Carbondale’s cultural melting pot
CARBONDALE — Roaring Fork High School boys basketball coach Larry Williams has had the luxury of coaching a diverse group of players for the last couple of years. His team has four varsity players who attend Colorado Rocky Mountain School; Dwayne Yin, Freemond Mbanguza, Ben Jenkins and Timmy Nielsen.
“It is neat having such a diverse, talented group of players, and we wouldn’t be as good with out them,” Williams said. “These boys have added to the overall spirit of the team.”
In his 19 years of coaching, Williams said he has never had a more committed group from CRMS. “Bottom line: They are a great group of kids, and I will be heartbroken to see them go.”
Dwayne Yin, China
Yin wanted to go somewhere that would fulfill his education goals when he was looking to study abroad. Growing up in Shenzhen, China, was difficult because he is passionate about history and liberal studies.
“I wasn’t allowed to speak my own thoughts at school in China,” he said. China’s education system focuses on math and science. For Yin, this system didn’t fulfill his dreams of study.
When he was looking where to study abroad, he wanted change. He grew up in a big city where there were no mountains or snow, and those were two parts of nature he wanted to experience.
Moving to America wasn’t a huge culture shock for Yin because he already was submerged into American culture. “I grew up with McDonald’s. I watched American movies and television shows, and I learned English in elementary school.”
Back home, academics were the focus. He ran track in elementary school, but didn’t have the opportunity to play sports in middle school.
After school, Yin would play basketball with his friends. “It was park ball, so I didn’t really learn the fundamentals of the game, but it still was fun,” he said.
Yin didn’t think he was going to play basketball when he started at CRMS his sophomore year. Instead, he thought he was going to snowboard all winter.
Yin has been playing basketball his entire life and, when he heard about the opportunity to play at Roaring Fork, he decided to take it. When he first started, he had a hard time adjusting to the elevation. He remembers being out of breath, and he wanted to show Williams his potential. So he ran and biked in the offseason, and he’s added climbing to that offseason itinerary.
“I am so grateful to have Larry as a coach. He has taught me so much and has never given up on me,” he said.
Yin, a 6-foot-3 senior, is one of the Rams’ top scorers, averaging nine points and 10 rebounds per game. He thought this was going to be a tough season because they lost two seniors. “But I have learned that the success of a team isn’t based on two players, rather it’s the entire team’s effort. I know that if we work really hard as a team, then the results will show for themselves.”
Freemond Mbanguza, Rwanda
Senior forward Freemond Mbanguza, who goes by Freezy, is a 6-3 post player who has been playing sports his entire life. He was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but his parents reside in Rwanda.
His parents and he decided he should study abroad to receive a better education. Friends of Mbanguza’s family had a daughter who attended CRMS, and because she gave a good recommendation, he ended up there for the start of his sophomore year.
“I flew here alone when I just turned 15; it was tough, but people were so kind so it made the transition easy,” he said. “I miss everything about home, especially that feeling you get when you know this is your home.”
In Rwanda, he played both soccer and basketball. He also plays soccer for CRMS, and this is his second year playing basketball for Roaring Fork.
“I like team sports, and basketball is fun to play both competitively and recreationally,” he said.
Mbanguza is a fan of the NBA and those players are an inspiration to him. His favorite team is the Boston Celtics.
“[This season] I would love have a dunk in a game; that would be great,” he said, “and I hope we just keep playing as a team, not forgetting this is a team sport.”
He averages 10 rebounds a game and five steals.
Ben Jenkins: Indonesia
Jenkins has lived in four different countries throughout his life. He was born in Indonesia, then moved to Nigeria for five years, Kazakhstan for four and Angola for four.
His father works for Chevron, and his job requires lots of travel. “At first it was hard to leave, but I have come accustomed to saying goodbye and going to new places,“ he said.
Jenkins does miss living in Luanda, Angola. He misses his friends and the culture. But before he came to CRMS his freshman year, he was already familiar with Colorado because his mother is from here. He spent every summer here since he was a kid.
His sophomore year he wanted a change of scenery, so he went to school on the east coast but he didn’t like it, so he decided to come back.
He has been playing basketball since sixth grade and has enjoyed his time playing at Roaring Fork. He is the Rams’ point guard and he averages four steals per game. He also plays soccer for CRMS.
“This season, I want our team to win as many games as possible to make it to the district tournament,” he said. “Larry makes the game more structured and has helped me become a better player.”
Right now his, father resides in Kazakhstan, but this semester his mother is in Colorado because his father got a rotation job.
After CRMS, Jenkins plans to attend college in Colorado and continue his basketball or soccer career. He hopes to major in finance and be an NBA agent.
Timmy Nielsen: Oregon
Nielsen is from Bend, Ore. He and his brother were given the opportunity to study at CRMS. At first, he was hesitant to leave home, but he decided it was a better option for his education.
He moved here his sophomore year with the intention of going back home to finish his last two years, but he said he loves living in this valley and CRMS.
“I like not being under the control of my parents,” he said. “The past few years have made me more responsible and mature.”
Nielsen has been playing basketball since he was 7 years old. For the Rams, he is averaging seven rebounds a game.
“My goal is to finish off the season strong,” he said. “I have been shaky since winter break. My shot has been different.”
As a team he hopes to see them be league champions again this year. “My teammates are awesome, and we all work well together,” he said.
At the beginning of the season he wasn’t sure how they would match up to other teams. But so far, he is impressed with the team dynamic and he is excited to see what they can do throughout the rest of the season.
He describes the team bond as a brotherhood. They have team dinners before every game, and he said that on the weekends “we all try to hang out as a team.”
Nielsen said the coaching is great. “It is the best I have experienced on a team,” he said. “Larry is a great coach, he is helpful and he is always trying to help every player improve.”
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