The first thing I noticed about Cedric Dipanda, the newest member of the Rochester Yellowjackets basketball team, were his hands. They’ve been measured 11.75 inches, from the base of his palm to the tip of his middle finger. When he debuts in the NBA, as he’s expected to after his freshman season at UR, those will be the biggest hands in the league since the NBA started recording such vitally important information. But what’s so remarkable about his hands is the surgical precision with which he’s able to maneuver those bad boys. I saw him spin a CHM 171 textbook on his pinky while he unwrapped a burrito with the same hand.
Until recently, all we knew at Campus Times was that Cedric’s game has been described as a cross between Ray Allen, Shaq, and Lebron. We heard he could shoot threes at a 50% clip, dunk from behind the free throw line, and hit the top of the backboard with his forearm. Not to mention he’s been working with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game – however, at press time, we were told Olajuwon quit the game of basketball forever, saying, “There is nothing left to teach him. He has become Death, Destroyer of the Paint.”
I wasn’t even supposed to see Cedric this week. He’s been living off-campus in a fully furnished penthouse in Pittsford to avoid being mobbed when he steps on campus – he’s also taking his classes online. But I knew I had to get the scoop. I fought tooth and nail with dozens of administrators who told me “What?” and “Do I need to call MERT?” Finally, I decided to go straight to the top. Here’s a transcription of my conversation with President Joel Seligman:
Seligman: Excuse me? How did you get in here?
After that there’s a lot of muffled yelling and shuffling. Long story short, Joey called security and I got kicked out of UR, as if that was gonna stop me from finding Cedric. Joey didn’t notice that I swiped an entire cabinet with files labeled “TOP SECRET” from his office.
He’s soft-spoken, and still largely unfamiliar with American culture, but when I knocked on his door last Saturday morning, Sept. 27 around 6:00am bearing Blimpie’s, he let me right in. It helped that I told him I was with ResLife, but whatever.
His struggles with English were apparent. Here’s a transcription of a section of our interview:
Dipanda: …And truthfully, I don’t think I could adequately explain the extent to which I’m grateful towards the University of Rochester. It makes me proud to be human, you know, when I see what lengths people are willing to go to for other people, and not for personal gain, but because they recognize the inherent goodness in doing something like that…I’m here for Optics. I spent time in high school traveling from my home in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to internships at the Harvard Quantum Optics Center and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, in Garching. Beautiful city. I did a lot of work studying single atoms in optical resonators as a platform for quantum repeaters.
Bernstein: (Wiping Blimpie’s from my face) I’m sorry, um, do you have, like, a translator or something? (Sounds of wild motioning, exhortations to “SPEAK. ENGLISH.”)
Linguistic struggles aside, I was able to see what Rochester basketball head coach Luke Flockerzi saw in Cedric.
I interviewed Coach Flockerzi via text:
FLOCKERZI: Who is this?
BERNSTEIN: UR WORST NIGHTMARE
BERNSTEIN: JK. I’m with the campus limes.
BERNSTEIN: I have questions about Cedric
BERNSTEIN: LOL! Campus limes!
BERNSTEIN: Ducking autocorrect.
BERNSTEIN: I meant dimes!
FLOCKERZI: Please delete this number.
And continued via FaceTime, from a different number. Flockerzi couldn’t get his words out fast enough. “Obviously he’s an incredible player,” said Flockerzi, “and yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say for now.”
Cedric told me that Flockerzi and his recruiting staff “couldn’t have been more accommodating,” which I’m told means something positive in whatever language they speak in Cameroon. “I mean, I knew I was good. I was already playing professionally in Cameroon, in addition to the optics work. My first season, I averaged 48 points, 22 rebounds, and 9 blocks a game, which doesn’t sound like much, but I’m proud to say I did that on a torn ACL. Anyway, Coach Flockerzi saw me run the length of the floor and dunk over the entire Cameroonian national team, and five minutes later he offered me a scholarship while I was still sitting on the bench.” You’re just gonna have to put that one in Google Translate because it’s all Roman to me.
I sidled up to several UR basketball players at Wilson Commons who couldn’t have been happier talking about their new teammate. Most of them told me they had class, which I thought was weird because it was after 11:00 on a Friday night, but hey, athletes, right? I was able to get senior guard Kevin Sheehy for a quick interview:
Bernstein So how are you feeling about Cedric?
Sheehy: Ah, good, I guess, man. I mean we’ve heard he’s real good but we haven’t started practice yet, so I don’t – did you just take a bite out of my burger?
Bernstein: Also hey, you goin’ to Sig Chi?
It’s been a wild week tracking down Cedric and the team. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the power of friendship. I made a friend for life in Joey, and I think the guys at Sig Chi thought I was pretty chill. You can see Cedric play in the first Rochester basketball game of the year at home against Nazareth College on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7:00pm.
Bernstein is a member of
the class of 2018.