Monday, June 28, 2021

Moses and basketball’s “Promised Land”

 

Moses and basketball’s “Promised Land”


  •        

    During his time at Plymouth State, Jean-Pierre was a lightning-quick guard who once scored 53 points in a game.

  • Moses Jean-Pierre, shown recently in Kigali, Rwanda, is helping to promote basketball in Africa. Courtesy photos


A social media devotee, I recently saw a Facebook post from Kigali, Rwanda, authored by former Plymouth State basketball star Moses Jean-Pierre. He was there doing work for the NBA-Africa hoop league — of all things and of all places.

Intriguing.

A subsequent FB message to MJ-P led to a phone conversation where Moses shared some pretty cool b-ball news. But before sharing the hoop gouge, a bit of history …

In the beginning

As a Plymouth State University sports information director three decades ago, I once produced a promotion piece highlighting Jean-Pierre’s hardcourt exploits. It was entitled “Moses is Leading Plymouth’s Basketball Panthers to the Promised Land.” The flyer had a photo and listed Jean-Pierre’s accomplishments, awards, and stats.

A favorite MJ-P memory was of a home game against the University of Southern Maine where Moses scored his team’s last 21 points in regulation to force an overtime from which the Panthers emerged triumphant. MJ-P finished with a record 53 points.

I particularly loved Jean-Pierre’s bounce passes. When opponents would double-team MJ-P, no-look bounce passes to teammates would set up pretty scores. So while Moses was certainly a scorer, he was also a team player.

Moses would indeed lead the Panthers to a “Promised Land” when Plymouth advanced to the ECAC Finals in 1994.

The son of Haitian immigrants, MJ-P grew up in greater Boston and graduated from Cathedral High School — where he is enshrined in the CHS Sports Hall of Fame. (He’s also a Plymouth State Hall of Fame inductee.)

Moses went to Maine Central Institute for a post-graduate year where he caught the attention of Plymouth State coach Paul Hogan, who convinced the six-foot speedster to come to “The Home of The Panthers.” The rest is history, a history which included a record 2000-plus career points.

Now director of athletics and head men’s basketball coach at NHTI-Concord, Hogan recalls MJ-P fondly.

“Moses could dominate a game at both ends of the court,” recalled Hogan. “His defense was exemplified by quickness and ball pressure. Offensively, his ability to penetrate and push the ball was extraordinary. He was an easy player to coach but incredibly hard for opponents to strategize against. And most importantly, Moses loved to win.”

MJ-P went on to play professionally in Turkey and Britain and was on the NBA’s radar screen when a knee injury ended his professional hoop aspirations. So Moses redirected from the hoop world to the entertainment world. He developed new skills in the areas of booking and promotions and eventually became road manager for comedian Michael Blackson. He also co-owned an Atlanta lounge for over six years. But while you could take MJ-P out of basketball, you couldn’t take basketball out of MJ-P.

Going international

So that history segment brings us to Kigali. How did Jean-Pierre come to make that Facebook post from an African venue so distant from Boston, Plymouth or Atlanta?

“I’d returned to New England a few years ago and saw that fellow Plymouth State grad Eric Wilson was doing some sports outreach to Haiti focusing on rugby,” explained Moses. “I wondered if maybe basketball could be included in the mix. I sent him a message and eventually, we partnered up.”

The result was Hoops for Haiti, an international sports initiative in MJ-P’s parents’ homeland that not only supported basketball in that impoverished nation but also created a potential conduit to bring Haitian hoop aspirants to America to pursue their basketball dreams.

Moses’ entrepreneurial inclinations also led him to create JP12 Sports and Entertainment, which among other things involves scouting for basketball talent — an endeavor for which MJ-P is particularly well-suited, given his basketball skills and feel for the game. He later contracted as a scout for Zambia’s Unza basketball team that competes in the NBA-Africa league — which is sanctioned by FIBA, the international basketball governing body. Moses is helping to strengthen the loop’s NBA ties.

Jean-Pierre met league president Amadon Gallo Fall of Senegal at a hoop event at a Brooklyn Nets facility. Like MJ-P, Fall had played American college ball — at the University of District Columbia — and soon Moses was involved with NBA-Africa itself. Hence the Facebook post from Kigali.

