Former Kardinal standout makes Peacocks’ roster as walk-on
By Jim Hague
As the St. Peter’s College men’s basketball team was going through its warm-up drills Saturday night at the Prudential Center, a kid from Kearny was right there, among the rest.
Mohamed Farih was among those Peacocks, preparing to take on Seton Hall in the
annual showdown between New Jersey Catholic colleges.
The 6-foot-4 Farih, fresh out of Kearny High School, had made the Peacocks’ final roster as a walk-on.
Yes, a kid from Kearny was playing NCAA Division I basketball – and only God
knows how long it’s been since Kearny had a legitimate Division I basketball player.
Farih, who scored four points for the Peacocks in his debut last week, a win over
Binghamton, used his due diligence to earn a spot on the roster. He’s also already made his mark as a key practice player, as the Peacocks, due to injury and illness, were down to only eight scholarship players in practice last week before facing Seton Hall, a
game the Peacocks would lose in a game effort, 63-54.
The story of Farih’s ascent to the world of Division I basketball began in earnest
last February, when Kearny head boys’ basketball coach Bill Mullins reached out to
St. Peter’s assistant Bruce Hamburger and told Hamburger about Farih’s hopes and
dreams of walking on to the Peacocks’ roster.
“I got an e-mail from Billy that said he had a kid who was coming to St. Peter’s and was interested in trying to walk on,” Hamburger said.
Farih, who had some interest from some Division III schools to play, received a
nice academic scholarship/financial aid package from St. Peter’s, so that’s where he was headed regardless.
“I decided it was a good choice for me academically,” Farih said. “But I also truly believed I could get a chance to make the team. I just wanted to make sure I got that shot.”
The Peacocks, who made the NCAA Tournament last March after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, graduated four key players from that team, so there were some roster spots open.
Farih got in touch with Hamburger and the two began the odyssey.
“I first talked to him in July and told him what he had to do in terms of paperwork to
get eligible to play,” Hamburger said. “When school started, even before he touched a
basketball for us, he was really persistent and was at the office almost every day, asking me if everything was in line.”
“I’ve always been a persistent guy,” Farih said. “I always want to make sure I get my
stuff done and be ready,” Farih said.
Hamburger told the Kearny teenager to go play more and work on his game. So that’s
what Farih did, religiously working out at the Newark
YMCA, playing with and against players who were either pro players in Europe or
solid college players locally.
“It really helped me, playing with the better competition,” Farih said. “It got me ready.”
Farih also became a fixture at the open workouts that SPC head coach John Dunne had with his players in the offseason.
“During our preseason workouts, I’d always see the kid, but I had no idea who he
was,” Dunne said. “Every time I turned around, there’s this kid watching the workouts. He was very polite, just watching, but he was there all the time, so we let him hang around.”
“I just wanted to make sure that they knew who I was,” Farih said. “I stayed and
watched what they were doing. I wanted to know everything I could.”
Hamburger and Dunne then met to discuss the possibility of having a walk-on tryout.
“I didn’t know if we were going to keep any walk-ons,” Dunne said. “I didn’t know if
we needed any.”
But the coaching staff decided to have the tryout.
There were 13 prospective players who were vying for the chance to be a walk-on.
“I thought I played well,” Farih said. “I did some good things.” “Of the 13, about four had decent enough skills,” Dunne said. “But we had to see who could handle the practices, who was coachable, who could handle the whole deal in being a walk-on. As it turned out, Mohamed had the right attitude and he ended up having enough skill. Demonstrating a great attitude went a long way.”
It was also remarkable, considering Farih missed most of his senior season due to a
After three days of the tryouts, Dunne made a decision about Farih and fellow walkon
candidate Tyler DeChalus of Elmont, N.Y.
“I called them in and gave them the spiel about how they might never get in a game, but how they need to be ready at all times,” Dunne said. “They had won a spot after a couple of days.”
“You could tell right away that he was into it,” Hamburger said. “You could give
him the simple drills and he knew what he was doing. He paid attention, listened and
separated himself a little from everyone else. He figured it all out.”
Then came the biggest test, whether Farih, an undersized kid from Kearny, could handle the physical rigors of playing with and against guys much bigger on a daily basis.
“It was a challenge,” Farih said. “Of course, they were bigger and stronger, but I
thought I handled myself.”
“He showed a lot of toughness and didn’t back down at all,” Hamburger said. “The
other guys on the team respected him and accepted him and he just went from there.
He fit in right away.”
With that, Mohamed Farih became a Division I basketball player. He’s a member of
the St. Peter’s Peacocks and amazingly has already scored collegiate points.
“I was so excited,” Farih said. “My hard work had paid off. It feels good to be part of
Dunne beams when he talks about Farih.
“I can’t rave about Mohamed enough,” Dunne said. “If he doesn’t change, he could be
one of our best walk-ons ever. He’s extremely smart, he’s coachable, he’s proven he can compete. He has a great work ethic. He’s extremely cerebral and picks things up quickly. Even when he’s just standing on the side, he sees things and picks it up and is able to help the others. Some others have to do it over and over to get it, but not Mohamed.”
And last week, with the Peacocks battling injury and illness, Farih had a key role
in practice and was learning to play a new position, that of small forward.
“I’m getting a lot of time, learning different things,” Farih said. “I played the three
(small forward) this week and I never did that before. I just wanted to see what I could
do to help the team. It’s crazy how this all turned out, but it’s what I wanted.”
There are no guarantees in the life of a walk-on. It’s a thankless position. Farih may
never play in another game, yet he has to continue to work hard, practice hard, just to
keep his spot on the roster.
But he’s doing the right things – and that just might make him a permanent fixture
on the SPC roster. And there is a kid from Kearny playing Division I basketball. Believe it. Mohamed Farih certainly does.