Zaki Bahrami has a trip planned. The Yorktown senior boys basketball player was recently accepted to Yale, a school he has decided is his dream college. But he has yet to actually set foot on the university’s New Haven, Conn., campus. All that’s left to do is take a visit, make sure he wants to follow through, and formally commit to attend the school.
It’s a trip Bahrami and his teammates are trying to delay as long as possible. Yorktown plays Blackford tonight in a Class 3A sectional semifinal game in Muncie Fieldhouse. All East Central Indiana teams remaining in the tournament will play in semifinal games tonight at various sites.
Upon getting accepted to Yale in December, Bahrami planned a visit to the school. He then realized that date was during the basketball season, postponing the visit so it would not conflict with his basketball commitments. The longer the Tigers (16-4) can keep winning, the longer Bahrami will have to wait to visit the school.
“We’d like to delay it for a long time, maybe until it warms up,” Yorktown coach Greg Miller said. “… but when that happens, I’m sure he’s overwhelmed and excited, and probably can’t wait to see what’s going on there. I’m sure he’s done his research and has seen things online. But once he gets there and feels the environment and the community, I’m sure he’s going to be just ecstatic.”
It is clear Bahrami is eager to see the campus of the school for which he’s heard so many good things. But that’s not to be mistaken with a desire for the season to end.
“We’re not trying to delay it,” Bahrami said. “But the team comes first. Because I made the commitment to the team, so I’ve got to wait until this is over.”
Bahrami, who also plays soccer, played basketball his freshman year at Yorktown, but said that season was not a particularly enjoyable experience. He elected not to play his sophomore and junior years. He was focused on soccer. Bahrami is also a dedicated student, in the midst of a tight race for senior class valedictorian.
As a senior, he was encouraged to re-join the team after several varsity players graduated last year. Bahrami said he was familiar with Miller, and felt playing for him would be enjoyable.
He said he’s enjoyed being a part of this year’s squad, getting a chance to be on a team that took a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title. Bahrami is a reserve who has logged limited minutes, and he has yet to score a point this season. But he said he has enjoyed the ride. Yorktown picked up a tight win against rival Delta on Tuesday to advance to tonight’s sectional semifinals, where it will play Blackford at 6 o’clock.
The senior has gotten a chance to play with a group of juniors that make up the entire starting lineup for a successful Tiger squad.
“Honestly, they’re inspiring, how good of players they are and how good of team players they are,” Bahrami said. “None of them have any bad egos, they’re all just independently and as a team very good basketball players.”
Bahrami has enjoyed being the target of “Yale jokes,” a process that began when teammates and other friends found out he had an interview with the school. Now, if a classmate receives a better grade on an assignment, they might mention they beat someone who’s going to Yale. And if Bahrami has some other perceived misstep, his Yale acceptance is brought up as well.
Those Yale jokes have been opportune for one teammate in particular, junior Riley Neal. In the past, Bahrami would make jokes about Neal receiving recruiting attention as a football player from various schools. So once Bahrami got into Yale, Neal had the perfect comeback, firing back with Yale jokes.
“It kind of turned back on me,” Bahrami said. “He’s been making fun of me a lot because I got into Yale. Not like making fun, but just making jokes about it, it’s funny.”
Bahrami laughs as he discusses the banter he has with those who make jokes about his acceptance to the Ivy League school. And Miller said it’s that upbeat disposition that he felt would be an asset to his team, the reason why he’s happy the senior elected to play for him this year.
“(He’s) just pleasant to be around,” Miller said. “He’s not going to be a factor where he’s going to be up, down. He’s just consistent, he’s steady.”