To help fill in for departed stars Keevan Veinot and Alex Carson, the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s basketball team brought in Joshua Koulamallah, a six-foot-four forward from Gatineau, Que. However, it has been a long road to joining the three-time defending Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champions for Koulamallah.
The forward began his college basketball career in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the United States, playing for Adelphi University Panthers in Garden City, N.Y. In his freshman season, Koulamallah tore his Achilles tendon in a game against Concordia College Clippers.
He got hurt on Dec. 1, 2019, receiving surgery on his Achilles in January 2020. He wasn’t cleared by doctors to practice for nine months after surgery.
“A lot of times, I questioned if I was ever going to be able to play at the highest level again or even to play basketball in general because it was a really, really tough rehab,” said Koulamallah.
Family is everything to Koulamallah; he said it’s his motivation to wake up and work hard each day. He has five younger brothers. Along with his mother, Koulamallah marks each of their initials on his socks before each game, reminding him who he is playing for.
Koulamallah said his mother gives him the confidence to go out every day to be the best person he can be. Throughout his recovery from his Achilles tear, his mother was his motivation. “Throughout my injury, when I would doubt myself and question if I’ll be able to come back and play at a level that I used to play at or even better, my mom would be my number one supporter,” Koulamallah said. “In her head, I’m a superstar. She thinks I’m able to do anything.”
Koulamallah said his teammates at Adelphi were supportive and would help him train. Sometimes, they’d give him a hand working on his shooting form. One time, his teammates fed him passes while he sat in a chair on the court. His team would also help him get groceries in what Koulamallah said was a time of ups and downs.
“It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. In all aspects, people think an injury is just a physical toll. But it has a toll on you mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It’s been a rollercoaster over the last few years,” said Koulamallah.
Outside of basketball, Koulamallah has a passion for writing. Right now, he’s working on a book about living and moving through life from his age generation’s perspective. Usually, basketball is Koulamallah’s getaway but when he tore his Achilles, he began to write and used it as a coping mechanism.
Basketball after recovery
When Koulamallah finally recovered from his injury, his first full season back was cancelled by COVID-19. It was hard for him to gauge his comeback as he was again forced into a pause. Following the loosening of COVID-19 public health restrictions, Koulamallah then played 27 games in the 2021-2022 season for Adelphi.
Then one day after touring Dal, Koulamallah decided to settle on the move from New York to Halifax for the 2022-2023 season. The forward said he received a lot of love during his early June visit to meet his coaches and faculty, but the players also warmly received Koulamallah.
“It was a no-brainer for me. I’m like, this is genuine love,” said Koulamallah.
When the preseason came around, Koulamallah’s mindset was “win.” Koulamallah shined against the Trinity Western University Spartans on Oct. 9 in exhibition play, scoring 26 points while shooting 53.8 per cent from the field. He made 11 for 12 shots from the free throw line.
“I wanted to prove to everybody that we’re not on the downfall at Dalhousie. We really have an opportunity to do something special,” said Koulamallah.
Koulamallah’s first AUS game
Koulamallah said he wants to prove he is one of the best players in the conference and country. Once it became time for the Tigers to take on the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds on Oct. 28, Koulamallah had mixed emotions. But once the game began, he said, “all the jitters went out and I was ready to play.”
The Tigers prevailed over UNB by a 70-67 score, with Koulamallah producing 20 points and eight rebounds while shooting 8 for 14 from the field. Earning player of the game honours in his first game as a Tiger is a moment Koulamallah said he would cherish forever.
“It’s a testament to all the work that I’ve put in the last few years. Coming back from an Achilles injury isn’t easy,” Koulamallah said. “To go out there and win the player of the game in your first game, I definitely don’t take any of that for granted.”