“Coming to America… is just the first step,” remarks Dimitry Moise, currently a senior at Trinity Catholic High in Stamford, Connecticut. Three years ago, Dimitri and his teammate Cantavio Dutreil waved goodbye to their families in Haiti to pursue their dream of playing basketball. Last week, Dimitri and Cantavio of the Haitian Sons breezed past the 1000 pt mark in their high school careers. I got the opportunity to sit down and chat with them about their American experience. We were joined by the Crusaders latest recruit, Akim Joseph.
How did this opportunity come together?
We attended basketball camps conducted by POWERForward in Haiti. They identified us as part of their education in U.S. program. They worked with Stamford Peace Youth Organisation here in Stamford. Both these organizations worked together to make this opportunity a reality.
When did you first start playing basketball?
Dimitry: It’s funny… because I started playing soccer initially. Everyone in Haiti is crazy about soccer. I also played tennis. It was in 8th grade that I first started playing basketball. One day I thought to myself… I have the height for it. Why not give basketball a shot? I just took a chance.
Cantavio: I didn’t take basketball seriously at first. I was probably six years old when I first started. I was messing around and having fun. I never thought it would lead to anything like this. But now… basketball is everything to me. It has changed my life and of those around me.
What was it like when you first moved here?
Dimitry: It was tough, man. I didn’t speak the language. The language barrier wasn’t easy to overcome. I couldn’t understand what everyone around me was saying. I wasn’t sure if my classmates were laughing at me. I spent a lot of my initial months wishing I could go back home.
Cantavio: Initially, I barely spoke with anyone. I wasn’t interested in talking to people around me. I was constantly trying to talk to my folks back home. It took me a while to open up. Especially with my accent. Taking classes regularly helped me overcome that initial fear.
Akim: I was in Kansas before coming to Stamford. Coach Kriftcher (Coach K) felt I would be a good fit here and helped me move to Trinity High. I made my debut recently against Danbury. I was lucky because both Dimitry and Cantavio were already here and that made it easier to adapt.
Was oncourt communication difficult for you as you did not speak the language?
Dimitry: In the beginning… yes. But we had our manager who could speak the ‘Asian creole’ dialect. He helped translate the coach’s instructions for us.
Cantavio: It’s also helpful to have Dimitry on your side. Because we communicate with each other often. Making sure we are on the same page. It is kinda cool..to actually play with someone from the same background as you but in a different setting.
How has your knowledge of the game changed since coming here?
Dimitry: My first year…I honestly didn’t know much about basketball. But during my Junior year, I was able to bond with assistant coach Brian Kriftcher(coach K) and that really helped me a lot. He helped me understand my role and the reasons behind our tactics. I was very curious at first, I wanted to know why I had to play a certain way. He was patient with me and helped me understand my role.
Akim: There is a huge difference in coaching philosophy here compared to my time in Kansas. We play a lot of zone coverage here. But back in Kansas, we played man to man coverage.
Who is your favourite player?
Dimitry: Lebron James…obviously.
Cantavio: Lebron James.
Akim: Russell Westbrook.
Which NBA teams do you support?
Dimitry: This season…Houston Rockets are my team.
Cantavio: Cavaliers for me.
Akim: Oklahoma City Thunder.
You stay with host families here in Stamford?
Dimitry: I currently stay with coach K and his family. They have been very welcoming and understanding towards me. I feel very lucky to have a mentor like coach K guiding me. Both on and off the court.
Cantavio: I stay with the Samedy family. They help me stay on top of school work, overcome the language barrier and just be there for me. They care a lot and want a better future for me. What more can one expect from their family?
Akim: I stay in Stratford with St.John family. Mr. Brian is basically like a coach to me. We talk a lot about basketball and upcoming games. How to guard players on opposing teams and tactics. It didn’t take long for me to feel at home.
Was it easy making friends once you got here?
Dimitry: It was actually easy. In America, if you play good basketball..it is easy to make a lot of friends.
Do you stay in touch with friends and family back home in Haiti?
Dimitry: Yes, I stay in touch. They are always asking me “What is it like to live in America?” I always tell them coming here is the easiest part. The real test begins once you are here. You should have the guts and courage to work hard. Work your a** off. On and off the court. I spent a lot of time during my first year wanting to go back…because it was soo much hard work. A lot of workouts, lots of practice sessions and lots and lots of shooting.
Cantavio: I recently got the chance to travel back home. It was great to see my family and friends after a long time.
Akim: I stay in touch with my folks regularly. I talk to my mom almost every day. I think I will get a chance to see them in May.
Dimitry, how did it feel when you crossed the 1000pt mark in your career?
Dimitry: I remember when I first came here. I walked through those doors and saw a row of basketballs marked with past players names written on them. I knew immediately that I wanted to get my name there.
Cantavio: I was very happy. Because we achieved this together and in the same game. It was a proud moment for both of our families.
Where do you see yourself in a couple of years from now?
Dimitry: Well…I want to play college ball. That is my goal. I want to improve my game further and compete with the best. Hopefully, I can play for Haiti in the future.
Cantavio: I want to go to college. Get my degree and become a mechanical engineer.
Akim: I want to be a doctor. That is my only goal. I want to study hard and go to medical school.