Arnaud Dahi Adapting to the College Game.
Feb. 3, 2004
Arnaud Dahi By Graham Chase PA Press.Net
NORFOLK, VA.-- Basketball is much more than just a game for Arnaud Dahi. The sport took him from his native Ivory Coast to high school and a new life in the US.
Dahi is now majoring in business at Old Dominion University, having crossed the Atlantic in 2001, and has firmly established himself as an important part of the Monarch squad.
An imposing all-around athlete, Dahi's humble attitude off court is almost as impresive as his performance on it.
"It's going very good at the moment," said the 6-7 freshman. "I'mtrying to keep everyone happy and pick up some good grades. I want to get a college degree so I can get a job because I might not be in basketball all my life."
Dahi has certainly come a long way since taking his first steps in a game in his hometown of Abidjan.
He recalls: "Everyone else I knew was playing basketball and I just joined in. There was a little club we played at where we learned the basics and have little competitions with other clubs." Basketball is the Ivory COast's second sport behind soccer, but that didn't stop the impressionable Dahi watching games on television- and one player in particular caught his eye.
"Everyone loved Michael Jordan back home, he was the reason everyone liked basketball," said Dahi. "Some NBA matches were on TV, but they wouldn't show regular season games. I played soccer because back home everyone played soccer, and when you are a little kid your dad would go buy a little soccer ball for you to play with. It wasn't really a delemma because I wasn't that good at."
If Dahi's soccer skills could have been better, his exploits on the basketball court had people sitting up and taking notice-even as far a way as the United States. In 2001, he came over to study at Life Centre Academy in New Jersey. Dahi remembers the move being far from complicated as the talented young player was plucked from his African home and offered a new life overseas.
"I had a friend in the U.S. and he got someone from his high school to watch me on tape," said Dahi. "They send over the papers and brought me over." While that sounds simple enough, Dahi's life would be a little more complicated. At such a young age, and without speaking the language, it was so different from living back home," Dahi explains. "It was difficult when I first got here because I couldn't speak english. I had to learn english and a new culture. It was tough, but definitely worth it."
The 6-7 forward also had to get used to a much more elevated standard of basketball, but he took the step with confidence and was a runaway success in New Jersey.
"The standard of basketball was much higher", said Dahi. "It's very different because there is more organization and it's a different set up, but I'm used to it now. I've been here three years."
Dahi averaged 19.5 points and 7.8 rebounds to help lead Life Academy to a 30-7 record, as they won the Christian Invitational Championship, as well as the Penn-New Jersey league title. Since coming to ODU, he has already earned Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week honors. Dahi is averaging 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is ninth in the CAA in rebounding, fourth in blocked shots and seventh in the league in field goal percentage.
Dahi has been pleased with his collegiate start, but recognizes that he still has a lot to learn. "I really like the university and the area," said Dahi. "Personlly I feel I'm playing well and want to continue to improve and help Old Dominion win a league championship."