NxGn: Halfway Through, Here Is Pick Number 5-Lebanese Basketball
14 Apr.2017– It’s a challenging time to be a young, determined and passionate baller. In a league where 3 foreigners take most of the chances, it’s tough to find any time on court. But through hard work, perseverance, and tenacity, players like Jimmy Salem are proving their worth when given a chance.
Jimmy started to play basketball at the age of 13, playing for Kahraba and Hoops at the same time but opted to continue with the latter till the age of 15 under coach Rabih Francis. Francis was Jimmy’s biggest fan at the time. He worked privately with him, as he helped him to develop his game and enhance his skills. Salem then spread his wings as he flew to Manara to wear the colors of Al Riyadi Beirut. Coach Jad Fattouh and coach Ahmad Farran, each added their touch as Jimmy was shaping up to be one of the best of his age.
At the age 15, Jimmy had his first call to wear the colors of the U16 National team. With coach Ghassan Sarkis and Jad Fattouh leading the charge, Salem was named captain of the squad. The team went on to compete in the 2011 WABA Championship and then in the Asian Championship. In 2012, he climbed up the ladder and played with the U18s in the 2012 Asian Championship. Under coach Joe Moujaes, Jimmy matured a lot and developed his sense of leadership as Joe was harsh on him and pushed him to the limits. He saw in Jimmy a guy who can excel among the best. A mentor for him on and off the court.
Jimmy’s journey in D1 started late in 2011, as Riyadi offered him the chance to play with them. As a young man among veterans, he didn’t have much of a space to operate. But still learned a lot from players like Ali Mahmoud and Ismael Ahmad. The year after, Jimmy joined Ghassan Sarkis’ championship team in Dik El Mehdi. Still inexperienced, he didn’t have much time to play, but he knew deep down that his time is bound to come.
Through the years, coach Joe never took his eyes off his prodigy. So before season 2012-2013 started, Jimmy was packing his bags! Destination Byblos, where he played for 2 consecutive seasons. A match made in heaven, as both Jimmy and Joe were heading to Mezher to join Homenetmen for the season 2014-2015. This season was a turnaround in Jimmy’s career as bloomed into one of the best SG in the league, finishing the season with 11.5 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3.1 apg.
After his wonderful season, Jimmy caught the eye of coach Marwan Khalil and so joined Louaize for the upcoming campaign. Yet things will not turn out to be as we all wished. In his first 2 minutes as a Louaize players, Jimmy tore his ACL and so had to miss the entire season. It’s not how hard you hit they say, it’s how hard you get hit and still move forward. There was no holding him back. Mind and body were determined to get in tip top shape. After his surgery, Jimmy started his rehabilitation, wanting to come back stronger than before. After 8 months of agony and hard work, Jimmy was able to play the game he always loved. Jimmy was never alone walking this tough path, fans, players, and coaches always sent him messages to make sure their beloved player was on the right track. Yet it was Jimmy’s family that stood by him the most, a constant shoulder he can rest on. As Jimmy said before, an ACL injury isn’t a career ending injury, but an ACL injury without your loved ones next to you is.
With Jimmy back this year, he’s grateful for a second chance to compete and do what he does best. While he’s having a good season with Louaize we always wish the best for all our youngsters as they may have an injury free career. We still remember his fantastic game in the school regional final in 2013 when he racked up 36 points, 27 rebounds, and 14 assists. We hope some day we’ll see similar numbers in D1, who knows?