NL Gazette

Injuries fueled transition from basketball to computer science.

With his dream of playing professional basketball gone, Essayas Kassa strives to achieve success in the PEI technology arena.

UPEI student Essaya’s Kassa can’t forget the moment when his dream of playing in the NBA was shattered. 

In October 2017, then 17 years old, he played for the U19 National Basketball Team in Ethiopia in his second year. 

He was warming up in his hometown of Addis Ababa because it was supposed to be another match. As part of his warm-up routine, he performed a “suicide” running exercise (point-to-point, repeated sprinting back and forth). 

He was quick and practiced for hours after school. He wanted to go to America, play college basketball, and get an NBA scout. While sprinting, he looked around. His school friends, his teacher and his fans stood on the stands and cheered him on. 

Suddenly, his left foot did not rise and he dropped his face first. He felt something cracked in his thigh.

His teammates took him away and he went to the hospital. He said he didn’t feel much pain, possibly due to the rapid rush of adrenaline in his body. 

Maybe it was just a cramp or a minor injury, he thought. In the ward, the doctor comes back with the results of his X-ray. 

“I don’t think there’s a future for you in basketball,” said the doctor.

fall into depression 

Kassa tore his hamstring to the point of not being able to fully recover. “It was one of those spots where I felt empty,” he said. 

“Like, I’ve got no goals left.” He is depressed. Basketball is his life.

He once sat down with his parents, who advised him to consider other options when he was in his senior year of high school and had to make a decision. 

He wasn’t interested in computers and wasn’t even that good at math, but he couldn’t imagine learning anything else, like business or economics. 

He wants to choose an affordable university to attend in North America. UPEI proved different from others.

Kassa to Prince Edward Island. in the fall of 2018. He struggled a lot in the first semester. There are concepts he doesn’t understand because, he admits, he didn’t pay much attention to them in high school. 

He was disappointed when he checked his GPA at the end of the first semester: 3.2. It should have been better than that, he thought. Then his competitive instincts, honed in basketball, came to the fore.

“I take this motivation mentality that I had in basketball, where you have to work hard to be able to shoot, to be able to give an assist, this is the same as in the squad, ” I said. 

“You have to be able to practice and code to be able to understand how things work.” Kassa started asking his teachers to work part-time. He spent more time in the library. 

His GPA increased to 4.0 by the end of the second half of the year. Now, with a 4.2 GPA, he has been recruited to work on several tech-related projects. One of these projects is the Smart Agriculture application, which is in beta. 

The web platform provides live weather data from more than 60 weather stations on Prince Edward Island. It can also help island farmers calculate water requirements for wheat and potato crops.

Read More: Injury prompts pivot from basketball to computer science | CBC News

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