By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — As 2017 comes to a close and 2018 sits in waiting, another college basketball season has begun. It comes with its predictable storylines and outcomes both on and off the court.
Whether it’s the scandalous nature of some head and assistant coaches across the country or the puzzling decisions of young adults overseas, the college hoop campaign has already been an interesting, if not sobering affair.
Much like the rap by A Tribe Called Quest or the TV show “Naked City”, there always seems to be “eight million stories” that can be told or written about any given player in college hoops.
This is one of them. But it’s one that doesn’t get told often enough.
It’s about perseverance and sacrifice.
It’s also about opportunity and commitment.
And finally, it’s about the everlasting love and the bond between a mother and her son.
For Mikol Blake-Green of Fisher College, the season has slowly given him a chance to relax and feel comfortable on and off the court. A native of Boston, the 6-foot-7 forward has been getting consistent minutes for the Falcons, an NAIA independent.
However, the road to this destination has been without its obstacles and pitfalls.
During his past athletic endeavors, Mikol has seen the ugly side of sports. During his days of playing Pop Warner football in Cambridge, he saw his coach shot and killed on the field during a dispute.
He’s also lost many teammates over the years due to the violence in his community. Its impact has left an indelible mark on Mikol. He’s had to deal with issues of anxiety and other effects of his formative years.
“I felt like I was angry all the time. Sports always gave me the chance to relax and express myself”, said Mikol.
He was also taking on extra responsibilities as well.
His mother, Veola, served as a child welfare worker in Boston. She was also awarded legal guardianship of her younger brother and two sisters. Along the way, Mikol helped his mother while also working, attending school, and taking care of his relatives.
It was a heavy burden on a young teenager, but because of his devotion to his mom, it was something that he felt more than obligated to do. “Mikol is a good person with a beautiful heart and a kind soul”, said Veola.
When he eventually graduated from high school following a stellar basketball career, Mikol enrolled at nearby Bunker Hill Community College. Along the way, he would meet two men who would have a great influence on his life on and off the court.
Head Coach Nkrumah Jones and his assistant, Leroy Gibson served as mentors for Mikol who was seeking guidance and knowledge. “When I first got to Bunker Hill, I definitely had some trust issues and was very emotional”, said Mikol.
“They talked to me like no one had ever done before. They were upfront about everything and I took an initial liking to them”. Coach Gibson first met Mikol at a local barbershop owned by his cousin.
Gibson and Mikol had a long conversation about basketball and life. He felt like Mikol was someone who was looking for help. “To me, the most important thing was to give him an opportunity to work on his overall growth”, said Gibson.
“Like many kids, he had some issues that we dealt with early on. It was just a matter of showing him the ropes and how we do things here. You help them make the adjustment, but a lot of it falls on the individual.”
Coach Jones added that seeing Mikol make the emotional transition on and off the court was something that he’s the proudest of. “He definitely had a bit of a chip on his shoulder when he arrived here”, he added.
“However, we slowly developed some trust amongst each other along the way. It definitely made our relationship grow as a whole. The biggest thing I tried to impress upon him was building relationships.”
Mikol added, “I had never received that sort of guidance before that I got from Coach Jones and Coach Gibson. They both made me a better player and help me apply those lessons on the court to apply to life as well.”
Those lessons would come in handy in regards to the next major event of his life. Along the way at Bunker Hill, his mother would get a job offer in Baltimore. Mikol decided to stay in Massachusetts while also planning on what his next move academically was going to be.
Eventually, he decided to attend Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire. Unfortunately, things got off to a bad start for Mikol. He was a victim of racial profiling early on.
While coming home from work, Mikol was pulled over by six police officers with guns drawn because he “fit the description” of a potential suspect. As we previously mentioned, Mikol is a 6-foot-7 black man with a beard.
The potential suspect was a 30-year-old black man standing 5-feet-6 and clean shaven.
Earlier in the year, the school would eventually shut down due to financial issues. While many of the staff and students would transition to nearby Southern New Hampshire University, Mikol decided to move elsewhere.
Here again is where his mother used her influence to determine his fate. Mikol and Veola looked to Fisher College back in Massachusetts as an opportunity. Ms. Green would send a very open and emotional letter pleading Mikol’s case.
Here’s a small excerpt:
“We believe Fisher College is the choice for him. And I believe in him. Please help my son. Please save his life. Mikol is a star that needs space to develop and supporters to guide him so that he may shine brightly. Mikol has a plan and that plan includes being in a position to support and pay it forward to invest in children — by giving them what he lacked.”
Eventually, the school would accept Mikol as a student-athlete. When his playing days are done, he’s hoping to become a coach. In his own way, he’ll be paying back the many people along the way that have helped him.
For the many student-athletes that play collegiate sports, Mikol’s story is all too common. We always hear about the All-Americans or the All-Conference standouts. But for many others, their stories are seldom told or seldom heralded.
The final chapter has yet to be written on Mikol Blake-Green. The best is yet to come.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.