Jamal Mayali, a fifth-year Political Science student, was named the McGill athlete of the week on Nov. 15 after steering the Redbird basketball team to a win in their opening game of the RSEQ season against Concordia. In 29 minutes of court time, he made nine of 16 field goal attempts and six of 12 attempted three-pointers. With this impressive game record, Mayali is a player to look out for on the Redbirds squad this season.
As a product of Bill Crothers Secondary School, a prestigious sports academy in the Greater Toronto Area, Mayali arrived well-suited to his position on the McGill team. The academy has a gifted athlete program, which exposes students to job opportunities in a variety of sports fields such as management, promotions, coaching, and health sciences.
“I learned a lot [at Bill Crothers] from the coaching staff to older veteran players. [The school] helped me to get [attention] from university schools [across Canada],” Mayali said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
After graduating from Bill Crothers in 2017, Mayali enrolled at McGill and has played basketball for the Redbirds since his first year.
Last year, he was also awarded the opportunity to play overseas for the Palestinian National Basketball team in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. The opportunity to play in the Asia Cup was a culmination of Mayali’s childhood dream of representing the Palestinian National Basketball team.
“The [Palestine Basketball] Federation has been reaching out to me for a couple of years now. [However], I didn’t have time to play for them before as I was in university,” Mayali said. “The pandemic presented an opportunity to play overseas [as the RSEQ season was suspended].”
University can be tough to navigate, especially for student athletes. The academic demands and the athleticism required to play varsity sports can take a toll on one’s mind and body. Mayali was honest in admitting his journey at McGill as a student athlete has not been easy.
“[To be a student athlete] is tough, I wouldn’t lie to you,” Mayali said. “We practice almost twice a day, six to seven days a week, and with school you have to be able to manage that too.”
Apart from basketball, Mayali has a keen passion for martial arts. He competed in boxing as a child and even wanted to pursue it as a career at one point. However, given the full-time demand of the sport, Mayali, on the advice of his mother, decided to pursue basketball and has kept the childhood passion at bay—for now.
“[My mother] said, ‘You got to get a degree first and maybe after school [you can consider] fighting again,’” Mayali recalled.
As a student athlete, Mayali sees sports, and in particular, team sports, as an important part of university life.
“Individual sports are great, and you learn a lot of things from them, but [the skills] you learn from team sports apply a lot to the real world,” Mayali said. “There are a lot of things only sports can teach us.”
The troika motivating Mayali to play basketball at the varsity level is his country, his parents, and his teammates.
“[To play for] my country Palestine motivates me [along with] the commitment that my parents have put into me and supporting my goals since I was young, and my teammates,” Mayali said. To him, the Redbirds Basketball team is “kind of like an army regiment—you are fighting for the guy next to you.”