US-BASED Zimbabwean basketball player Simiselo Ncube Socks is not your typical athlete. Standing at just over two metres tall (6,6 feet), he looms over most of his teammates at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas in the US.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
But it’s not only the forward’s stature that sets him head and shoulders above the rest.
In addition to being an immensely gifted basketball player, 21-year-old Socks is also an exceptional student in the classroom and in May, he will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems specialising in cyber security.
He is, however, the first to admit it has not been easy to juggle studies and basketball.
“Striking a balance between my studies and basketball hasn’t been easy, more so now that I’m nearing graduating this year. In May I’ll have my Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems with a concentration in cyber security. All of my uppers require a lot of time. Balancing internships, classes, basketball practice and weights is not easy, especially when you’re working for free [internship],” Socks told The Sports Hub in an interview from his US base last week.
“It takes a toll but there are just some things you have to sacrifice in order to make the schedule work. I think of it as, you’re either handling your business or you’re not. When it comes down to it, I handle my business,” he said.
Socks was born in Bulawayo but relocated to the US with his parents Emmanuel and Thalenta as well as two brothers Simisani and Sibusiso when he was aged six in 2002.
It was in the US where he started playing basketball, rising from the ranks in three different states on his way to a successful high school career at the Texas-based Coppell High School and Bridgton Academy in Maine.
“To my memory, I started playing basketball when we moved to Indianapolis. That’s where I started playing in the park district league in the second grade,” Socks said.
“I would go on to play for Illinois Speed in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) when we moved to West Chicago. When we moved to Dallas, I turned my attention to street ball until one of my homies told me to come play for Texas Select. That’s when I really started learning about the game. Since I started playing with Texas Select, we’ve made it to AAU Nationals numerous times and won numerous national tournaments,” he said.
Attending Coppell High School in Texas at the same time, Socks was a three-time all-district player and averaged 13 points and seven rebounds during his senior season, earning himself a number of accolades in the process, including the school’s most valuable player in his final year.
After graduating from Coppell High School, Socks moved to Maine to join the Bridgeton Academy which has a rich tradition, with four NEPSAC AAA championships and countless Division One careers under its belt, as well as several NBA and other pro-league careers.
Socks’ biggest breakthrough thus far came in 2015 when he was signed by the University of Incarnate Word.
This provided him with the opportunity to further his education while also competing in the Southland Conference, which is part of the highly competitive National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One.
“My time at Incarnate Word has been alright so far. Our assistant coaches do what they can in the time they have in order to help us develop. It’s nothing special, but they put it in our minds and when I work out on my own I’m always trying to turn my weaknesses into strengths.”
He hopes playing college basketball at the highest level can be a stepping stone for him to a professional basketball career.
“My aspirations are to always be getting better as a player; if I get the opportunity to play professionally, I’ll be happy with that.”
The Zimbabwe national basketball team’s historic maiden qualification for the 2015 Fiba Afrobasket Championships held in Tunisia also caught Socks’ attention and he hopes to be a part of the team in the future, if given an opportunity.
“I’ve only seen a few Zimbabwe games stats and coverages of the 2015 Afrobasket Championships where they were 16th. I know they probably weren’t happy about that but it was cool seeing them in a position to make something happen even though it didn’t work out. I’d love to represent Zimbabwe in the future in any way that I can.”
Socks also hailed the work being done by fellow US-based Zimbabwean women’s basketball star Alexandra Maseko to uplift local youths through her organisation, the Sports and Development Trust Zimbabwe.
“I recently followed Alexandra Maseko on IG [Instagram], she’s doing some big things with basketball for Zimbabwe, with her organisation. I’d love to help the youth with anything I can do as far as IT or basketball or anything else. I will represent Zimbabwe if I have the opportunity, the time and the means,” he said.