NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - In only nine games with the Lunmberjacks, junior Gavin Kensmil is making a name for himself.
Kensmil is one of 10 new players to the SFA program this year. To get to SFA he has logged a lot of miles. In total his basketball travels have taken him about 9,323 miles from where it began in the Republic of Suriname.
“It is a funny story how I got into basketball,” Kensmil said. “I did a lot before I started playing basketball. The last thing I did was start playing soccer. I started growing out of nowhere. I was 11 years-old and I had size 14 shoes.”
His home country of Suriname is a former Dutch colony nestled in northeastern South America and is small in size. Suriname is smaller then six Texas cities with a total population of just over 581,000. A quick internet search of ‘famous Suriname athletes’ will return a search result of soccer players but no basketball players.
“I was bigger then the refs and my mom was like, ‘Maybe you should switch sports,' because I wasn’t as good at soccer as I thought I was.”
Kensmil fell in love with basketball and his size helped him.
He would leave South America and go to Spain in 2016 where he was part of the Canarias Basketball Academy. He was discovered by Iona College in New York and went to the Division I level. With limited playing time as a freshmen he left the East Coast and traveled to Corrsicana and joined Navarro Junior College where he made the All-Region XIV East Zone Second Team.
“The cultural difference is really big and there is a lot of adjusting you have to do,” Kensmil said. “It wasn’t that hard because I have been doing that all my life.”
Getting Gavin to the Pineywoods was not easy for Head Coach Kyle Keller.
“He is very intellectual,” Keller said. “He is probably the most deep thinker we have on this team. He wasn’t an easy get. He told me ‘no’ about three or four times before he committed to taking a visit. I didn’t know what a great teammate he was until we got him.”
In his first nine games with the Lumberjacks Kensmil has secured four double-doubles. In SFA’s big win over Duke at the beginning of December Nathan Bain, another international player, got all the headlines for his last second layup to win the game in overtime. The truth is that Bain doesn’t get the ball without the help of Kensmil who fell on a lose ball and instead of calling for the team’s final time out used a quick pass to get the ball to a wide open Bain.
“He is a very selfless guy,” Keller said. " He cares about his teammates. He is a great passer. He takes charges. He plays both ends of the floor. When you watched him play he cared about winning an that is the character we looked for when rebuilding this tea this summer."
In Suriname basketball is still a growing sport. There have only been about a half-dozen to leave the country to play college basketball in the U.S. Kensmil has gained some fame back home after the Duke win. He hopes to bring awareness to the game and help it grow. He has dreams to play professionally so he can start a family and help his biggest fans, his mother and sister.
“Where I come from people don’t dream as big and believe stuff like this is possible,” Kensmil said. " Right now people are going crazy in my country with what we accomplished. I just try to inspire the next generation."