Mahershala Ali is now best known as the winner of the Best Supporting Actor award at the 2017 Oscars for his role in “Moonlight,” which also (eventually) took home Best Picture at the awards show.
Lesser known is that Ali was a college basketball player at Saint Mary’s from 1992-96, when he was known as Mahershala Gilmore. His coach? Current WSU coach Ernie Kent.
He didn’t exactly have great things to say about his time in Moraga, California, although he doesn’t mention Kent by name. From a 2011 profile by the college, in which the larger context is Ali describing why he doesn’t miss Saint Mary’s:
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. ...
In a nutshell, I came to SMC wanting the fullest experience as a student athlete, and left wanting to experience life as an artist and well rounded person.
A disgruntled former player who wasn’t all that productive and who graduated two decades ago airing grievances probably wouldn’t be a big deal. However, given:
- Ali’s post-basketball accomplishments;
- Kent self-proclaimed status as paternal molder of men;
- Seven of Kent’s first 11 recruits transferring (in which players and their parents didn’t always seem thrilled with the move); and
- Kent’s own behavior in attempting to restrict the transfers of Que Johnson and Valentine Izundu ...
... well, it seems a bit more relevant.