Magazine Jan/Feb 2013 Court of Dreams

30 January 2013, 12:00
46107 |

Court of Dreams

The cornerstones of John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” are industriousness and enthusiasm. They are the two traits of the fifteen building block initiative that have allowed Sooren Derboghosian to relentlessly persevere on and off the court. The UCLA basketball player maximized on those characteristics and defied all odds by making the team as a walk-on this season.

Sooren Derboghosian had a dream. It was not a dream in the cognitive state, but a childhood one that he hoped would one day become reality.

Sooren dreamed of graduating from UCLA. With dedication, determination and support from his family, he believed it was possible, even if there were limitations. He would talk to his father Hovakom and his mother Diana about it and the steps he needed to take in order to get there. The formula of maturity, patience, and hard work – as simple as it may sound – was a tall task for the kid who ironically was the tallest ever since the first day he stepped into a classroom.

Sooren was intrigued by UCLA’s mystique after he saw the men’s basketball team play on television. He was a five-year-old in 1995 and more interested in his duties as the goaltender of his soccer team than the sport he would eventually play. The game he was watching was 20 years removed from an unprecedented stretch of ten national championships – including seven in a row – during a twelve-year period under legendary coach John Wooden. There was one obstacle the 6-foot-10-inch Armenian-Iranian had to hurdle, however, before even arriving at his destination in Westwood – the cozy campus nestled around the rich-and-famous neighborhoods of Brentwood, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. Actually getting there.

Sooren lived 7,500 miles away in Tehran. But there were a couple of out cards. First, he was bright. He speaks five languages – Armenian, Farsi, Arabic, Russian and English – and majored in math and physics at Sahakian High School. Out of the Iranian grade point average scale of 20, he scored 19. Second, he kicked soccer aside and grew into a standout basketball player for the Iranian under-14 to under-20 age group teams he played on.

And the final kicker – Sooren Derboghosian combined his two talents and obtained a student visa, arriving in sunny Southern California on April 10, 2010, where he enrolled at Glendale Community College (GCC). It was the first step in making his dream become a reality.

Welcome to Glendale

When Sooren was watching that 1995 national championship team led by the O’Bannon brothers – Ed and Charles, Tyus Edney, George Zidek and Cameron Dollar, he quickly understood that UCLA was a world-class institution that could also provide a future athletically. But he needed to transform his game as a set-player with international schooling to being athletic and rough and tumble in order to even get a taste of the domination that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and most recently Kevin Love, displayed. The first thing in order was a reclamation project at GCC in order to perfect the game’s nuances like improving his post game, rebounding, screening defenders and banging guys with his 240 pound frame.

Derboghosian grew up watching Tim Duncan and later tried to model his game after Love and Dirk Nowitzki. He says feels just as comfortable in a three-point shooting contest as he does banging it out in the post. “He had a skill set when he got here, but it wasn’t a skill set conducive to playing at a higher level. He worked hard in perfecting them,” Brian Beauchemin, the Head Coach at GCC currently in his 34th season, tells Yerevan. “He did a great job making adjustments. From a coaching standpoint, his advancement was very encouraging.” Beauchemin attributes Derboghosian’s hardwood development to his incessant drive for improvement. As a freshman at GCC (2010-11), Derboghosian averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He doubled those numbers in his sophomore season, averaging nine points and leading the team with eight rebounds. He secured first-team All-Western State Conference honors and paired his athletic achievements by being a varsity letter winner with a 3.8 GPA.


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