Felix Mapanda has already made a name for himself at Fresno City College, but that’s just the beginning.
After capping off a two-year basketball career with the Rams, the former Patterson High standout leaves the program having averaged 10 points, five rebounds and three assists per game last season.
Mapanda, 19, recently accepted a full scholarship to play hoops beginning in the fall at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward.
“At this level, you can’t just outjump everyone. You have to also be able to outsmart everyone,” Mapanda said. “I’ve worked really hard at my game since graduating from Patterson High.
“I think that I’ve slowly progressed as an all-around player. I watch, read and play basketball whenever I can.”
As the 6-foot-4 guard-forward helped lead the Rams to their 10th straight Central Valley Conference championship, he was still thinking about making the leap to the four-year college ranks.
“I knew that my back was against the wall in my second year (at Fresno City) to play, to work hard in the classroom and to earn a scholarship,” Mapanda said. “The biggest thing was school. Sometimes, I didn’t always realize that.
“If you don’t make grades, then there is no scholarship.”
Mapanda, who starred on Patterson’s 2008 Western Athletic Conference championship team, says he is all about basketball.
“Every day, I try to improve myself as a basketball player,” Mapanda said. “I’m always in the gym, getting up as many shots as I can and working out.”
Still, there was a time when he didn’t know if he had the will or talent to make the Fresno City men’s basketball team.
“I actually quit after about 12 hours of (my first team workout),” Mapanda said. “Fortunately, my dad wouldn’t let me really quit.
“When I returned to the team, my fellow teammates made me earn their respect.”
Mapanda — the first Patterson High athlete to be nominated as a McDonald’s All-American — admitted it was difficult to switch gears from high school to the junior college level. He credits family and friends, his devout religious beliefs and the Rams’ coaching staff with helping him make the transition.
“I’d never been in an environment where the pressure to win and to perform were so great,” Mapanda said. “Nothing’s given to you. You have to work for what you have every day.
“The Fresno City College program puts players through a lot of adversity. But I came away a better basketball player because of those challenges.”
Fresno City has an offseason conditioning basketball class that, while not advertised this way, amounts to a tryout for the men’s basketball team, Mapanda said. As many as 60 players show up. Within a couple of days, most are gone.
Rams coach Ed Madec does not cut anyone. The conditioning, the intensity, does that for him.
“We all worked hard and towards the same goals,” Mapanda said. “But it was insane some days.
“There were days when we would begin practice at 4:30 a.m. One night, practice ended after 1 a.m.”
No one is guaranteed a roster spot on Madec’s teams, not even starters from the year before. There are no scholarships, so everyone starts equal, even the players Madec recruited, Mapanda said.
“There’s always someone else out there working harder than you, getting better than you,” Mapanda said. “In college, you can’t just be good at a lot of things — you have to be great at one thing. Everyone needs to contribute.”
Players who survive the Fresno City program are willing to push themselves to uncomfortable places, lifting weights like football players and being held accountable by teammates, Mapanda said.
Mapanda said he is excited for the opportunity to play basketball in Hayward, and until then, he is trying to be a sponge and soak up as much information as he can, from technique to form to getting the fundamentals down.
He said he hopes to compete for a starting spot on East Bay’s roster, and with his size and physicality, he could make an immediate impact with his new teammates.
“I see myself as a starter and performing well,” Mapanda said. “I’m going to come in and help the team, and hopefully we’ll win a lot of games.”
Mapanda hasn’t had any contact with NBA scouts, but he said having a chance to play basketball professionally would be a dream come true.
“There’s a huge part of me that wants to play professionally. I would like to go (and play) overseas, or maybe even in the NBA,” Mapanda said. “I’m just going to keep working really hard to see where this new road takes me.”