Warren Ellama’s second year in US collegiate basketball

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NOT many CNMI athletes have pursued a path in the highly competitive world of U.S. collegiate basketball, but that did not stop Warren Ellama, a graduate of Mount Carmel School, from achieving his dream.

Despite the challenges he faces at Westcliff University in Irvine, California, Ellama has been playing for the Warriors men's basketball team for two years now and has been able to keep up with the competition. Although the team ended this season with a 4-24 record, Ellama and his teammates are ready for more basketball action.

Like many collegiate athletes from the CNMI, Ellama was recruited through the Next College Student Athlete program.  Ellama may not match up with the average college basketball player, but what he lacks in height he makes up for by utilizing his strengths in other areas to remain a threat on the court.

“Being one of the shortest players on the team,” he told Variety, “I did not really focus much on my size, but rather what I can do to help improve the team — whether it’s staying ahead of defenders on fast breaks, communicating with the team, or constantly improving my best attributes.”

 Warren Ellama pulls up for a jump shot while playing for the Warriors men's basketball team of Westcliff University in Irvine, California. Contributed photo

Playing against bigger opponents has been tough, but Ellama thinks that adjustment is all that is needed to stay in the game. “Competition here is very different compared to Saipan. Players are much bigger, faster and taller. So as a student athlete coming from Saipan, you'll have to adjust pretty quickly in order to compete with the players in the U.S.”

His basketball journey started during his sophomore year in high school. After his team, Marianas High School, won the Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization championship,  he was offered an athletic scholarship to play for Mount Carmel School.

After graduating from MCS, “I felt that I could do something more,” he said. In the U.S., “playing college ball takes a lot of communication, patience and hard work. Coaches are constantly looking at little things on and off the court.”

Ellama said, “Some people doubted my dream, but my message to all athletes in the CNMI is to not let anybody tell you what you can and cannot do. If I could do it, anyone in the CNMI could do it, too.”

Ellama would also like to recognize MCS coach Francis San Nicolas and athletic director John Blanco for helping him get to the level that he is now. “I hope that all student athletes pursuing a dream to play to the next level will have a great support system,” Ellama added.

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