COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Basketball can save lives. It has for plenty of NBA players. It has for plenty of college basketball players. And, right now, it could be saving the life of Will Mfum.
The 6-foot-2 guard who started his career at Columbus Northland is making the transition to Quality Education Academy, a prep basketball school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he hopes he can finally strictly focus on his true love, basketball.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the insanely-athletic guard, but this change could ease the pain of what he has been going through the past few years.
“Coming into freshman year I was already in trouble because of the people I was hanging around with,” he said. “When I started to fall in love with basketball, I was always really distracted because I kept hearing that someone got shot or someone got arrested and it would throw me off.”
Each time one of his friends got arrested or shot, the temptation to rejoin the people he use to run with would creep back into the mind of Mfum. He couldn’t seem to escape the problems.
His eyes were truly opened to how much trouble he was in the day a police officer asked him to come down to the office at Northland.
“There was one time when the school police officer pulled me down to the office to get an early dismissal because these dudes were coming for me after school,” he said. “They kept pulling up to the school and making death threats, and after that they started coming to my mom’s house.”
Mfum found himself involved with a dangerous crowd, one that wasn’t afraid to attack him no matter where he was at. This mistake was one that could have easily taken his life, but instead it could be the one that changes everything for him.
Mfum, who was born in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from Ghana, flirted with the idea of prep school last summer. Initially, his mother was not very fond of the idea. However, after multiple threats at Northland, she finally came around to the idea of her son moving on to a prep school and forgoing his final season as a Viking.
“My principal and school officer convinced my mom that going to this prep school could help with my safety and would allow me to become a better young man outside of school,” he said.
Mfum has turned these threats into a positive. He said that he can’t go to many events right now because of the potential danger, but he can go to the gym where he can work on his craft and potentially ensure himself more Division I scholarships.
The son of immigrant parents, Mfum has put all the pressure on himself to take his family out of poverty. Growing up in the Linden area once he moved to Columbus in 2004, Mfum has never had it easy at any point in his life.
When you watch him play, you see the anger and motivation in his game. Mfum is one of the most athletic guards in the state and has used it to acquire a few offers.
“My passion for the game and my strength to get to the rim are my real strengths,” he said. “Right now I’m just working on my outside game, buy my big strength is beating my defender one on one.”
Youngstown State, Stony Brook, Detroit Mercy and Robert Morris have all offered the 2019 guard because of his ability to get to the rim. Kent State, James Madison, Morehead State and Longwood University aren’t far behind.
“I’m just looking to go somewhere where I can shine,” he said. “I don’t really care about the level. I already know I’m going to get my work done and when I do I know I’ll be seen so the level doesn’t concern me.”
The transition to Quality Education Academy can help Mfum both on and off the court with colleges.
On the court, he knows what weaknesses he needs to work on. He mentioned that his IQ level isn't where it needs to be, so his assistant coaches are helping him with that. He’s spending a lot more time in the film room which is only going to help him when he starts to play. He also wants to become a knockdown shooter, and once he combines that with his speed and strength, the possibilities of where he could go are endless.
Off the court, the move is going to decrease the distractions surrounding him and is going to give him a better chance to play at the college level and potentially professionally. He hopes that playing in college will allow him to help protect his mom and his friend.
“One of my closest friends is all street right now and I’m the opposite, all basketball,” he said. “I already told him when I make it he’s leaving with me. He’s been getting in a lot of stuff but he keeps saying he wants to get out so that’s another motivation for me.”
It’s this motivation that is keeping Mfum in the gym constantly to fulfill his sky-high potential. The safety of him, his friends and family have fueled him to improve in all aspects of life.
“I actually thank these guys for fueling me because if I would have got the easy way out then I don’t think I’d be as fueled as I am now,” he said. “I play a mad, anxious type of basketball and this is just fueling me and making me angrier and that makes me play even better.”
Mfum still has a few weeks before he heads down to North Carolina, and he’s spending that time the only way he knows how, playing basketball. He’s playing the next two weeks with the Mid-Ohio Pumas before traveling to Las Vegas to play with C2K Elite.
When that’s over and he heads to North Carolina, Mfum can finally just focus on basketball for the first time in his life. After a year or two at his new school, he’s going to head to college and continue playing basketball while studying agricultural engineering.
It definitely hasn’t been the easiest road for Mfum, but he’s used the threats directed at him and his family as ammunition to improve on the court.
“I’m going to stay humble and in my mind I just know I’m coming for the top,” he said. “I’m trying to take everybody out of their spot so I’m coming for everyone.”
Basketball can save lives. Just ask Will Mfum.
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