Huskies’ coach leads men’s basketball team to gold medal

Catch You on the Rebound – Profile on Lunzaya Nlandu

By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Contributor

Lunzaya Nlandu

The Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup is named in honour of legendary basketball legend John Wooden. Wooden passed away at 99 years of age in 2010. He was the first individual to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (1961) and as a coach (1973).

Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood”, he coached the UCLA Bruins men’s team to 10 NCAA national championships in a 12 year period during the 1960s and 1970s. He is also known world-wide for his down-to-earth philosophy in regards to coaching and life.

According to the official website, the Cup honours two athletes – one collegiate and one professional – who “have made the greatest difference in the lives of others. The recipients are athletes of excellence both on and off the field, role models both as performers and persons.”

Jack Nicklaus, Drew Bees, Mia Hamm, Dikembe Mutombo, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tim Tebow are a few athletes to receive it. And now, Keyano Huskies men’s basketball coach Lunzaya Nlandu is added to the list.

Nlandu, 35, who moved to Montreal, Quebec with his family when he was five years-of-age from Democratic Republic of the Congo, picked up the sport as a lanky 13-year-old and went on to play post-secondary Division I hoops in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

He wore the jersey of the Northeastern University Huskies (2001-2002) and Western Carolina University Catamounts (2003-2005) with one year of JUCO ball in between with the Santa Fe Community College Saints (2002-2003).

He also wore the Maple Leaf of Canada as a member of Canada’s senior men’s national team from 2000-2002 and played semi-pro hoops as a member of the Edmonton Chill and Edmonton Energy of the International Basketball League.

As a burly 6-foot-7 forward/centre, he admits that he was a “workhorse, who played hard and had the mentality of the nine-to-five guy going to the steel mill with a lunch bucket in hand.”

Last year, he made his first appearance at Keyano College as an assistant coach to the men’s basketball program.

This year, he has taken over the head coaching duties and has led the Huskies to an impressive 11 wins 1 loss record, which ranks them at No. 6 in Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association polls.

How did a hard-nosed guy on the court, soft spoken guy off the court, Lunzaya Nlandu become a humanitarian?

“It was while I was at Western Carolina that a friend and fellow student Paul Aloo approached me with the idea that we collect books from all of the colleges and universities that surround Western Carolina and then send them to Africa… Cameroon,” he said

“It was while I was at Western Carolina that a friend and fellow student Paul Aloo approached me with the idea that we collect books from all of the colleges and universities that surround Western Carolina and then send them to Africa… Cameroon,” he said. “We also made a road trip down to Florida and had a lot of donations. In total, I’d guess we sent 15,000 to 20,000 books over.”

The project was called Africed. The project now for Nlandu, who is Senior Account Manager at Hilti, is leading the Huskies to a gold medal game when they host the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championships March 16 to March 19, 2016 at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre.

“We have a solid team with ten to 13 guys that could start on the court. At the end of the day, it is not about their minutes or points. It is about giving your best. We want to win at home and to protect our court.”

– Connect Weekly –