By Peter Carrera
Cedric Belemene, a 6-foot 6 forward born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been contributing on both ends of the floor for the Miami Dade College men's basketball team.
Belemene, a freshman, is averaging 11.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and almost two steals per game this year.
"He can shoot the ball, he can rebound the ball, when we press he is the one on top of the guard, giving the guards as much problems as he can," said Sharks Head Basketball Coach Kevin Ledoux. "He does a little bit of everything for us."
Belemene made a stellar debut for the Sharks in the season opener versus the Red Devils Basketball Academy on Nov. 2, dropping 23 points, 12 rebounds and six steals.
The 20-year-old international business major's versatility and energy on the floor is essential to have for any team, according to Assistant Coach Ward Griffith.
"It's very important to have somebody that can play multiple positions and can help the team out in multiple areas like Cedric does," Griffith said.
Belemene's basketball origins started in his hometown of Pointe-Noire, Congo Republic. He first got into basketball as a teenager, after watching a documentary featuring Serge Ibaka, a power forward for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association. Ibaka was the first athlete from the Congo to be drafted into the NBA.
"After watching that, I started going to the closest basketball court near my house," Belemene said.
Then in 2010, Belemene attended a youth basketball camp that was organized by Ibaka himself in the Congo. Many coaches from Spain were there to train the camp attendees and scout them.
It was during that camp that Belemene grabbed the attention of a coach, who offered Belemene a scholarship to attend Colexio San Narciso in the province of Galicia, Spain.
In October of 2010, Belemene arrived in Spain and began his new life there.
Belemene would go on to demonstrate his varied skill set in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Under-16 and Under-18 tournaments in 2012 and 2014 playing for Spain.
In the 2012 tournament, Belemene was the leading scorer on the team and won a national championship. In the 2014 tournament, Belemene was the team's leading rebounder and most valuable player and won a national championship that year as well.
In 2014, Belemene moved to the United States and enrolled in Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, KS, thanks to his coaches in Spain having connections with the school.
Aside from now having to learn English, getting adjusted to the American style of basketball was tough initially.
"The American basketball style is very different than the [style] we play in Europe," Belemene said. "Here, it's very physical basketball. Everything was new to me because I had to learn English too."
After graduating from Sunrise, Belemene did not hesitate to jump to MDC. Not only was education an important factor in his decision to come, but it had always been his dream to live in Miami.
Belemene aspires to become a professional basketball player and use his success to give back to the communities of the Congo, just as his basketball hero Serge Ibaka does.
"That is my motivation to keep going, growing, give my 100 percent and keep learning," Belemene said. "I would really like to succeed in life, go back to the Congo and help some kids there."