Mahershala Ali, who just won an Oscar for Moonlight, was a Division-I, four-year collegiate basketball player on scholarship at St. Mary’s.
Ernie Kent, who is now at Washington State University in the Pac-12, was the head coach of the program. Kent was there from 1991 until 1997 and then later took over the basketball program at the University of Oregon until 2010.
During his junior year, Ali and his college basketball team finished 2nd in the Western Coast Conference.
While Ali said he went through a “palpable transformation” where he started competing in poetry slams, here’s what he said about basketball in 2011 (via St. Mary’s College):
“I went to SMC on a basketball scholarship. But when I graduated, I no longer thought of myself as an athlete. Honestly, I kind of resented basketball by the end of my time there. 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.”
While things didn’t go very well in college, things were a bit better for him when he was in high school. He attended Mt. Eden High School in the East Bay suburb of San Francisco, where he went to the D-III state championship.
Ali recently told GQ that he never set a goal to be in the NBA.
Below were his basketball statistics while in college, which is when he realized he didn’t have the “passion” to pursue a career in sports: