Editor’s note: Coach Taylor Langley informed the Journal Tuesday afternoon that Farhat is no longer on the team. “He was supposed to get taken off the roster last week,” Langley said.
By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
It took Ali Farhat a few years to find a college basketball home.
He started his career as a preferred walk-on with Eastern Michigan (NCAA Division-I) in 2013. He played one season with Eastern Michigan before transferring to Wayne State (NCAA Division-II) in January 2015.
Turns out home was right in his backyard.
Farhat, a Dearborn native, took his talents to the University of Michigan-Dearborn last fall to join the men’s basketball program.
“I came to UM-Dearborn because I love my city, and representing the city of Dearborn at the collegiate level is an honor,” Farhat said. “I want to put Dearborn on the map.”
One of Farhat’s biggest games with Eastern Michigan came early in the season.
The Eagles traveled to Lexington, Ky. to take on Kentucky, the college basketball powerhouse, on Nov. 27, 2013. They gave Kentucky a good fight, trailing 35-32 at halftime, but the Wildcats’ future NBA talents took care of business for an 81-63 win.
It was Kentucky’s 500th win at Rupp Arena.
Farhat played two minutes and missed his lone shot attempt in the game. Yet the experience was a memorable one.
“Playing at Kentucky almost felt like a dream,” Farhat recalled. “As soon as I stepped out onto the court it was like a different spotlight — all the screaming fans and cameras staring right at you as you try to perform your best on the big screen.
“Kentucky is one of the best programs in the country and it was an honor to be able to play against a team of such talent.”
It was a learning experience for Farhat, too. Under coach John Calipari, Kentucky has been known for churning out prospects to the NBA. Six Wildcats who played in the game against Eastern Michigan have been selected in the NBA Draft: Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers), Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings), Andrew Harrison (Phoenix Suns), Aaron Harrison (Charlotte Hornets), Dakari Johnson (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Rochester’s James Young (Boston Celtics).
“I learned that there is some great talent out there, and if I one day want to be mentioned with some of the players that I played against on that night, then I of course have a lot of work to do,” Farhat said.
Farhat’s UM-Dearborn debut didn’t happen overnight.
Head coach Taylor Langley announced his addition to the program on Oct. 17 during Michigan football’s game against Michigan State.
Problem was, Farhat couldn’t suit up for the Wolverines in the fall semester. He was still enrolled at Wayne State. Before he could play, Farhat had to apply and get accepted into UM-Dearborn, finish his classes at Wayne State and then had to be ruled eligible by the NAIA.
“There was a lot of work to be done to make it happen,” Langley said. “It wasn’t just as easy as ‘he wants to come here and can start playing games.’ I wish it was.”
Farhat was able to play in the winter semester and made his debut on Jan. 6.
It didn’t take long for him to make a splash in the box score. He scored 16 points in his debut. He averaged 13.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in the 14 games he played.
Late in the season, Farhat kicked it up another notch. He dropped 30 or more points in two late-season games.
More importantly, his addition helped push UM-Dearborn over the hump. The Wolverines set the record for most wins in a season and appeared WHAC tournament-bound with him. But the record was squashed after the team had to forfeit five of those wins due to an undisclosed eligibility issue.
Farhat’s path to UM-Dearborn has been long, winding and has featured several stops.
It isn’t easy for any college student to take classes at three different colleges in three years, let alone a student athlete.
This fall, Farhat will have more stability in his life. It’ll be his second semester at UM-Dearborn. The rising junior should be a valuable weapon for the Wolverines.
Langley hopes Farhat is able to settle in, and expects him to take the next step in his game once he is able to do so.
“I think it’s hard to settle in somewhere and make somewhere your home and then build around that,” Langley said. “I think once he does that, he’s going to develop great consistency as a player… Once he settles in, he’s going to be a force at this level.”
Farhat is eyeing the record for wins in a season with the goal of breaking it for good. He has at least two years to make it happen.
“Although those games were taken away from us on paper, they were not taken from our hearts,” Farhat said. “We are coming back even harder next year, being bigger, better, faster and stronger. We are going to work our tails off to make a run in the tournament next year with the ultimate goal being to have a banner hung up in the gym at the end of the season.”