Jan. 10, 2008
By Terry Foy
For 6-foot-10, 270-pound center Hassan Fofana, everything has had to be big. In the years since he's come to the United States to play basketball, Fofana has become familiar with big expectations and big challenges.
Now the senior is looking to add one final item to his resume: big results.
Fofana is in his third season as a Greyhound, joining the team after the first semester of the 2005-06 season following. He was initially recruited by Loyola Head Coach Jimmy Patsos to Maryland, where Patsos was an assistant; Fofana, however, transferred to Loyola after less than two seasons as a Terrapin.
In his time at Loyola, he has made strides offensively, some big and some small.
Defense - both rebounding and blocking or adjusting shots - has been Fofana's avenue to success, and in his last semester with Patsos, he's looking to help the Greyhounds to a marquee season by up-sizing his contribution at the defensive end.
"The winter break has been a good time for me, without school, to get into a rhythm," Fofana said. " I think I really need to start helping out defensively, making two or three blocks and 10 rebounds per game."
Those kind of numbers echo the expectations that Loyola fans had for Fofana when he arrived at the Evergreen campus, and Patsos says the senior center was on the verge of breaking through last winter before an ankle injury set him back heading into the regular season MAAC schedule.
"I think he was in great shape, and we were really starting to see the things out of him that we wanted to," Patsos said.
The prospect of getting a lot out of Fofana during conference play is a difficult proposition as well, however, and is just the latest of challenges facing Fofana.
"This league is tough for big guys," Fofana said. "It has been known as a guards' league for a while, and for big men it is tough to play a style where they can really dominate in the low post."
That wasn't lost on Fofana when he came to Loyola, but he says though he says the program has had to suffer through some tough losses over the last three seasons, it has been a smooth ride.
"Coming in here, I expected to be a part of a rebuilding program," he says. "I didn't know how hard winning was going to be. We've come a long way, but it has never been easy."
That type of struggle belies the latest part of Fofana's journey. A native of Guinea, he came to the United States knowing no English, but says that he wasn't daunted by the transition because he had traveled a lot as a child. He says the adjustment was automatic, but that he had to learn fast.
"I watched a lot of television, but I still had to ask people to slow down what they are saying a bit at first," Fofana said. "Now, it's just the way people tell some jokes that I have to get used to, but my teammates have been good at helping keep me up on that."
Fofana has battled through the language barrier to major in philosophy and cultural studies, two interests he carries from his days at home. He says the patience that he has read about in his coursework has helped adapt to his coach's style on the floor.
"Jimmy is a guy that, on the floor, he can flip on you for no reason, but that's because he's using it as motivation," Fofana said. "I've known him for six years, and I learned that the hard way when he got into me for making a good play."
His progress this year was also hampered when he suffered a leg injury on December 28 at Illinois. Fofana gathered five rebounds in six minutes at Illinois before going down with the injury.
Once healthy, Fofana looks to continue his improvements and make a key contribution to the team heading into the meat of the Greyhounds' season.