While many associate Rwanda with the horrific genocide associated with the 1994 civil war there, Moses lauded the state of the country today.

“Kigali is now a clean, modern city,” explained Jean-Pierre. “And there are definitely players with NBA potential playing in Africa.”

MJ-P added that traveling to and from Kigali involves patience and endurance but that he enjoys his new role as an international basketball ambassador of sorts.

“Fortunately, most of the people I deal with speak English,” he said.

Sports bring people together from all nations. Subsequent friendships and business relationships increase cross-cultural awareness and appreciation while countering the currents of conflict and prejudice. Every player that Moses brings from Haiti or Africa to America — the Promised Land — becomes, like Moses, an international goodwill ambassador.

And the more such goodwill ambassadors we create, the better our world becomes.

One bounce pass at a time.




Educating Ed on Easter

 

Educating Ed on Easter

As a legislator, columnist/blogger, educator, and quasi-raconteur, I enjoy back-and-forth regarding sports, politics, movies and more. But I generally avoid getting into religion. Still, as someone who feels that vibrant religious communities with their associated values and activities are important parts of a healthy society, I sometimes get “cognitive dissonance” about avoiding the topic.

Some might call it “conscience.”

Which brings me to a friend I’ll call “Ed.” He’s a non-believer with whom I have conversed about religion. Being a former Marine, I once asked Ed if he believed Marines had esprit de corps.

Charges dropped against owner of Craigue and Sons in federal court

“Of course,” said Ed.

What does it mean?

“French expression meaning “spirit of the corps,’” replied Ed. “A common feeling of pride and purpose that motivates a group. Sure, Marines have it in spades.”

Can other groups have it?

“Sure. Teams, clubs, organizations. If they have good leadership and common goals.”

So you believe in this esprit, or spirit? Even though you can’t see or touch it?

“Yes,” laughed Ed. “Of course.”

Can a religious group also be animated or motivated by an esprit de corps, like Marines or teams or clubs?

“Why not?” said Ed.

So what if religious folks claim they’re motivated by a special esprit de corps that they refer to as a holy spirit?

Ed is silent. Having already acknowledged the existence of an intangible esprit, he won’t use the English word for it. He saw where I was going. To admit the existence of a Holy Spirit — which is what some religious folks refer to as an animating esprit that inspires them—is essentially to admit the existence of God, in that some Christian doctrines describe the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity, or God as spiritually active in the world.

Without listing names, there are many transformative figures throughout human history who, clearly inspired by a certain esprit (Holy Spirit?) have provided humankind with lessons, parables, belief structures, and inspiration to live good and productive lives. And happy ones too.

Countless surveys and research document that the religious are more generous and happier than non-religious. With exceptions of course. But the data is out there. Google away.

I ask Ed to consider the incredible good work that programs like Catholic Charities do around the world – effectively and efficiently. What do atheist charities do? Might Ed be happier if he donated wherewithal or energy to one of the many wonderful religious charities?

“I pay taxes,” says Ed. “The government does a lot of good work.”

Of course.

“And I don’t need to go to church for a spiritual experience. I can get that by climbing a mountain.”

But isn’t that a bit narcissistic? Isn’t there strength in numbers and value to being part of a group or community animated by an esprit/spirit to do public good and help people?

Ed laughed.

But at least he didn’t get personal. A challenge for some of us when we summon up the nerve to talk about religion or values is that we must brace for personal criticism.

“Who are you to talk about this stuff, given all your foibles, flaws, and sins? And what about all the hypocritical religious people who do bad things?”

Sigh. Some require an unattainable measure of perfection from the inherently imperfect before engaging about religion — a measure not expected from others.

But we drift away from our historical religious roots at our own peril. Witness the growing coarseness, alienation and violence that seem to accompany America’s increasing secularization. New Hampshire is rated as the least religious state. It also features about the highest rate of substance abuse. A correlation?

