Modesto Christian junior Manasse Itete goes over positioning during a walkthrough at practice on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Modesto Christian High School. (Samantha Schmidt)

Modesto Christian basketball star finds new love: 'With football, I have a future'

Independent Contributor

Modesto Christian’s Manasse Itete is already a three-star offensive tackle and defensive end with five Division-I college offers from USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Oregon, Oregon State, and Vanderbilt.

Despite the 2022-23 season being Itete’s first in high school football, he has already secured his spot as one of the nation’s top recruits with his natural born talent and athleticism. At an athletic 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Itete is known by his coaches as a “dancing bear.”

The journey to this point, though, hasn’t been an easy one for him.

Manasse Itete was born on April 23, 2005, in Kinshasa, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In his hometown of Kinshasa, Itete’s life was very different compared to life now. His daily routine consisted of his academics and helping his father with work that was needed in order to support the family. Sports, a major focus of his life now, were viewed very differently growing up. In his mind, athletics were intended “for fun if I had nothing to do,” he said.

Modesto Christian junior Manasse Itete applies stickers to his helmet in celebration of his accomplishments from the Crusader's win over El Capitan. (Samantha Schmidt)

Although Itete is known to be a spectacular two-sport athlete in basketball and football, neither of these sports were his passion back home. For Itete, it was all about soccer.

“Since I was little, I played soccer. … I only played basketball for a little bit,” Itete said.

Itete only played seven months of basketball before coming to the United States with the intent of playing at the high school level with a scholarship. In November of 2019, he moved to Springfield, Mass., at the age of 14. This marked the start of his basketball career in America. Following his time in Massachusetts, Itete moved to Texas where his natural talent in the sport began to flourish.

His Texas coaches gave Itete the advice he needed in order to have a good starting ground in his high school basketball career. Manasse worked out and attained the body, mentality, and skills needed to be the best.

“In Texas, I was doing great because I was able to do things how they’re done out here (United States),” Itete said. “I worked out, got a lot of playing time, played many games, and I started to get really good.”

As his talent grew, surpassing even his own expectations, Itete took the opportunity to play basketball at Modesto Christian High School, located in California’s Central Valley. Modesto Christian is a top-10 basketball school in California, ranking ninth in the state during their 2021-22 season.

“He’s got some God-given ability that you can’t teach,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia said. “Being his size and moving as well as he does, there’s no coaching that got him there. He was blessed. On the basketball court, you can see the way he moves with that size.”

While Itete arrived at Modesto Christian a known commodity on the hardwood, he nor his coaches realized there would be an exciting revelation on the horizon.

Modesto Christian is a school that requires their athletes to play at least two sports. This left Itete with the pressing decision to choose another sport. The decision to play football as his second sport came at the influence of others and wasn’t something that he had any interest in.

“They said just play football, I didn’t want to before… I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not doing that’,” laughed Itete.

His start in football was not the smoothest nor the most desirable, with an ankle injury causing Itete to only play the last two games of the 21-22 season. In those two games, Itete said that he was still trying to get a feel for the game of football since American football is not popular back in his home country.

“Back home, we don’t even have football,” he said. “In my first game, I didn’t even know what I was doing, people were saying to me ‘You look crazy out there.’ ”

With no knowledge of the game, both coaches and teammates were instrumental in helping him grow in his understanding of the game itself and all the intricate details that any star player must know.

Taking in all the knowledge learned from his sophomore season on varsity, Itete has grown into an even more powerful football player with the summer conditioning. His talent has drawn much attention from acclaimed Division I colleges, including the University of Oregon. The Ducks declared their interest in Itete on Sept. 7.

Fantazia isn’t surprised. International students have long used Modesto Christian as a launching pad. Although, Itete’s future may be on the football field, the Crusaders’ boys basketball coach is happy another student has created a pathway through college for themselves.

“There’s a reason why a lot of international kids come to MC,” Fantazia said. “They see the track record over 25 years – the international kids who have gone onto success. I know how it is in different countries. They don’t’ have so great to see them accomplish great things.”

For Itete, the decision to leave basketball behind and pursue football in college is an easy one.

“I can love basketball, but at the end of the day it gives me nothing,” he said. “With football, I have a future.”

Although colleges showed interest in Itete for his basketball talent, football has given him the guarantee of full-ride scholarships to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities. Since he was young, Itete valued the importance of his education. His education was a driving force in his decision to even attend Modesto Christian.

“Over here, this school (Modesto Christian) really cares about me. They do everything they can to help me be more successful, to have good grades. Without good grades you’re nothing,” Itete said.

The journey for Itete is far from over, but the journey up until this point has been one not without its difficulties. He has had to sacrifice much to be in this position.  When asked what keeps him going, Itete shared a heartfelt motto learned from his father that he holds close through every accomplishment and hardship.

“Life is never fair; life is never easy. It is never going to be easy, (so) be ready for everything,” he said. “Stay strong, have a good mentality, and everything will be OK.”

Lauren Davis is a junior at Sierra High School. She is a first year intern Davis loves watching and reporting on sports, with baseball being her main love. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism.