The opportunities that can result from having a special talent are endless. Just ask Tao Xu, who developed his basketball skills in China and has now taken them all the way to the University of San Francisco. Tao, whose 6 foot 11 inch, 260-pound frame adds some much-needed size to the Dons’ roster, is an experienced athlete who has played basketball internationally for China. Tao was a member of the U-18 and U-19 Chinese national teams during 2010 and 2011, and then spent spend his final year of high school in Pennsylvania playing for the Haverford School.
Many people may wonder how Tao acquired his athleticism and incredible size, and a look at his parents would give them a definite answer. Tao’s father is 6’8” and a former basketball player, and his mother, who played volleyball, is 6’2”. Despite Tao’s special skill set that includes a combination of hight and shooting ability coveted by many coaches, his most admirable quality may be that he is not only an athlete, but an exceptional student as well. Tao boasted a 3.5 GPA while attending school in Pennsylvania, and USF head coach Rex Walters has said that he has “never been around a guy so focused academically.”
All signs point to USF being a perfect fit for Tao. He has been praised for his focus, effort and academic integrity, all qualities that are valued among fellow Dons. Also, being in San Francisco will allow Tao to connect with the city’s Asian American community. Coming from China to Pennsylvania, and then to San Francisco can be a difficult process, but in doing so Tao has become a role model for many young athletes and children, and his success should only increase as he begins his career as a basketball player at USF.
“I realized basketball was going to play a major role in my life as I was not forced to go play – I enjoyed it and it was what I wanted to do,” Edmonds recalls.
As high school progressed, it became clearer to Edmonds that he had a special talent and that he would be able to pursue playing basketball in college. He enjoyed great success at the high school level, winning the Oklahoma Class 5A State title at Bishop McGuinness High School with teammate Matt Christiansen, who is also a freshman at USF. Now, as both a college athlete and student, the Oklahoma City Thunder fan is enjoying getting to know the members of the team, as well as other students on campus.
“The coaches are very easy to connect with and the players are great guys, and we all enjoy each other’s company off the court,” Edmonds says. “Also, living in the dorms allows me to meet other people in the student body and build relationships with them.”
As a freshman, Edmonds is a youngster on a USF team with multiple veterans, and at times the first-year players must carry out specific duties such as carrying equipment and loading the team bus, but Edmonds says that they are all “very close as a team.”
Outside of playing basketball, Edmonds has many hobbies that form who he is as a person. When he is not rooting for the Thunder, he is often reading or watching Netflix. Also, he enjoys the variety of opportunities that San Francisco offers and is interested in exploring the city’s different cultural outlets.
A key ingredient to each great team is a player that knows what it takes to win, preferably a player who has won at a highly competitive level. For the Dons, De’End Parker is this ingredient. Parker won a state championship with City College of San Francisco last year, and as a junior this season, hopes to instill a winning attitude among USF players. He led the City College of San Francisco Rams to a 32-1 record in 2011 and won Co-Most Valuable player in the Coast Conference North Division. After his career with the Rams, Parker attended UCLA and played in two games for the Bruins before making the decision to return to San Francisco.
Parker’s history of winning extends all the way back to his high school days, when he attended Lincoln High School in San Francisco. He averaged 23.0 points per game as a senior, and led his school the the CIF San Francisco Section championship game two straight years. Known for his all-around game, Parker is an exceptional passer, versatile defender, and creative scorer. He figures to play a key role for the Dons during the 2012-13 season, and if his previous high school and college experiences are any indicators, he is capable of taking the Dons to new heights. If the Dons do achieve great things this season, trust that Parker will be right in the middle of the action.
While many talented athletes excel in one particular sport, Holmes is a rare multi-sport competitor. On top of playing basketball in high school, he was also a standout football player, earning second-team all-league honors as a junior. By choosing to attend USF, Holmes has elected to focus solely on becoming a successful basketball player, and judging by his performance in the team’s first few games, he is well on his way to achieving that. In just his first college game, Holmes scored 17 points against Pac-12 powerhouse Stanford. USF will likely need him to continue his strong play as the season carries on, and judging by Holmes’ poise, scoring ability, and unlimited shooting range, there is no reason to think that he won’t.