History is replete with religious conflict. True. As well as plenty of anti-religious violence. After the horrific French Revolution, Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral was converted by the secular to what they called a “Temple of Reason.” After the horrific Russian Revolution, official atheism shut down the churches. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ridiculed religious influence, asking “How many divisions can the Pope deploy?”

Funny thing though. Notre Dame Cathedral eventually returned to religious splendor. And churches are now open all over Russia – even if some are closing in Concord. The Holy Spirit can be ridiculed, quashed, or denied, but it’s apparently eternal as it provides hope and inspiration for individuals and communities to pursue kinder, gentler paths.

Easter Sunday is April 4. A chance for Ed to pick out a church and perhaps witness some real “esprit” first-hand!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

FLORIDA GOLF, DEEP SEA FISHING, AND POLITICS

 

FLORIDA GOLF, DEEP SEA FISHING, AND POLITICS

I occasionally socialize and play golf with some fellow Granite State legislators who are part of the “Beer Caucus.” (Motto: “We have fun and we get things done!”)

While recently discussing weekend golf options, one of these fun-loving solons suggested playing in Florida, as opposed to New Hampshire.

“It’s flat and warm and there’s no poison ivy,” this brilliant lawmaker pointed out.

So being men of action we booked flights to Fort Lauderdale, rented a BnB, and made reservations for a tee-time at the world-class Trump National Doral Golf Resort.

(“We have fun and we get things done.”)

We viewed the weekend trip as a good-will, fact-finding mission.

Trump Doral was opulent, palatial and jaw-dropping. It actually consisted of several courses. We opted for the Silver Course—which was most affordable. It meant a long, long drive in our golf carts to get out to the first tee, but the weather was fine and spirits were high.

“Do you think there will be a beer cart?” asked one thoughtful legislator.

“Fingers crossed,” replied the chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Agriculture.

The Silver Course indeed had a traveling beer cart, capably managed by Carol, who was advised to regularly find and check-in with our foursome. The libation cost was quite high—perhaps an insight as to why the club owner became a billionaire.

But undaunted and with spirits soaring, we teed off.

We soon discovered that while Trump Doral was flat and warm that there was water everywhere! Some of us soon had to borrow golf balls from the one good golfer amongst us—the former Assistant Minority Floor Leader.

After finishing the front nine, we tallied our scores. Not pretty.

“We’ll do better on the back nine now that we’re warmed up.”

But it was not clear where the tenth tee was.

“I’m a trained land navigator,” explained the Vice-Chair of the House Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs. “I think it’s over that way.”

But ten minutes later we were still driving around searching.

“Where the heck is Carol when we need her?”

We emerged from the wooded golf cart path only to find we were on the 16th fairway.

“Let’s ask those golfers for directions.”

“No. They’ll think we’re idiots.”

“I don’t care.”

But when we explained our predicament the golfers on the 16th tee said they too had gotten lost after nine holes. It took them 30 minutes to find the tenth tee. They pointed us in the right direction and we soon found the tenth tee—where Carol was waiting.

The back nine was fun, although the scoring didn’t improve. Fortunately, we found a few balls while foraging in the rough so we could finish the round.

Despite everything, we had fun, lots of laughs, and were better and wiser for the experience.

“I wish I could vote for you guys,” said Carol.

“Sorry, but out-of-staters can’t vote in New Hampshire.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

We then had to decide what to do the next day before flying north.

“How about deep-sea fishing?” suggested the chair of the House Committee on Fish and Game and Marine Resources.

We agreed that such an excursion would align with our fact-finding good-will mission. We signed on to a fishing boat out of Miami, figuring that having deposited so many golf balls into the water, we might as well take some fish out of the water.

Unfortunately, while the three-hour tour was fun, we returned to shore with only sunburns. But we were better and wiser for the experience.

While we spent plenty of money in Florida, we were enriched by meeting and sharing notes and business cards with interesting people. Networking is important. And the synergy we developed during our public policy discussions yielded some ideas as to good things we might do back in New Hampshire. We all fell asleep on the return flight.

But ….

(“We have fun and we get things done!”)

