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Mellouk Ready To Take Next Step In Bonnies Development

Born in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam, Anouar Mellouk spent six years of his childhood in Casablanca, Morocco, before moving back to his birth country. Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics

Anouar Mellouk has seen more of the world than your average college sophomore.

Born in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam, Mellouk spent six years of his childhood in Casablanca, Morocco, before moving back to his birth country.

Basketball brought him to the United States at 18 years old, playing at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia as he chased a dream of playing at the Division I level.

Through all that life experience, though, it may have been his redshirt season spent last year practicing and watching from the sidelines that could be most beneficial to his playing career.

For a young man who didn’t pick up the game until he was 15, the opportunity to slow things down and learn was invaluable.

“Watching from the bench, you see a whole different side to the game. You can tell what is happening on each play and what you need to be doing to make it successful,” Mellouk said. “Every game I watched, I was having conversations in my head about how I can do this or that to make a play work. I always had difficulties breaking things down and understanding why a play worked (before), but seeing the game up close every day helped me see the game in a different way. Now if Coach draws up a play, I really see the play happening in my head and see why I would run to a spot and what would be open if I make a certain decision.”

It wasn’t just being able to dissect plays that was beneficial to his maturation process last season.

Mellouk also took full advantage of watching last year’s Bona’s senior class and their daily preparation to learn what it takes to have success through work put in on and off the court.

“Being able to see how the seniors went about every game day and how they prepared themselves mentally and physically helped me a lot. One thing I learned is you have to be in the gym every day. You can’t let up even a little bit. They did a great job of showing us that,” he emphasized. “I started playing basketball pretty late so taking last year to focus on my game and getting better really helped me.”

Mellouk didn’t grow up playing sports; instead, he focused on his studies while growing up in Morocco. When he moved back to the Netherlands, though, his athletic ability began to show as he grew into his 6-foot-8, 200-pound frame.

He played two seasons at Fork Union, averaging over 15 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal per game while shooting over 59% from the floor. He displayed high-flying athleticism and an ability to stretch the floor, also shooting better than 30% beyond the arc.

The military academy experience served to further his development beyond the court as well.

“You learn a lot of discipline and a lot about life,” he said. “While you’re doing it, you don’t enjoy a lot, but it’s something I appreciate now.”

As he wrapped up his time at the prep level, he became connected to the Bonnies through another Netherlands prospect, Mellouk’s best friend Joryam Saizonou.

During the pandemic, though, campus visits were on hold. His recruiting experience came primarily through Zoom.

Hearing from the Bonnies coaching staff, getting to know the culture of the program and the vision for his personal development was enough to sell him on another new home, this time in Western New York.

“When I talked with Coach (Mark) Schmidt and the coaching staff, they explained to me everything about the program and it was what I was looking for,” he said. “It was a winning culture and last year was a great opportunity to practice with the five seniors and learn a lot from them.”

And while he expected to take last year as a learning experience, another unforeseen development also impacted his development.

Before last season, Mellouk had surgery on a torn meniscus. The injury was something he now sees as a potential blessing in disguise.

“I’ve always loved being on the fast break, but last year after my injury, I had to be more five-on-five because I couldn’t do as much on the fast break,” he said. “I learned a lot of half court stuff and knowing the offense we play that really brought my game to another level. I’m really focused on my defense as well. I think I have the tools to be a great defender and I’m ready to show that.”

Now 100% healthy, he spent the summer back in the Netherlands where he played for a 3-on-3 national team as well as some 5-on-5 exhibition games while working with a trainer every day.

“It was a nice experience. It makes you feel proud and honored to represent the national colors,” he said. “It was special.”

Now back with the Bonnies for his second season, but first as an active player, he has the unique distinction of being one of the veteran-most members of the roster despite being yet to play in his first official game with the program. Mellouk joins guard Brett Rumpel, who also redshirted last year, and sophomore Justin Ndjock-Tadjore as the only returners from last year’s squad that reached the semifinals of the NIT.

“It’s a unique situation; Brett and I are technically still freshmen, we’ve never played a college game. But the seniors showed us a lot of things last year and we’re trying to pass on the things they showed us to the new guys,” he said.

And, with a blend of freshmen and transfers boasting previous collegiate experience, Mellouk likes what he sees as practices officially get underway.

“We have transfers with a lot of college experience and we’re trying to show them what we know about the program and combine those things,” he said. “We have a great chemistry going. Everybody likes being in the gym, so I think we have a good thing going on.”

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