Categories: High School Sports
Schenectady High School doesn’t have a basketball jersey big enough to fit Stevie Tchako’s entire last name on the back.
No team does. There are not enough Xs to put in front of an L to make a jersey that size.
“I’ve been asked about it since sixth grade,” the 17-year-old said before a recent practice with the Schenectady varsity basketball team. “At first it bothered me, people asking what it was all about all the time. Now, I don’t mind. Now, I’m used to it.”
The 6-foot-2 senior is no wide body. No, the questions are about his name — his full name:
Stevie Menkam Tchako-Tchokouassi Ngalieuk Pete Chanco Chabo Sontam Lengue Dieffi Pepé Woaussum.
Oh, to hear a public address announcer take a shot at that just once.
Tchako rattles off his full name as though reciting the alphabet — or one of those long math equations he’s so good at.
“I am named after family members who have passed away,” said Tchako, whose parents, Abraham and Kontchie, were both born in Cameroon and follow many of the African republic’s customs. “I’ll pass it along.”
The extended family, which includes grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, is the focus of the social system in Cameroon. Members of the extended family are considered as close as the nuclear family is here in the United States.
“Each of us has a different last name,” Tchako said of his 14-year-old brother Joey, and younger sisters Elizabeth, 12, and Marina, 10. “That’s where our family came from. We honor them.”
Tchako laughed when recalling a friend’s attempt to memorize and recite his full name when they were in eighth grade.
“She worked on it all year,” he said. “She almost got it.”
Tchako has more than a unique name going for him. A superb student [2310 out of a possible 2400 on his SAT], Tchako tries to make sure his teammates get it, in terms of classroom work.
“I’ve taken a lot of advanced classes. If a guy needs help, I’ll help them out so they can succeed,” said Tchako, a member of Schenectady’s International Baccalaureate Program. “Guys won’t play if they’re not getting it done in school. We need those guys on the court.”
Tchako is not a basketball star. Hard work and perseverance is how Tchako got back on the court during his junior year.
“I didn’t make modified or JV. I tried out in seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grades,” he said.
“In ninth and 10th grade, he was one of the last cuts. He worked really hard to get back in the program,” Schenectady coach Eric Loudis said. “He kept fighting, and I’m happy to have him here.”
Though the combo guard/forward doesn’t start, he is a valuable piece of the Schenectady team which is 11-5 and a winner of three straight games.
“I know I’m not the best player, but I give 100 percent and hope the guys feed off that,” Tchako said. “Just because you’re not a starter doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a team.”
“He does play a pivotal role in practice by pushing guys, but that’s not all he does. When he’s in a game, there’s a reason,” Loudis said. “He knows what I’m expecting. Get rebounds, take a charge, find the open man, set a solid screen.
“I’m looking for that hard-nosed kid, and he’s willing to do that. Every time he gets out there, he’s always dripping sweat.”
Stardom will come elsewhere.
The Tchakos moved from Brooklyn to Schenectady when Stevie — who also plays lacrosse — was in third grade. His dad teaches mechanical engineering at Union College. Off the field, the son plays the upright string bass with the Empire State Youth Orchestra. With a goal to study pre-med, he has applied to Union, Colgate, Colorado, Penn, Michigan and Washington-St. Louis.
An impressive list. He won’t be a college basketball player, but there is a good chance Stevie Menkam Tchako-Tchokouassi Ngalieuk Pete Chanco Chabo Sontam Lengue Dieffi Pepé Woaussum will make a name for himself.