Tim Lang, Mike Moffett, Reed Panasiti, and Howard Pearl


  Arnold Palmer

Friday, February 19, 2021

SHOOTERS, SANDERS, AND HOOP MEMORIES

                                SHOOTERS, SANDERS, AND HOOP MEMORIES

Actor Dennis Hopper played a wonderful character named “Shooter” in the basketball movie Hoosiers, which also starred Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey. The classic sports flick was inspired by the small town Indiana basketball culture of the early 1950s.

Shooter was the alcoholic father of a player on the Hickory High School team, coached by the Hackman character. Early on, Shooter recollected his moment of potential hoop glory when as a high school senior he had the ball for a last-second shot during the state basketball tournament that would have won the game.

“Around the rim and out,” lamented Shooter as he took another sip on his beer. His missed shot forever haunted him.

We all have our sports stories—mostly boring to others, but precious to us.

Anyone who has ever made a hole-in-one certainly has license to relive their wonderful moment at the 19th Hole. Just not too often.

But special sports memories are sometimes shareable. Especially when you write a sports column and face an approaching deadline.

Which brings me to Tom “Satch” Sanders.

A longtime Boston Celtic whose #16 hangs in the Boston Garden rafters, Sanders and fellow Celtic forward Don Nelson (#19) used to run the Nelson-Sanders Basketball School, which I attended one summer in Manchester with some of my Groveton High School hoop teammates.

The 6-foot-6 Sanders had just completed his 13th and final season with the Celtics, and during a lull in the schedule he was shooting some balls with some campers. I approached the NBA standout and challenged him to play me one-on-one. Sanders laughed and rolled his eyes. He was probably used to young guns challenging him in this fashion.

“All right,” he finally responded. “Let’s do this.”

He agreed to play “Make it, take it.” Seven baskets wins. The Celtic star quickly and easily went up 5-0. But then he missed a shot which I rebounded and I dribbled out to the top of the key and sized up my opponent, who was known as a premier NBA defensive forward.

I launched a jumper from 20 feet.

Swish.

Then another.

Around the rim and in.

Then I dribbled right and launched another 20 footer, which went in off the backboard. Lucky shot.

Sanders laughed and threw me the ball and came out to swallow me up defensively. I faked another jumper and managed to dart by him for a runner from close in.

5-4.

A crowd had started to gather, which usually brought out the best in me. I was “in the zone,” suddenly oozing with confidence. I tried another jumper which Sanders partially blocked but I beat him to the loose ball and went in for a layup.

5-5.

By this time there were many campers watching us and cheering me on. Perfect.

Sanders threw me the ball and I faked left and drove right and launched a running fifteen foot hook shot from the baseline.

Swish. 6-5.

Now I had a chance for the winning shot. Full of confidence, “in the zone,” inspired by the growing crowd of onlookers, and visualizing victory, I again drove right and launched another long hook shot.

Off the backboard, around the rim … and IN !

Game!

Sanders stared at me, then laughed and just shook his head.

A college basketball coach was watching. He approached me and asked what my post-high school plans were. A golden moment.

Sanders went on to coach at Harvard for a while before returning to the Boston Garden’s parquet floor to coach the Celtics.

Years later, some fraternity brothers and I went to a Celtics-Spurs game at the Garden. Of course we enjoyed a libation or two on the way to Boston. Once inside the Garden one friend and I went down to stand on the historic parquet. We noticed a couple empty press seats at the scorers table. (This was before the Larry Bird era. The Celtics weren’t very good and seats were easy to find.)

We waited for someone to send us away from the table but no one did. So we stayed there with perfect seats for the first half. Sanders was still head coach and at halftime he walked by the scorers table and did a double take when he saw me sitting there.

“Groveton Slim!” said Sanders. “Are you still shooting that hook shot?”

My friend’s jaw dropped. Another golden sports moment.

Shooter would have been proud.


   
(Alamy.Com)                                                     (Getty.com)


                                                                                                                


Sunday, January 3, 2021

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN, MEDIA BIAS, AND CANDLES

                            NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN, MEDIA BIAS, AND CANDLES

 
By Mike Moffett
 
 
Former Congressman Lamar S. Smith echoed the sentiments of many when he stated that “The greatest threat to America is liberal media bias.
 
Likeminded thinkers have written many books, compiled numerous statistics, and created mountains of evidence purporting to document the leftist slant in American news reporting. Google away if you’re interested. 
 
An independent and credible media establishment is vital to successful democracy. Our founders understood this and freedom of speech was enshrined in the very first amendment to our constitution. An independent media publicly holds government accountable to the people. When press freedoms are extinguished then tyrannical governments create their own news realities. Think Joseph Goebbels, Baghdad Bob, or any Pravda editor. Not coincidentally, things ended badly for the aforementioned and their totalitarian regimes.
 
But democracies are immune to such fates, correct?
 
Emphatically no. Congressman Smith was on to something. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of liberty. Some history can illuminate.
 
Ponder a case study of conservative media bias that proved deadly and tragic.
 
During the late 1930s, Tory British Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain presided over a parliament dominated by conservatives. Faced with a growing threat from Germany and the Nazis, this conservative establishment conducted a policy of appeasement, seeking to placate Adolf Hitler by giving him what he wanted in hoping to avoid war. In retrospect, the Tory policies were disastrous, leading to mankind’s greatest conflagration. But most Brits had little idea of what was unfolding.
 
Conservatives dominated not only parliament but also the British newspaper world—as well as the British Broadcasting Corporation. Tory whips cracked hard to kill news or commentary that conflicted with conservative policies or the Tory line. Voices of prescient statesmen like Winston Churchill were suppressed. Those who warned of true German intent were ridiculed as warmongers.
 
Opposition Liberal/Labor newspapers were also cowed, due to political, financial, and other considerations. Subsequently, most Brits remained perilously uninformed.
 
Famed American journalist Martha Gellhorn traveled throughout Europe during the 1930s and was horrified by the growing Nazi danger. But she was equally horrified during a visit to England to find that due to conservative news suppression most Brits had little idea of the existential threat they faced. (Read Lynne Olson’s “Troublesome Young Men.”)
 
Instead of preparing for conflict, Chamberlain and company continued their largely unchallenged and disastrous appeasement policies—aided and abetted by that dominant conservative media bias. Fortunately, after war finally broke out, the emergence of Churchill as prime minister along with the English Channel, German miscalculations, and an eventual Grand Alliance eventually saved Britain and western civilization.
 
So democracies can certainly be failed by their “free” press. So is Lamar Smith correct in claiming that liberal media bias now threatens our country, as conservative media bias earlier almost ruined Britain?
 
A 2020 Gallup Poll indicated only 9% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust in our media, while 60% have little or no trust in our press people. That our media establishment overwhelmingly opposed President Trump was quite obvious (Google away). While Trump deserves a measure of blame for his brawling approach and for picking fights with publishers who buy ink by the barrel, what ever happened to objective journalism? Don’t expect good answers from the likes of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, or from other network news people, most of whom, like Stephanopoulos, are liberals—if not former Democrat operatives.
 
Did the Trump administration receive due attention re: achieving energy independence? For amazing Middle East peace breakthroughs? For record stock market and employment numbers? For successfully supporting the development of a COVID vaccine that became available months earlier than originally projected?
 
But did the Biden campaign receive due scrutiny on a wide range of issues?
 
Eventually historians will weigh in and their judgments will likely be harsh. Objective journalism has demonstrably given way to institutional partisan advocacy. A similar dynamic exists in academia, but that’s another column.
 
The Lamar Smiths of the world fear that our overwhelmingly liberal media establishment will veer our country onto a dangerous road leading to statist socialism, less freedom, a loss of our national identity, and disaster.
 
A new Washington Post slogan claims that “Democracy dies in Darkness.” I agree. Lights need to be shined. Thankfully, Churchill and his followers figuratively lit enough candles to show the way to victory, despite the disastrous conservative media bias of the 1930s.
 
The time has come to shine light on the dangers of current liberal media bias in America.
 
Thank you for allowing me to light this one candle here at this time.





Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler (N.Y. Times.Com)
 

Monday, August 24, 2020

"Hurricane" Hanson - N.H. Soccer Star!

