Here’s a story that you probably haven’t heard about Chicago Bulls center Cristiano Felicio.
During his senior year of high school, Felicio attended CSSE Prep School in Sacramento, Calif. after playing in a Brazilian professional league the previous three years.
The founder of the school, Francis Amiteye Ngissah, was a lunatic who physically and emotionally abused his basketball players during the brief existence of his school (July 2012 until January 2013) before a judge sentenced him to ten years in prison in December of 2014 on 19 charges ranging from causing corporal injury to a child to false imprisonment, child abuse, battery, and molestation.
Ngissah reportedly forced some of the players to stand in the corner for long periods of time while their hands were zip-tied behind their backs and clothespins were placed on their nipples as punishment, according to the Roseville & Granite Bay Press Tribune.
Murry said he recalled Ngissah threatening the international players by saying he would do something to their passports or visas.
Gordon said she learned that Ngissah stole the passports of the four remaining players and allowed one of their visas to expire. She said Ngissah lied to one player by saying if he went to the police he would be arrested for breaking the law and told another that if he talked he wouldn’t renew his passport. She said one boy had bruises from a recent altercation. Gordon said the players told her that Ngissah brandished a handgun that instilled fear in them.
-Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated
Because he was the most physically imposing and best player at the prep school, Felicio didn’t endure the physical abuse that many of his teammate suffered through (Ngissah’s abuse of Felicio was more mental and emotional abuse). In fact, teammates would sleep on the floor in Felicio’s room because they knew Ngissah wouldn’t bother them with Big Cris around.
One more tidbit from the article, Felicio committed to play basketball at the University of Oregon in December 2012. However, because he had previously played professionally in Brazil, the NCAA deemed him ineligible. Felicio returned to Brazil to play professionally for a couple more seasons before entering the 2015 NBA draft, going undrafted, but then latching onto the Bulls Summer League roster that same summer.
Adversity crisscrossed Felicio’s path to the NBA, and this story only solidifies the remarkability of his path to the Chicago Bulls. It’s a long article, but definitely worth a read or at least a skim if you have time.