Dad’s visit lifts spirits of Trojans’ Shoshi
Lis Shoshi had a feeling something was up on Saturday night. It seemed a friend from home had let slip a secret the UALR men’s basketball team had in store for their senior forward.
So, when Shoshi and five other seniors were assembled on the floor of the Jack Stephens Center for senior-night festivities and he heard the public address announcer say there was a surprise in store for Shoshi, he almost expected to see his father, Dr. Gezim Shoshi, standing on the floor after having traveled from his home in Peje, Kosovo, more than 5,600 miles away.
“It’s been awhile since the last time he saw me play,” Shoshi said Sunday. “So it was cool.”
The plan to bring the elder Shoshi to the Jack Stephens Center for the first time was orchestrated by a host family Shoshi lived with while at a junior college in Texas and his older brother, who is still living in Kosovo. But in the last week, Shoshi was talking to a friend from home who let the possibility slip that something was happening.
The friend asked Shoshi when his dad was coming, so he thought maybe something was up. When he Shoshi saw his dad on the court, the two shared a big hug, then Gezim Shoshi watched his son score 12 points in the Trojans’ 71-54 loss to Georgia State.
Shoshi and his dad went out to dinner after the game, then spent some time in his hotel room. The elder Shoshi won’t head back to Kosovo — an 18-hour flight — until Wednesday, so he’ll see his final home game tonight at 8 against Georgia Southern.
Gezim Shoshi getting to see his son play basketball for the first time since 2011 — long before Lis got to Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and certainly before he got to UALR last season — served as one of the few highlights to what has developed into a bummer of a season.
Shoshi, who started all but one game as the Trojans reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, missed five games earlier this year with a toe injury, and the season as a whole hasn’t at all matched the successes of last year.
“It was probably the best thing that had happened to me this season,” Shoshi said of his father’s visit. “It was pretty cool to see him. I felt happy, although we lost. I still felt happy that he was here to see me play.”
Shoshi, some of his teammates, and Coach Wes Flanigan all maintain that a season that has produced more bad breaks than good can turn around. The Trojans (13-15, 4-11) lost for the eighth time in their past nine games on Saturday and will enter the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans on March 8 no higher than the eighth seed, and could be as low as 12th.
“Obviously, we’ve been a little disappointed in terms of the wins and loss column, but I think a big part of some of our issues is lack of depth, from a standpoint of, we’ve made a couple of mistakes,” he said. “We’ve always managed to get ourselves back into the game, so if we can figure out a way to close out some games once we get to that point, hopefully we can start winning some of that.”