|With Charles Mammie and Roi Sumang last summer in Cebu.|
This appears in the Monday, August 18, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
Rising above it: The UE Red Warriors’ Charles Mammie
by rick olivares
Early in the match between the University of the East Red Warriors and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, the latter were throwing double and sometimes triple--teams on the former’s starting center, Charles Mammie. It somewhat worked as the 6’8” center struggled to score much less put up a decent shot.
Mammie scored only four points after nearly 14 minutes of action in the first half. But his teammates, especially back up guard Dan Alberto (who was starting in place of the injured Roi Sumang) hit three huge triples to keep UP at bay as the entered the locker room at the half with a 32-24 lead.
When the second half got underway, UE spread the floor much better, and Charles – even occasionally against double teams – was finally able to pound UP inside for 11 points while pulling down five rebounds. He finished the game with a stat line of 15 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, and 4 blocks. All in 23 minutes of play. It was his third consecutive double double and it helped UE win its second straight match to even their record to 4-4.
The increase in his minutes (18 on the average for the first round) saw his production climb from 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. The UE brain trust is hoping that they can wrangle the same if not better production from Mammie as they climb out of the bottom four and challenge for a Final Four slot.
When people see Charles Mammie, he’s this tall and muscular 6’8” man mountain. They think of his as talented player who can be easily distracted with physical play.
What they fail to know is that he is only turning 22 years old this November. He is like a man-child despite his appearance. Furthermore, for almost all his life, Charles has had to struggle and try to stay alive.
Mammie is from Sierra Leone where one of the first things that comes to mind was the bloody civil war that lasted for almost 11 years. The conflict is estimated to have killed around 300,000 people and the country’s post war recovery efforts were given greater awareness by the international community because of the film “Blood Diamond” where the precious stone was used to finance the insurgency against the government.
Charles was a youngster during the war and his mother, Eudora, would hide him from roving bands of insurgents that forcibly took the young to serve as children-soldiers. “I lost a lot of friends,” recalled Mammie during a long conversation with this writer while in Cebu for past summer’s Filoil matches. “Some were killed by the rebels while others were murdered for their refusal to join the rebels. I even lost some of my relatives to the rebels.”
“I can remember lots of gunshots, screaming, and lots of explosions,” remembered Charles as tears welled in his eyes at the painful memory. “When the rebels left, I saw the bodies of my friends and the streets were filled with blood. I wondered, ‘when will the war end? I hope all my friends are all right.’ Almost every night during the war, I would cry. There were always gunshots and it was hard to sleep. Every now and then the rebels would come and we were frightened when someone was outside the house. And I never went outside and always stayed indoors. I couldn’t be seen or some people will tell the rebels to get me.”
When the war finally ended, life didn’t exactly go back to normal right away. Now free to walk outdoors, Charles went back to school to catch up with what he had missed. And it was there where he gravitated towards basketball. “The coaches said I was tall and I should play the game,” laughed Charles. “That was my introduction to basketball.”
He excelled in the sport and when the first opportunity came his way to study in another country, where he could come in on an athletic scholarship, he took it.
And that led him to the Philippines. “I didn’t even know where the Philippines was. I had to look at the map. I tried to read up about the country and I found out that people spoke English so that would make the transition a little easy.”
However, it was anything but easy.
When Charles first arrived, he enrolled in Arellano University where he first saw action in the summer Filoil tournament for the Chiefs.
The transition was difficult. He was shy because of his stuttering, something that he developed during the civil war back in Sierra Leone. His classmates were cruel as they cracked racist jokes in front of him. “I confronted my classmates and asked them why they are saying hurtful words,” he said of his brief and painful time at the Legarda school. “They just laughed and didn’t care. No one did anything about it.”
He often called his mother back home to seek advice. His mother, who now works for the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (his only other sibling, his sister Edna, lives in Ontario, Canada), strongly urged him to come home to West Africa and forego his Philippine adventure. And he nearly did.
When the chance to move to another school came – this time at nearby University of the East, Mammie didn’t hesitate and he’s been a happier man since crossing over to Recto.
While his speech remains a problem, his classmates are kinder and more helpful. And while trying to lead UE out of college basketball’s doldrums, he’s become sort of a favorite among the students.
Now in his second and last year for the Red Warriors, he is playing for his third coach (his previous coaches were Jerry Codinera and Boycie Zamar) in Derrick Pumaren.
“We thought that we would have a big chance after winning the Filoil tournament against National University,” he said of last year’s debacle where UE finished seventh at 7-7 and having failed to land a spot in the Final Four. “When we didn’t make it, it was very painful especially for those who were graduating. We had come from a team of losers to win some tournaments. And now we had a chance but we didn’t get the job done….”
“There are many lessons to be learned,” he said by way of conclusion.
This season, his Red Warriors started out well by winning its first two matches before skidding with a four-match losing streak. Of those four losses, three of them came via one bucket.
“I didn’t play well in some of them,” he could only lament.
He got untracked in the loss to Ateneo. But he followed that up with sterling performances against UST and UP. “We still have a lot of work to do. And myself as well.”
“The Philippines is my second home now,” said Mammie. “But even here it is not easy. I struggle. Luckily, my coaches are there for me. They are like my fathers. Coach Derrick is a kind man. I know I make mistakes but he always is here to encourage me.”
“I would love nothing more than to lead UE to the Final Four and maybe a championship,” said Mammie. “I am told it has been so many years since they last won a championship. And Coach Boycie was on that last champion team. We’ve won other tournaments but the one that is big for the school is the UAAP.”
“It’s not easy. And nothing has been in my life. But that’s part of the challenge. God kept me alive during the civil war so I believe I am supposed to do something in my life.”
“That is why I will never give up.”