Journeying from Morocco, returning to Washington

Transfer athletes tell their stories of joining the Falcon family

Sabrina Jiles, Staff Reporter

Mehdi El Mardi looks to pass during a January game. (Jacky Chen)

The transition from high school to college athletics is an adjustment for most athletes. For some of the athletes that compete for Seattle Pacific University, SPU was not their first stop on their college sports journey.

For transfer students, it can be hard to adjust to a new school, a new culture, and new people. For athletes, they not only have to adjust to the typical factors of being a transfer student but also adjust to new teammates, coaches, and a new way of playing their sport.

SPU men’s basketball senior Mehdi El Mardi, who is from Morocco and grew up playing basketball overseas, described what got him to pick up a basketball and start his basketball career.

“Growing up playing soccer and a lot of my family played professional soccer and they pushed it into me so much that I kind of disliked it. Playing basketball was something I was able to do on my own and getting into a new environment that I wasn’t familiar with was kind of like an adventure,” El Mardi said.

El Mardi came to SPU for the 2019-2020 season. El Mardi described the difference from playing in Morocco to playing in the United States of America.

“The most important part for me was to play basketball and get an education at the same time at the same institution. Overseas, basketball is not like how it is on a college team. You play for a club which is completely separate from your school. With having that gap, it makes it hard to be good at both,” El Mardi said.

El Mardi was not only interested in playing for an amazing basketball program, he was hoping to go to a school where he could continue to pursue it as a career. This made it easy for him to choose SPU, because of the great academics the university has as well as a great basketball program.

After doing some research, SPU was the place that made a lasting impression on El Mardi and he wanted to be a Falcon.

“I came here in September and we had an open gym. I didn’t know anybody and everybody kind of met before and they had the camp over the summer. I walk in and I see all these great athletes playing basketball and I’m like ‘whoa’ this is a really good team. Everyone was nice and welcoming and that made it an easy transition,” El Mardi said.

Since coming to the men’s basketball team, El Mardi has helped the team succeed. It is hard work that is key to this success.

“Here it is very professional. We are held to high standards, the coaches do really good coaching, they do a very good job and my teammates are hard workers. I think valuing hard work and being able to get the best out of each other is what makes the team great,” El Mardi said.

Kaprice Boston during team picture day. (Courtesy of Kaprice Boston)

As opposed to El Mardi, SPU women’s basketball senior Kaprice Boston grew up surrounded by the game of basketball.

Boston began playing basketball at the age of three and grew up with most of her family playing the sport. Boston described the moment where she realized that she wanted to take basketball to the next level, from high school to college.

“It was my freshman year. My AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) coach was talking with me about my future and what I wanted to do and he asked me if I ever considered playing in college and I was like ‘no I don’t think so.’ Then the next game I played really good and I got my first call from a college,” Boston said.

This call inspired Boston to pursue her career in basketball. Boston took her talents to Northern Arizona University, a division I school, and described the difference between playing high school basketball and division I basketball.

“On your high school team, you may have one or two really good players, but on your college team, it’s all of those really good players from different states on one team. It’s like you’re competing against other teams, but you are competing against your teammates to get positions or playing time,” Boston said.

After her freshman year at Northern Arizona, Boston said she missed home in Washington and explained how SPU was one of the first schools who gave her the opportunity to play for the program.

Reflecting on her first year as a Falcon, Boston said the biggest accomplishment for her during her sophomore season was bonding with the team and having that team become a family.

“Coming here to SPU with that whole family aura that they gave off, That was just super fun to be a part of,” Boston said.

Kaprice Boston does a layup as she finds an opening. (Courtesy of Kaprice Boston)

During her sophomore year, Boston experienced her first injury and said that it was amazing to have a team that supported her during that time even though she was not playing.

“I got hurt my sophomore year and that was the first time I had been hurt all my 19 years of playing, so being hurt played on my mental health a little bit, but just having those close teammates be there for you and you’re not invisible. I sat out for six weeks and they were still there,” Boston said.

Boston tries to be a leader on the team and gives advice to transfer athletes that come into the program, welcoming them in with open arms and advising them to not be afraid to ask questions.

Even though their stories are different and they play on two separate teams, El Mardi and Boston expressed a sense of family that they receive from their SPU team and that this feeling of family will last forever.

“No matter where you are in your journey of life, there are going to be people who are there for you and they will be with you,” Boston said.