Article, 2008-2009 Season - Ohlone College Renegades Men's Basketball

Ohlone’s standing slam dunk

By William O. Martin, Staff writer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008—Reprinted from Ohlone College Monitor.

Ring Ayuel standing flat-footed with his hand on the basket's rim. 7-foot-4 Ohlone basketball player Ring Ayuel can dunk without leaving the ground. —Photo by Eric Dorman.

Ohlone has a new big man on campus. A really big man, who has high hopes for the upcoming 2008-’09 basketball season and beyond. He is a 7-foot-4-inch freshman center from Sudan by the name of Ring Ayuel, who can grab the rim from his tiptoes.

Ayuel is originally from a village called Turalei, located in southern Sudan, a region that is plagued by poverty and demoralized by a war that seems to have no end. After his village was pillaged and burned during the Sudanese genocide, Ayeuel was forced to flee for his life at the tender age of 11.

Amidst the chaos swirling around Ayuel, he knew only that he would need to run for his life to survive. He left behind his 6’ 11” mother, his father, and siblings.

Ayuel and a group of fellow exiles were forced to travel to Kenya for refuge, a trip that took 30 days by foot. Upon reaching Kenya, he spent five years at Kakuma, a United Nations-administered refugee camp located in the northwestern region of Kenya, in the Turkana district. At Kakuma, Ayuel mostly played soccer and volleyball, and a very primitive form of basketball.

It was not until he moved to America that Ayuel first picked up—or rather, palmed—his first basketball in an organized game on the hardwood at Our Savior New American (OSNA), a Lutheran international exchange school in Centereach, N.Y, OSNA was the next critical stepping-stone for Ayuel, and it was here he began to learn English and the sport of basketball. “I learned a lot of things there,” said Ayuel. “They gave me an opportunity to come here.”

Ayuel wasn’t the only big man at OSNA—the school boasted three other Sudanese players over 7 feet tall, attracting the team attention up and down the East Coast. Together with Ayuel, these players made OSNA the tallest team in basketball.

To put it in perspective, Shaquille O’Neal looks up to Ayuel: “Shaq-daddy” is only 7’1” to Ayuel’s 7’4”. The NBA also looks up to OSNA in another aspect: no NBA team sports four 7-foot-4 centers on its roster.

After playing three strong years at OSNA, a friend referred Ayuel to Basketball Coach John Peterson, and soon he found himself at his new home here at Ohlone.

“I like it here,” reflected Ayuel. “All my teachers are nice, my coaches, my teammates, the weather is nice—everybody is nice here.”

Ayuel likes the weather here in California since it is more like Sudan as opposed to the icy winters of New York. “The winter in New York is too cold for me,” recalled Ayuel.

7-foot 4-inch center Ring Ayuel brings unprecidented height to the Ohlone Men's basketball team. Even more incredible than Ayuel's massive stature his history—Ayuel was forced to flee his native Sudan at the age of 11. —Photo by Eric Dorman.

With amazing speed for a center of his stature, and a great natural feel for the game, the toughest challenge Peterson said still faces Ayuel is getting his academics up to par. He is still struggling to master spoken English, but is very comprehensive.

“He is just a little behind academically but we are trying to get him caught up,” Peterson said of Ayuel. With a little help from some tutors and the great people at the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) at Ohlone, Peterson is confident that Ayuel will quickly catch up.

Although Peterson said that Ayuel most likely would not see much playing time this season, he understands that one day his new 7-foot-4 center can be a dominant presence in the paint and a force to be reckoned with.

The new season kicks off on Nov. 7 when Ohlone hosts the Jon Wallace Tournament.

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