From the Swamp to Spain: gator alumnus playing professionally overseas

Playing professional basketball is a dream not many have been able to realize or even have gotten a shot at.

Luckily for former SF State basketball player Israel Hakim, he’s been given his chance and is trying to make the most of it.

Hakim is currently playing professionally for Gijon Basket, a team based out of Gijon, Spain, located on the northern coast of the country. The team is in the Liga Española de Baloncesto Aficionado, more commonly known as the Liga EBA. It is the the fourth-tier level of the Spanish basketball league system, and Gijon Basket is one of the newest teams in the league, having formed just three years ago.

Hakim, who grew up playing soccer in Palo Alto, had never really thought about playing professional basketball until finishing his senior season with the Gators. In fact, Hakim had only started playing organized basketball in high school.

However, once his final season at SF State had come to a close, Hakim felt like he had more to give. “I just felt like I still had more in me. And I just loved the game so much, so I just had to find a way to continue playing,” Hakim explained. “But I really didn’t know how to go about that.”

That was until an old teammate, Kenny Hatch, contacted him. He and Hatch had grown close while playing together at Cañada College in Redwood City, California. Hatch was playing for Gijon Basket and suggested to his coach that they try out Hakim after the team had suffered some injuries.

“Israel flew out to Spain and after a few weeks of practicing with my team, the general manager and coach decided to sign Israel for the rest of the season,“ Hatch said.

Since moving in January, Hakim has been living with three other teammates in a four bedroom flat. Though Gijon wasn’t what he expected, Hakim is adapting well to life in Spain.

“I thought it’d be a lot of statues and giant churches, but it’s just like a regular city,” he said. “It kind of reminds me of San Francisco. The weather is literally the same.”

SF State men’s basketball head coach Vince Inglima, who was an assistant coach during Hakim’s time as a Gator, was excited to hear about Hakim’s contract with Gijon. “He had some real ups and downs [while at SF State] but it’s a testament to his character that he stuck through that and found ways to stay positive and contribute to the team,” Inglima said.

Hakim graduated this past fall with a degree in Environmental Studies and intends to take part in the commencement ceremony this May. Once he’s done playing, Hakim hopes to go into the education field and become a teacher.

Currently, the team’s record is 21-7 and they are ranked 2nd in their group. On April 28, they will play Santo Domingo Bestanzos in their final game of the regular season.

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