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The Mercury News

To those who remember Hayward’s Mahershala Ali’s time on the basketball court, it’s fitting he won the Oscar for best supporting actor Sunday for his role in “Moonlight.”

Ali, known then as Hershal Gilmore while helping Mt. Eden High reach the Division III state championship in 1990, was the ultimate team player. Although one of the more talented players in the East Bay, the 6-foot-3 sophomore eagerly accepted a reserve role that year after transferring from rival Hayward.

“He didn’t start for us when he first got there because it wouldn’t have been good for our program,” said Ron Benevides, his Mt. Eden coach. “He just came to practice, worked hard. Didn’t complain. Just a super kid.”

It has been especially gratifying for Benevides and his family to see Ali achieve success as an actor.

“We still kind of keep an eye on him,” he said. “He’s on all the talk shows. It’s great to see kids like that come from a place where they could have gone either way. He chose to go the good way.

“He didn’t have a real normal family situation,” Benevides said of Ali’s high school days. “His step-dad was in New York (acting on Broadway) and he ended up with his grandparents. They didn’t miss a game. He understood right from wrong and that came from a good raising by his grandparents.”

At Mt. Eden, Ali was lauded as a do-everything kind of player whose attitude, hustle and determination helped him earn a scholarship to Saint Mary’s.

Ali literally made a name for himself at Saint Mary’s, asking to be referred to as Mahershala Gilmore. But his basketball career with the Gaels never took off. He averaged a career-high 7.0 points as a senior, but scored just 3.6 points in a four-year career playing for coach Ernie Kent that soured him on the game.

“Honestly, I kind of resented basketball by the end of my time there,” Ali said in an interview with Saint Mary’s website. “I’d seen guys on the team get chewed up, spat out and I was personally threatened with being shipped off to the University of Denver.

“All in the name of wins and productivity.”

His Division I basketball experience was a far cry from his days in the Hayward Area Athletic League.

While at Mt. Eden, Ali was one of a wave of players who sacrificed personal goals while buying into Benevides’ team-first mantra. That team was so evenly balanced and operated so well together that the local paper, our Hayward Daily Review, took the unprecedented step of naming the entire team as its Prep of the Week.

Utilizing an 11-man rotation, the team’s depth keyed an improbable run to a 28-8 record and a stunning berth in the state championship game. Ali and his teammates, though, lost 67-51 to Servite of Anaheim in the title game at the Coliseum Arena.

It took a few years and a different career path, but on Sunday night Ali got the Hollywood ending he was destined for.


Ecrit par Misty 



Ecrit par Misty 

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