Holderness grad recalls how school set him up for basketball career

  • Holderness School alumnus and German pro basketball player Roland Nyama (right), a self-described wayward youth, credits the school with turning his life around. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 1/19/2022 5:52:30 PM

Thirty-six hundred miles from his home in Frankfurt, Germany, Roland Nyama’s first impression of life at the Holderness School was this: “New Hampshire is weird.”

“The school is in the middle of nowhere,” remembered Nyama, a 2013 graduate, with a chuckle. “The biggest adjustment was probably the language barrier and some cultural differences. You walk the streets and people say, “Hi, how are you?” In Germany, nobody does that.”

Now 28 and in his fifth season of German professional basketball, Nyama credits Holderness with helping him develop the work ethic and discipline needed to succeed both on and off the court.

“That’s the cool thing about (Holderness): They do everything to make you, not the best students, but the best humans,” said Nyama. “You wear a shirt and tie to class – on my first day of school, I had to watch a YouTube tutorial on how to tie a tie because I didn’t know.”

A self-described wayward kid in Frankfurt, Nyama remembers school days cut, practices he was booted out of and a sometimes overactive mouth.

In New Hampshire, those habits were quickly broken.

“Without structure, I would be really terrible,” said Nyama. “I was a lot of trouble at 14, 15, 16. I thought I knew it all.

“The keywords are discipline and consistency,” he continued. “Teachers would kick you out of class if your shirt was untucked, if your tie wasn’t right, if you wore the wrong shoes. It makes waking up to go to practice or go to a job so much easier when you graduate from such a school.”

A lesson learned from his assistant basketball coach and chemistry teacher, Randy Houseman, has also stayed with Nyama well into adulthood.

“He gave me a D+ on my final exam,” remembered Nyama. “I asked him why did you give me a D? He said, ‘You didn’t get it, you earned it.’ Everything you do has real life implications.”

A 6-foot-6 guard/forward, Nyama played on the under-17 German National Team and grew up competing against future NBA player Dennis Schröder.

“Me and Dennis were buddies at 13, and we always talked about the NBA,” said Nyama. “He has one of the craziest work ethics on the planet and has the utmost confidence in his game.”

Joseph Touomou, a former teammate of Allen Iverson’s at Georgetown and a figure in Cameroonian basketball – Nyama’s parents’ country of origin – helped get him to Holderness.

On the court, Nyama averaged 16 points per game his junior year and 20 points per game his senior year. As a senior captain, he was named All-New England Prep School Athletic Conference third team.

“He’s a really good person and, overall, one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” said then-Holderness head coach Tony Mure. “He’s extremely quick with long arms and has a great jump shot and is great in transition. His biggest asset is his defense. Some kids like to play defense, and he’s one of them. He’s tenacious, keeps coming at you and is good on the ball and off the ball.”

The adjustment from European basketball to American prep school ball brought its own unique set of challenges.

“American (high school) basketball is a lot less structured,” said Nyama. “It’s a lot more one-on-one – raw athleticism and raw talent. You are allowed to travel – in Europe you have to put the ball on the floor before you dribble; in the United States you are allowed to take a step. It is a lot harder to defend because the opening step is quicker.

“In the NEPSAC, you probably are going to play against a future NBA player every day,” continued Nyama. “You better bring your A-game.”

Matchups against conference rival and national powerhouse Tilton School are particularly vivid memories for Nyama, with two future NBA players front and center.

“I remember Georges Niang iso-ing five times in a row; I remember Nerlens Noel getting every alley-oop dunk without a play call or having to make reads,” Nyama recalled. “They were so gifted.”

After graduating from Holderness, Nyama spent four years at Stony Brook University, appearing in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Since 2017, Nyama has bounced around the German Pro A basketball league, doing stints with the Tübingen Tigers, PS Karlsruhe Lions and currently Nürnberg Falcons.

“The main thing for me is security, because I had a baby on the way (last summer),” said Nyama. “I opted for a two-year contract in the German second league, but with a big role. A lot of times you get paid more being in a big role in a lower league than as a rotation player on a first league team.”

According to Nyama, his goal is another five years in professional basketball with the hope of playing for the Cameroonian national team before shifting into what he believes is his true future.

“I want to be a youth coach,” said Nyama. “I want to teach and be a youth mentor for kids that play basketball. I think it’s my calling, because I was a lot of trouble as a teenager. I took basketball as a metaphor for life and thought I knew everything.”

Much of that comes from the impact mentorship had on him as a kid far from home in a “weird” new place.

“I had to be on my best behavior; I was scared into being a solid student (by seeing other students expelled),” said Nyama.

“I grew to love Holderness. I am still in contact with all my coaches, my history teacher, my English teacher. They are good guys and they accepted me and treated me like family.”




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