Local ‘baller’ shoots for the stars

Photo courtesy of Hisham Mohammed

Hisham Mohammad inspires others to make their dreams a reality.

The turning point in Hisham Mohammad’s life happened when he shot a basketball for the first time – from a wheelchair.

Hisham Mohammad, 22, was born in Saudi Arabia with a condition called spinal atrophy.

In 2002, he and his family moved to Canada, where they could all live a substantial life.

“In Saudi Arabia, there wasn’t much infrastructure for people with disabilities to have a quality life,” he said.

Within a year, Mohammed attended Holland Bloorview, a rehab hospital for children where he was introduced to three different sports: sledge hockey, wheelchair racing, and basketball.

Mohammad discovered basketball was the sport he enjoyed the most. “It’s strategic, aggressive, and super competitive, which I loved about it,” he said.

As he gained more experience, he started to take basketball more seriously. He practiced on the court after school and joined a junior competitive club team at Variety Village.

The coach instructed the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team and gave Mohammed, then in high school, the opportunity to play professionally.

“Playing for my country was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was beyond proud of myself,” he said.

His team became his second family. He said sharing the common lifestyle of being in a wheelchair made all of them understand one another.

Mohammad says he has been empowered by the experience. He knew he could contribute to the sport equally as any other athlete.

“Basketball exposed me to a whole new world of ability, not disability,” he said.

He said losing motivates him to give him time to improve his skills as a pro basketball player.

He said the first step to succeed is to fail.

“You need to have something personal driving you forward: an incident, a loss or a gain,” he said. “Once you reflect that on your own, you get this motivation that the sky is the limit.”

Mohammad hopes to reassure people they can go for their dreams no matter what condition they have. He wants to show his audience through basketball anything in life is possible if a person dedicates themselves to accomplish their goals.

His enthusiasm for basketball was driven through the support of his family. The move from Saudi Arabia to Canada allowed him to play basketball and taught him to understand he has what it takes to be good at something.

Mohammad is in his third year of biomedical engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton. In his third year, he got a chance to do a two-week field placement related to his studies.

He wanted to intern at Holland Bloorview to help kids learn how to play wheelchair basketball. He applied before the start of the school year and later received a call to confirm his placement.

“It was a very exciting moment for me,” said Mohammed.

The placement helps him reminisce about his eight-year-old self the age where he first saw basketball on television. “I want to learn how to play,” he said, and he did.