.

He has fit into the KIU Titans team seamlessly and taken the league by storm. Aden has started all the eight KIU games this season, averaging 20.1 points per game, 4.1 rebounds while shooting 30% from the three point range.

However, he has been criticised for his inability to defend and ‘disinterest’ in the game especially in the team’s loss to JKL Dolphins.

Aden with KIU Titans against JKL Dolphins. KIU media photo

Sserunjogi adds: “I don’t have any issues with him so far. It’s hard for his teammates to accept him the way he is but we all agreed as a team that we must let him be himself. Faisal is faisal and you can’t change him at this time. You just need to know how to work with him. He has his own short comings like any other human being but we can live with that at the moment.”

His coach Brian Wathum recognises that he has the most experienced player. Wathum states: “I think he is the most experienced player in the league, his leadership has been very important, these are the things that happen day by day through interaction and the players have got to understand the kind of player he is, what he does. He has been very important especially to some young players. He was a very good addition to the team.”

“I had seen him before, when he scored 50 points for his national team. He has played at the highest level and I was looking forward to working with such a gentleman.”

“He cannot defend? Thats a mystery, thats what people think and they are entitled to their own opinion. We know what we are going to do with him and when and where we need him. People are allowed to express the way they feel about him. He is copying well here, his teammates know what he can do, they know where his limits are and where his strength his. And we will try to play within that.”

Teammate Henry Okoth says that Aden is someone who loves being a lone: “He is a reserved guy. He comes, trains and leaves. But I am privileged to play with him and every day is a learning experience.”

Brian Kawalya

Brian Kawalya

Chief Sports Writer
Brian Kawalya is an Award winning Journalist, Director and Chief Sports Writer of The-SportsNation, covering top events and breaking some of the biggest stories.
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