It was only fitting that Jean-Jacques Ntshaykolo was talking to a reporter via a teleconference call from Florence, Italy.
Even though Ntshaykolo has lived in San Francisco for most of his life, he's always had a home away from home. For the last four years, Ntshaykolo spent nine months out of the year at Thatcher School in Ojai, an elite co-ed boarding school located about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
In one month, Ntshaykolo's new home will be in Providence, R.I., as he's about to enter his freshman year at Brown University. On July 25 and 26, Ntshaykolo will be competing for Team Pride in the 2013 Champion U.S. Lacrosse All-American Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"I'm looking forward to competing in this event again, and it's a good opportunity to play some good lacrosse, which I haven't done so far this summer," said Ntshaykolo, who has spent the last 28 days traveling with friends in Europe.
Ntshaykolo, a defenseman, was one of 90 boys' players selected from across the country to take part in this showcase event, with the boys' championship game set to be televised live on ESPNU on July 26 at 4 p.m. On the girls' side, a couple of athletes with Peninsula ties will also be competing in the event: Caroline Cummings, who is entering her senior year at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton; and Michaela Michael, a recent Menlo School graduate who is entering her freshman year at USC.
Ntshaykolo has earned his lacrosse stripes through hard work and determination. He started playing the sport when he was a third- or fourth-grader at Town School in San Francisco because it was a popular sport among his classmates. From the moment Ntshaykolo picked up a stick and scooped up a ball, he was hooked.
"I fell in love with the game even though I didn't excel at it right away," he said.
Ntshaykolo feels fortunate he stuck with lacrosse, as a number of his close friends will be playing the sport on the Division I level. Unlike most of his friends, however, Ntshaykolo took a more circuitous route to lacrosse success.
In his freshman year at Thacher School, Ntshaykolo was required to complete an intensive horse training program, which limited him to playing lacrosse only two days a week. Ntshaykolo had to learn to clean, feed and ride a horse, and ultimately learned how to pick up coins off the ground during a ride — while he was dangling precariously from his saddle.
"The best part about this was I was able to succeed at something with my friends," Ntshaykolo said.
In a banner year for St. Ignatius girls’ athletics, Maria Kemiji-McDonald was often in the center of the action.