 

LOUDON’S BENAIAH “HURRICANE” HANSON

HOPING TO MAKE SOCCER HISTORY



 

Loudon is known far and wide for its New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR racing. But someday, perhaps soon, it may also be known as the home of Benaiah Hanson.

Who?

Benaiah Hanson. As he’s a 14-year-old soccer player—as opposed to a decades-old racing institution—you probably haven’t heard of him. Not yet. Until now. 

Benaiah is presently in Texas, living a soccer dream with the Dallas Texans U15 Boys Academy of the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League), a home to national champions of youth soccer. 

So why didn’t Benaiah stay closer to home with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution Academy? The answer is that he was looking for a career pathway that would not limit him to only U.S. Major League Soccer, but one that could also include international opportunities.   And he'd already exhibited his soccer brilliance with the Revolution’s U-13 and U-14 teams on the same Gillette Stadium turf where Tom Brady sought a different football glory.

But Benaiah’s remarkable sports journey is only just beginning—and an inspiring story it is.

Rwanda Calls

The story starts in Africa, where in 2006 baby Benaiah lived at the Home of Hope Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda.

Enter Pete and Heidi Hanson. The Hansons were Concord High graduates, Class of ’89, although they didn’t really know each other then. Pete was a quarterback/defensive back for the Crimson Tide football team and later played at Plymouth State. Heidi was also a sports enthusiast who went on to Endicott College. Their paths crossed at a karaoke night at Concord’s Szechaun Garden Restaurant during Thanksgiving weekend of 1999. They soon wed and in 2000 welcomed their first child into the world—Asia Grace Hanson.

Devout Christians who attend Grace Capital Church in Pembroke, the Hansons sought to help and serve others and so became licensed foster parents. Their first call was for Macie Mae, a three-day old baby whom they fostered in 2004 before adopting her in 2008.

Concurrently, Pete and Heidi learned about African youngsters in desperate need from a missionary couple who visited their church. The Hansons sensed calls for help from Rwanda and so they tried to answer those “calls.” They spoke with a Gilford couple who’d gone through the independent African adoption process and then committed themselves to adopting a needy Rwandan baby.

Actually two. A family friend mentioned the idea of perhaps saving two lives, if they were going to travel all the way to Africa. Figuring there was always room for one more, Pete and Heidi changed their adoption application dossier to reflect their desire to adopt two babies and bring them to America. This required serious fund-raising, lots of paperwork, prayers, and frustrating unanswered phone calls to Kigali. But telephones (and prayers) were eventually answered and arrangements were successfully made. In 2008 the Hansons brought Benaiah and Luke to New Hampshire.

As many folks associate Loudon with NASCAR, so too do many people associate Rwanda with genocide. Almost a million Rwandans died during a horrific 1994 civil war between Hutu and Tutsi factions. Many thought the country would never recover. But a new nation arose from the ashes and bloodshed that inspired and gave hope to the world. The country rebuilt and demonstrated enlightened progress. In 2008, the same year that Benaiah and Luke came to America, Rwanda became the first country in the world to elect a legislature featuring a female majority.

That Benaiah (Tutsi) and Luke (Hutu) would become brothers underscored Rwanda’s post-genocidal progress while providing hope for so many seeking inspiration.

So in the fall of 2008 Benaiah Hurricane Hanson and Luke Washington Hanson came to Loudon, joining Macie Mae and Asia Grace in Pete and Heidi’s growing family

Another foster baby, born in 2008, would join the family permanently in 2012—Jacob Maverick Hanson.

To the Soccer Pitch

At age 7 Benaiah began playing on Loudon Freedom's U-9 Club team. Already demonstrating blazing speed, “Hurricane” Hanson helped the team go undefeated. He soon attracted the attention of the Seacoast Express United Club and eventually settled into his natural position of striker. 

Benaiah’s parents home-schooled their children, stressing character, coachability and fitness. So it was no surprise that “Hurricane” quickly became popular with teammates and coaches—for both his talent and his “team-first” mindset. He became well-known in New Hampshire’s youth soccer world and in the fall of 2017, at the age of eleven, moved up to play for Seacoast Development Academy team out of Epping. Not intimidated by more polished players (none were faster), Benaiah scored five goals in his second game for his new team. Then four goals in his third game. Then four goals in fourth game. After moving up to the Academy’s “A” team he scored four goals against Valeo FC, a  feeder team to the New England Revolution. This put the young Loudoner on the MLS radar screen.

