Biomedical science graduate excels on basketball court
July 27, 2019
For Kareem South, academics and athletics go hand in hand.
Doing what it takes to advance his basketball career isn’t a problem once his grades don’t suffer.
That was non-negotiable with his parents, Brian and Dilorece South.
“That’s the way it always has been in my household and it has paid off for me,” said South who graduated last month with a Biomedical Science degree while leading Texas A&M Corpus Christi in scoring (13.8 points per game), three-pointers (51) and steals (40) this past season.
The 6’2” guard also averaged 5.1 rebounds per game and registered his first career double-double with 29 points, which was a career high, and 12 rebounds against Stephen F. Austin State University last February.
In May, the Toronto-born student-athlete agreed to join the University of California at Berkeley as a graduate transfer for the 2019-20 season.
South is very grateful for the full scholarship to pursue his Master’s in Public Health and the opportunity to play for the Golden Bears – the 1959 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champions -- that compete in the Pac-12.
Eleven-time national titleholders University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1997 winners Arizona and 1942 champions Stanford also play in the conference.
“I had a great four years at Corpus Christi, but going to the Bears offers the opportunity to challenge myself by playing on a bigger stage,” South said. “I want to put myself in the best possible position to play professionally while at the same time studying at a school that’s associated with academic excellence. That’s what this move is all about at this time.”
Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Northwestern University in Illinois were also on his radar.
“I visited Northwestern but, at the end of the day, I thought California was the best option,” noted South who led Corpus Christi 13 times in scoring this past season. “I felt a good vibe and connection after meeting the coaching staff. The scholarship offer and the opportunity to play a central role on the team also helped with my decision to go to San Francisco.”
Golden Bears head coach Mark Fox, who took the lead in recruiting South, is excited to have the Canadian on his roster.
“Kareem is an excellent shooter and scorer,” he said. “His consistency from the three-point line and his overall experience will greatly impact our team.”
Playing basketball at the highest level is the ‘end goal’ for the six-time Honour Roll student in the last two seasons.
“For any player, the NBA (National Basketball Association) is a place where they would like to be, competing with the top players in the world,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, I will go wherever I am given an opportunity play.”
The durable South made an impact at Corpus Christi the last three seasons after playing just five games in 2015-16.
“I suffered an ankle injury my first year and the coach thought it would be best for me to red-shirt,” he said. “Looking back, that was a blessing in disguise because I was able to watch the seniors play and learn. It also give me one more year of eligibility.”
South appeared in all 36 games in 2016-17, started all 29 games the following year and 31 of 32 games this past season.
The team captain in his final season at Corpus Christi was rewarded for his athletics and academics success with the Legacy Ring presented by the Corpus Christi National Islander Alumni Association to students who make profound contributions to the university.
A member of the Chi Alpha Sigma Honour Society and secretary of the Student Athletic Advisory Council, South was among six students recognized this year.
“The Ring is special because it reminds you of all the people that came before you and brings you into the tradition of Islander pride and honour,” he said. “I was hugely surprised when I learned I would be receiving a Legacy Ring. To me, it symbolizes all the positive experiences and lifelong bonds I have made here at the Island University.”
Inspired by his cousin, Jeremy Leonard-Smith who played hoops at Bishop’s University, South gravitated towards basketball at a young age. He is also among a host of young Canadian players that Vince Carter had an effect on.
“He was my idol and I had #15 (Carter’s jersey number since his freshman year in high school) on the first basketball jersey I wore,” recalled South whose interest in Science was sparked at a young age. “I also had dreams of playing at the University of North Carolina which is Vince’s alma mater.”
Ranked among the top 20 prospects in Canada five years ago, South completed high school at Senator O’Connor and spent a year at The Kiski School in Pennsylvania where he averaged 18.3 points, six assists and 5.3 rebounds and helped the school reach the state semi-finals.
“That was kind of like a gap year for me to take more classes and get much needed exposure playing south of the border,” the two-time Southland Conference All-Academic selection said.
South’s mother is not surprised by her son’s success on and off the court.
“Growing up, he knew we had high expectations for him and his older sister who has a university degree,” said the Guyanese immigrant. “We ensured they had all the tools they needed to go out there and be successful. Kareem embraced hard work and has always been focussed. I am not shocked he’s doing well and is humble about everything good that has come his way.”
When his basketball career is over, South plans to attend medical school and pursue a Sports Medicine career.