Episcopal Soccer Kalipinde's Heart Is On the Hardwood

Given Kalipinde, who came to the U.S. from Zambia through the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program, stars for Episcopal High in Alexandria now and has signed to play basketball for Loyola Marymount next year. Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, February 16, 2009

Given Kalipinde flings open the door of his dorm room at Episcopal High School. "Come in, come in, come in," says the 19-year-old with a toothy grin.

He strolls past the Shaquille O'Neal poster taped to his wooden armoire, dodges the bunk beds and slaps his hand on the cinderblock wall next to a Kobe Bryant poster hung over his roommate's desk.

"Kobe Bryant right there. My coach doesn't like him, but, hey, he's the man. Kobe Bean Bryant."

In many ways, he sounds like just another basketball-obsessed kid enjoying his senior season. But Kalipinde's journey to the elite boarding school in Alexandria has been a unique trip. A product of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program, Kalipinde's basketball voyage started at home in Zambia and continued to South Africa before the 6-foot-3 guard finally arrived in this country in August 2007.

Honored last fall as The Post's boys' soccer All-Met Player of the Year, Kalipinde has signed a letter-of-intent to play basketball at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. His room bears no evidence of his soccer prowess.

"Basketball is what I love doing and it's the reason I'm here," says Kalipinde.

Kalipinde has a graceful jump shot, poise, speed, ballhandling ability, an enveloping wing-span and impressive strength. He has paced the Maroon (13-6, 7-3 IAC) by averaging a team-high 20.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals entering tomorrow's first-round Interstate Athletic Conference tournament game against St. Albans (3-20, 1-9).

Among the colleges that have expressed an interest in Kalipinde were Wake Forest, UNLV, George Mason, Richmond, Boston University and Fordham. He chose Loyola, however, out of loyalty; LMU assistant Myke Scholl helped bring him to the United States.

"The first time I saw him playing was with boys much older than him, 14 years old playing with 18-, 19-year-old guys and he just showed a lot of promise," said Scholl, a former Detroit Pistons scout who spent 10 years as director of international programs for Miles and Associates International, a sports marketing firm in Johannesburg. "You find, in the development over there, that there are lot of centers and power forwards that come over here and have success, but you haven't found guards like him. That's what struck me at the core about him. . . . He was just so natural."

While in South Africa, Scholl also established the country's first national high school basketball league. It was sometime around 2004 when Scholl first saw Kalipinde on a basketball court.

"He's been my coach since, I guess, probably since I was 14," Kalipinde said. "That helped me out, having someone I know out there, helping me out each and every day."

Scholl had heard of Kalipinde while the player was still in Zambia and helped secure a spot for him in 2006 at the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg. The camps, part of the NBA's international global outreach initiative, include instruction from NBA players and are made up of the continent's top emerging 19-and-under talent. Kalipinde was one of two players chosen from Zambia.

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