Brimmer and May senior guard Sammy Mojica committed to Drexel University earlier today, weeks after he took an unofficial visit to the Philadelphia school.
Mojica, a 6-foot-3 wing player known for his versatility on the perimeter, averaged 18 points per game last year for Brimmer, earning third-team all NEPSAC honors. He was one of the top players in the MIAA following his junior year, just a game away from getting his name on a “1000 point” banner at Chelsea High School—and potentially, becoming the all-time leading scorer in the school’s history.
Instead, he made the decision to attend Brimmer and May, in hopes of earning a Division 1 scholarship, preparing himself mentally for college, and to work year-round with coach Tom Nelson. He earned a scholarship this summer from Drexel, and was taken aback by the loyalty of Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint and his staff.
Given the fact that Mojica can play either perimeter position or slide over to the small forward spot, Flint nicknamed him “a Swiss Army knife,” because of his versatility on the basketball court.
“They were the first team to offer me, to give me a chance,” Mojica said. “They saw something in me.
“They were the first school to get real serious. I was waiting for an offer, they were the first ones to pull the trigger. When I went to go visit, it felt right; it felt like I belonged there.”
Nelson heavily recruited Mojica during his junior year at Chelsea. He attended games at Chelsea High, brought members of the Brimmer and May team to the games, and made a promise to Mojica’s parents: to see to it that Sammy earned a free education. Not only did Nelson help him earn a Division 1 scholarship, the coach helped transform his game, making sure to keep every promise along the way.
“Tom has been exceptional,” Mojica said of his coach. “I love Tom with all my heart. When he came to one of my games at Chelsea and brought some guys on the team, I told my parents that’s where I wanted to go.
“My mom put full trust in Tom, everything he told my mom has ended up happening. He’s very loyal, hasn’t made a mistake with me yet, he’s trustworthy. He worked me, he just pushed me so hard every day in practice.”
Their relationship goes far beyond coach and player however, as displayed when Mojica lost his house back in January. He played the end of last season without a home, after a fire consumed his mother’s Chelsea apartment. The night after the fire, Nelson and Sherwyn Cooper, a close friend of both Nelson and Mojica, brought the team to see Sammy again—this time to comfort him during what Mojica called “the lowest point of my life.”
“We were there with him, we all went up to his dad’s house, we went up there with Sherwyn [Cooper] and we even cancelled the game we were supposed to play to go lift his spirits,” Nelson said. “We saw him at one of his lowest points. But the thing with Sammy is that he’s one of those great kids that keeps fighting through adversity.”
Following the fire, Nelson and Cooper started a fundraiser for Mojica and his family, so that the family could have money to move into a new home and find a way to replace all the things they had lost. The fundraiser brought in over $12,000.
Whether it was walking through the tattered remains of what had once been his bedroom or sleeping on the couch of teammate Jake Fay for days at a time, the fire motivated him this summer on the AAU circuit—as he proved to be one of the best players at the Hoop Group Summer Jamfest.
“Tom just kept saying to me during the AAU season, ‘Look at all these kids, you’re the one who doesn’t have a house.”
Mojica and his family now live in Everett, in a home that he says is in a much better part of town than his previous home. While he has many basketball-related aspirations, one of his main goals is to graduate from Drexel; he would become the first person in his family to earn a degree. After the emotional roller coaster that the last seven months have presented, he says it feels like going “from rock bottom to the top of the world.”
The commitment was a proud moment for Nelson. The coach considers Mojica to be one of his hardest workers and one of the highest character players that he has ever coached.
“I’m so proud of him. This is one of the best days of my life. We took a kid out of obscurity in Chelsea, and got him to a mid-major school. It was hard work. There was no smoke and mirrors with this one. It’s been a lot of ups and downs.”
Nelson added, “He sent me a text saying, ‘Check out my tweet. I love you Tom.’ I’m his coach, but I’m also a big brother. I know to draw the line as their coach, but I try to make them understand the love, that we care.”