In April of 2018, at the age of 12, Benaiah was invited to Gillette Stadium for a workout sponsored by the Revolution. The Hansons were euphoric. They admittedly didn’t understand everything that was happening but knew something special was unfolding. But four days before the Foxborough workout a major setback occurred. Benaiah broke his leg during a home game in Epping.

Now what?

“We prayed about it,” explained Heidi. “We told the Revolution about the injury but they said to come anyway.”

It turned out that surgery was unnecessary and the leg was set. The Hansons made the long drive to Foxborough while Benaiah agonized about the missed opportunity to show the Revolution what he could do. Pete, Heidi, and “Hurricane” expected a pro forma discussion with the soccer officials and then a long ride back to Loudon. But they were stunned when a team official offered Benaiah a spot on the organization’s 18-member Development Academy U-13 roster for the fall.

“Don’t worry about not being able to work out for us today,” said the official. “We’re very aware of Benaiah’s abilities.”

The ride back to Loudon turned out to be a happy one. Benaiah did everything he was supposed to do to recover, eventually working out with Phil Tuttle’s Elite Player Performance Soccer organization in Concord during that summer. That fall he’d score nine goals in nine games, which included his first action on the Gillette Stadium field. 

When winter came, “Hurricane” continued to play indoors, to include a game against an English team sponsored by the legendary Manchester United organization. Despite being double-teamed by bigger Brits, Benaiah scored a goal in a 5-4 loss before a huge crowd.



On to Texas

In 2019 Benaiah played on the Revs’ U-14 team as a 13-year-old and even moved up to U-15 for three games, scoring a goal. During his fall season he was invited to do independent training with The Pro Project, out of Massachusetts, which became instrumental in his continued rapid development this past year. There he trained with older, faster, bigger and more skilled players on a regular basis. Film analysis helped him to view the sport strategically  

2020 beckoned as a break-through year. And then …

COVID-19.

The pandemic that turned the sports-world upside down also disrupted “Hurricane Hanson’s” world. New England soccer plans and schedules were modified or cancelled. Benaiah suffered extreme 2020 sports frustration—along with countless others in this year of the Coronavirus.

The Hansons prayed on things and then, as in 2018, a surprise opportunity manifested itself. After hearing about the Dallas Texans soccer organization from a friend, Pete and Heidi reached out to a Dallas coach. The ECNL’s Texans U15 Boys Academy based out of Farmers Branch, Texas, offered Benaiah a roster spot.  So Pete, Heidi and Hurricane traveled to the Lone Star State on August 2 and learned that the organization already had a preseason slate of “friendlies” scheduled. The team favors a fast-paced European style of soccer—well-suited to Benaiah’s skills. That the club plays outdoors on grass year-round was another plus.

“The organization was wonderful to Pete, Benaiah and me,” explained Heidi. “They knew we faced a tough decision, dealing with many pros and cons. We all love New England. But because we were friends with a family with a son on the team, we finally decided that Texas was the place for Benaiah to continue his journey.”

Articulate and well-read, Benaiah is a thinker and dreamer who is already working on a book with mythological inspiration. He appears to be a major home-schooling success story, a young man that almost any university would love to enroll. His eyes sparkle as he describes his favorite soccer moments, including a “meg” against Manchester United—where he pushed a ball between an opponent’s legs and then outraced him to the ball.

That 2008 plane ticket that brought “Hurricane Hanson” to America from a Rwandan orphanage has led to a soccer ticket that just might take Benaiah anywhere. He admits to dreaming about a spot on the American Men’s National Team someday.

It was pointed out to “Hurricane” that he’d only be 16 years old when the next World Cup competition takes place in Qatar in 2022.

“That’s correct” replied Benaiah with a big smile, and that soccer sparkle in his eye.

                                                                 #####





(Photos by Chris Aduama)