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High school basketball star chooses Yale over some of the biggest programs in the US to honor his late father

Samson Aletan's father was a college professor who instilled a love of education in his children.

DALLAS — Samson Aletan is one of the best basketball players in Texas. 

A 6-foot-10-inch force in the middle for the Lake Highlands Wildcats -- the No. 1 team in Texas, and the favorite to win a state title in 6A.

And he's a great kid, too.

"I'll tell other kids," said Lake Highlands principal Kerri Jones, "he is someone you want to aspire to be. He's proven that you can do the cool things like play basketball and hang with the popular people, and then you can be smart at the same time."

Aletan could play college basketball at some of the biggest programs in America.

"I was offered to play at schools like Texas, TCU, Texas A&M, Houston," Aletan said. Offers from more than a dozen programs from all over the country.

Instead, Samson said, "I'm going to Yale next year."

Texas and Houston are top 10 teams in the country right now. TCU and Texas A&M are both NCAA tournament bound. Programs like these would afford Aletan the opportunity to play in huge games through his collegiate career, possibly even play in the Final Four. 

But for those who know Aletan and his family the best, this decision didn't come as a surprise. 

"My kids learned that education is very important," Patience Aletan, Samson's mother, said, "right from childhood."

"It kinda started with my dad, when he went off to college," Samson explained. "He ended up making all A's except for in one class that he ended up making a C in, which was computer science. He decided that was what he wanted to major in, even though it was his worst class."

Samson's father, Samuel Aletan, would go on to become a professor at multiple colleges. He taught computer science.

"So my kids always know, you don't withdraw," Patience said. "You don't back down from a challenge."

"I was very close with him," Samson said. "Sports was always a huge thing we really cared about."

When Samson was in eighth grade, his father passed away.

"They said he had a massive heart attack," Patience said. "So, they tried to bring him back but... God knows the best."

"I just remember worrying," Jones said. "Is he going to be okay, is he gonna make it, is he gonna change? And one thing that stuck out, was he was just Samson. He was like a rock."

"It was kinda a little bit hard for me to enjoy life with him gone," Samson said. "And then I continued to push hard in basketball, and I realized the joy I had in that."

From there, basketball became Samson's outlet.

"His basketball career picked up right after that," Patience said. "He now looked at basketball as the second option. Dad was first. Basketball was second."

Four years of high school basketball later, Samson is a star. A top 20 player in the state of Texas in the senior class -- and a dominant player.

"The phone just blew up," Lake Highlands head coach Joe Duffield said. "Every college wanted him."

Samson Aletan earned himself a free ride to college. A huge help to his mother, who works two jobs to support Samson and his three siblings.

"She's probably the hardest worker I know. I love her so much," he said.

"Samson, you cannot find his clothes in the store," Patience said with a laugh. "You have to buy them online... and it's not cheap!"

"She's done so much for us," Samson said, "and it's really hard not to just thank her for everything she's done."

The young man who could've gone to some of the biggest programs in the country, instead, chose Yale, honoring his father's commitment to education.

"Just knowing that he's always going to be by my side, even though he's not physically there," Samson said. "I can feel him spiritually.  So, I'm always going to be thinking about him, no matter what I do. When I go through hardships, feel like quitting, I'm just going to think of him, and continue to push even harder to achieve goals that I never thought were achievable."

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