By: Ermira Babamusta, New York/
Albanian-American basketball star Edon Molla was born on March 1994 in Ulqin, Montenegro. His family moved to New York when he was an infant. Playing basketball has been an early dream of his; he started playing basketball when he was 5years old. Edon Molla won two New Jersey State Championships, two Tournaments of Champions Titles, and two U.S.A. National Championships. He also served as Team Captain senior year of high school at St Anthony High School. In 2012 Edon Molla was selected to the New Jersey All Stars Team that played against Connecticut (CT vs. NJ All Stars Game). Edon Molla and his team were honored by the Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie for their first national championship and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium for winning their second national championship, back to back national titles.
Currently Edon is a Division I College basketball player for St. Francis College in New York. He is striving to become the best college basketball player he can be while remaining focused on his academics. His life-long dream is to have a future professional career in the NBA or Europe and to one day represent the Albanian National Team.
Early Life: Dedicated to the sport
Born on March 1994 in Ulqin, Montenegro to Albanian parents, father Xhavit Molla (sports teacher) and mother Merita Xharra (economist). Edon’s father Xhavit was born in Ulqin and at age 14 moved to Gjakova, Kosovo to attend high school, then at age 18 moved to the capital, Prishtina to pursue higher education at the University of Prishtina. His mother, Merita Xharra, was born in the historic city of Prizren, Kosovo. In the summer of 1989 his parents got married and a few years later before the war in Kosovo broke, they moved to America to purse a better life, when Edon was only a baby along with his brother, Admir Molla. Even though Edon moved to the United States as a baby he speaks fluent Albanian and is proud of his Albanian heritage.
“My dad showed me how difficult it is to come as an immigrant to this country and how hard you have to work to succeed. I am grateful for that I had the opportunity to prosper. Being respectful and proper is the key to success. My parents showed me how important culture is and to never forget where you come from. I am proud to be Albanian and have an appreciation for my heritage. It is inspiring to hear stories of successful Albanians like Lorik Cana, who plays for Lazio in Italy. He chose to play for the Albanian National Team and turned down countries like Switzerland and France, both teams are better than Albania but Cana wanted to be a role model for a younger generation of Albanians to give back to Albania and Albanians and help develop a better image for the country which is something I respect greatly”.
“Here in New York people view Albanians as tough kids, who fear nothing. My Coach Glenn Braica tells me Albanians are tough. I play with a little chip on my shoulder knowing that Albanians are viewed as Spartan like kids, without knowing the hardships they go through. I want to show that Albanians can prosper and that Albanians can succeed. I want to be one of those Albanians that kids look up to as a role model.”
Edon Molla began playing basketball when he was 5 years old at a park near his Brooklyn home. At the park he was always one of the better players even amongst kids twice his age. He was simply born to excel on the basketball court.
“I am thankful to my parents and my brother for their wonderful love and support over the years. My family always loved sports. My dad played soccer in Europe. However I chose to play basketball instead. Growing up in New York City basketball is the most popular sport. I love the game of basketball. I would play with my friends and my brother, who is four years older than me. I learned how to play when I was only five playing against kids twice my age or older.”
Edon Molla is deeply passionate about basketball, a passion that started at a very young age, playing at the park near his neighborhood, with his brother Admir. Instead of growing up a typical kid, watching cartoons, playing videogames Edon and his brother would practice and play for hours. At the age 5 Edon was already playing against 17-year-old opponents, learning how to become a great player. All signs were pointing towards a great career ahead of him.
“My brother is my biggest fan. He goes through everything with me. At 12 o’clock at night instead of going out we will be shooting in the park or the gym. When I was a kid I would play videogames, he would throw the remote against the wall and say let’s go practice, don’t be a slacker and you have to work hard. When we were young he told me a quote by John Lennon, ‘A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.’ My brother showed me that we are all in this together as a family. Whatever we do is always going to be together. If we work hard together, we will succeed together. I am very proud of my brother. He is very hard working and I look up to him. He currently attends NYU, one of the top academic schools in the world, working hard to succeed in life.”
At 8 years old, Edon joined his first team, St Columba, where he played until he was 13 years old. By the age of 10 he was playing on the 13-year-old team. When he was 13 years old he led St. Columba to the New York City championship game in which they lost. Although they lost he had gotten the attention of many high school coaches in New York and New Jersey. Edon Molla also appeared on his first newspaper article at the age of 13.
“My mom knew my passion for basketball and she took me to try out for St. Columba, a youth team in order to play organized basketball and get out of the park and not be around kids who may be a bad influence on me. At first I hated it. I wanted to play with my friends at the park. Eventually I learned to play with the team, the context that comes with team work. I played at St. Columba for about 6 years. I really enjoyed playing against better competition and St Columba gave me an opportunity to play against great completion at a young age. My main motivation was to get better and to beat older and more developed players. Competing with older players motivated me to get better when I was a younger.”
“I learned a lot from my parents as well. They showed me if you want to succeed you have got to work harder than everyone else. My mom would take me practices and game using trains and buses. My mother doesn’t drive but to my mother that was no excuse to miss or show up late to a game or practice. We would show up to the game before the gym even opened. So I learned the importance of being on time and work hard.”
Since early on, his parents instilled into him to always be positive, a strong work ethic, good manners and respect for others is the key to success on and off the basketball court.
“For me education comes first and athletics comes second. Growing up, my dad made sure that academics came first. I had to maintain a 90 average or higher then I could play basketball.”
Basketball star on the rise: High School Basketball St. Anthony’s
Edon Molla has played in some of the most prestigious leagues and tournaments in the country including: Hoop Group Elite Camps, Five Star Camp, Nike IS8 League, Nike West 4th League, Rumble in the Bronx Tournament, Naismith Hall of Fame Tournament, Dan Finn Classic, Boast Mobile SNY Invitational Tournament, etc. His basketball prowess wasn’t limited to New York and New Jersey. Since the 6th grade he has traveled across the country and played in tournament, camps and games in over 30 states.
“Since sixth grade I had to miss many family events since I was always traveling around the country. I have been very dedicated to basketball and my teams.”
In 2009 Edon Molla decided to attend St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. St. Anthony high school is considered the greatest high school basketball team in American history and is the most prestigious and most successful. In the past 40 years under legendary head coach Bob Hurley St. Anthony has won 27 state titles more than any other school in U.S. history, 13 tournaments of champions, and four consensus national championships and enjoyed seven undefeated seasons. In 2010 Coach Bob Hurley was inducted into the World Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Coach Bob Hurley set the bar high for me. He always pushed me to work harder and be better. He is one of the greatest coaches of all-time and is a legend. He trained us how to first be good people and secondly how to be good at basketball.
Determined to reach his dream and become the best basketball player he could be, Edon would wake up at 5:00 am every day, travel across state lines from his home in Brooklyn New York to Jersey City New Jersey to attend St Anthony’s. In order to get to school he took the B82 bus to the Q train, to the 2 train, to Fulton St, where he picked up the PATH train. He took the PATH train to Newport, then after about a half-mile walk, he finally arrived at St. Anthony High School. He was also on the honor roll student with 96 percent average in high school.
“The main thing that kept me going was my determination to become the best basketball player I could be. Every day at 5 am I would wake up just to go to school, a trip that took me 2 hours. Having to go there every day and knowing that school is in a different state made me mentally stronger. I knew attending St Anthony’s would be worth it to be coached by one of the greatest coaches ever and to play against every day in practice with the best competition in the country, with players like Kyle Anderson, who is currently at UCLA, Myles Mack at Rutgers, and so many other players at the division one college level who have potential to play professional in the NBA or Europe. It was tremendous to have the opportunity to play with and against these guys.”
While Edon was at St Anthony High School they had tremendous success, the team won back to back New Jersey State Championships, back to back tournament of champions titles and back to back National Championships, champions of the United States of America. In four years of high school Edon’s overall record was 127-5 and 66-0 in the last two years, the school had an 83 game winning streak. Edon last year at St Anthony high school was named the Captain of the Team, a great honor and title to be given by legendary coach Bob Hurley.
“It was an honor to play for Coach Hurley; he was the greatest teacher I have ever encountered. Coach Hurley was very demanding; he did not lower his expectations for anyone. That is why I wanted to attend St. Anthony.”
In 2011 Edon Molla and his teammates were honored by The Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie for their first national championship and by the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium for winning second national championship, back to back national titles. Also the team was on several TV shows such as CBS 60 Minutes ABC 2020 and TLC Cake Boss, and a book “Chasing Perfect” by Daniel Pasner.
College Career: St. Francis College
In 2013 Edon Molla joined St. Francis College to pursue double major in Business & Public Relations. Currently Edon Molla is a Division I College basketball player for St Francis College. Division one is the premier division for college athletics, where the best high school players are chosen to play college basketball. St. Francis has a promising team. This is his first year at St Francis they have a record of 9-5, recently beating the University of Miami.
“College has been a tough adjustment. The players are bigger and the game is faster but we have a good team and we work hard. We won against Miami, Oakland and few other good teams. I think there is an opportunity to win the conference championship this year and hopefully we can make the NCAA tournament. The team is in good hands with Coach Glenn Braica. Coach Braica is a great mentor, very dedicated to the team and getting the best out of us on a daily basis at practice.”
Edon’s favorite athletes are Kobe Bryant and Lorik Cana. He enjoys watching NBA other college basketball games and Albanian sports, including the Albanian National Football team and Kosove basketball league, especially teams such as Trepca, Peja, Sigal Prishtina and Bashkimi. His dream is to become a professional basketball player in the NBA, or in Europe. Edon hopes to one day represent Albania and Kosove on a National Basketball team.
“There is a great quote from Gandhi. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. At first they ignored and laughed because I was too young to play with the older kids. Then they wanted to fight me because I was showing them on the basketball court. And eventually I started winning. I believe that anything is possible. If you work hard enough you can achieve anything in life”.
“National pride and giving back is important to me. I look up to athletes who give back to their community or country they come from, I have tremendous respect for athletes who go back to play for their national team and represent their country. In the future I can see myself playing for the Albanian National Basketball team and trying to inspire Albanian kids to pursue a basketball dream,” said Edon Molla.