NEW BEDFORD — If overcoming adversity is the name of the game, Clayton Timas has made some three-point shots.
From surviving a loss and shouldering family responsibilities, to pursuing his education and coaching youth basketball, Timas, at just 28 years old, has not only made a good life for himself, but also become a role model for others, according to people who know him well.
His alma mater agrees.
On Monday, Bristol Community College will name Timas the 2018 Distinguished African American Alumnus of the Year. He will receive the award during BCC’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at the Fall River campus.
Robert Delaleu, his basketball coach at BCC, met Timas when he was a college freshman, newly coping with the death of his father, which happened just before he graduated from New Bedford High School.
“For him just to be where he’s at, it’s beyond imaginable, because so many people would’ve given up,” said Delaleu, who is the college’s head coach of men’s basketball and director of the Multicultural Student Center.
Timas said the loss of his father left him without a parent in the country. His mother lived in Cape Verde at the time, though she has since come to the United States.
Timas himself emigrated from Cape Verde at about 12 years old. He spoke no English except the numbers 1 through 10, he said. But by the time he was a junior in high school, he no longer needed help with English, and as a senior, he helped other students who were still learning.
“Everybody here’s resilient,” he said. “I think New Bedford has a lot to offer.”
As graduation approached, he didn’t know if he would go to college, but family and friends encouraged him to try out for the basketball team at BCC. He had played at New Bedford High, but only briefly.
He made the team at BCC, which brought a new challenge: balancing sports with academics and working to support himself and his younger brother. The team’s schedule was full of practices, games, travel, and mandatory study periods to make sure players stayed current with their academics.
When Timas had a difficult day, he never let his teammates see it, Delaleu said.
“It wasn’t easy for him,” he said. “He was just a fighter. He would show up every day and work hard.”
To add to his responsibilities, during his first basketball season, Timas had a baby girl with his girlfriend, who would later become his wife.
Timas was working at the New Bedford YMCA when he met Savvas Dimitriadis, owner of Sassaquin House of Pizza. Dimitriadis played basketball at the Y, and they had the sport in common.
Dimitriadis said he noticed that Timas spoke well and read during his breaks. He offered Timas a part-time job delivering pizza. They became good friends, and today Dimitriadis describes him as more of a brother than an employee.
"I'm proud of him," he said.
Timas kept plugging along. The people around him encouraged him to continue his education beyond BCC, and before he graduated, he transferred to Worcester State University in 2010. He majored in business administration and has only a few credits left to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Today, he works as assistant manager of the Citizens Bank branch on Tarkiln Hill Road in New Bedford.
Asked about the work, he said, “I take a lot of pride. It took me a lot of hard work to get there, and I enjoy helping people.”
In turn, his bosses help him, and they challenge him, he said.
Along the way, he had a second daughter in 2014, and married his girlfriend — the mother of both daughters — about 18 months ago. Their daughters are 9 and 3.
“He’s a great family man,” his former coach said. “You just know from him that he’s a very genuine individual, and he’s going to do great things. … That’s just very organic for him.”
Timas hasn’t left basketball, either. He played on the Cape Verde national team in 2012, but ruptured both Achilles tendons in the same year. He still plays in a Cape Verdean men’s league in Massachusetts, the Associaçáo Cabo Verdiana de Basquetebol.
He also coaches high-schoolers in AAU basketball and has been working with the same players since they were in eighth grade, he said. And he talks to classes at New Bedford High School about financial literacy.
“He’s just a positive role model for young kids,” Dimitriadis said.
As he looks to the future, Timas said he wants to stay in banking, manage a branch of his own, and move up the ladder.
He feels humbled and honored to receive the BCC award, he said.
“It’s not something I was expecting,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of other people are deserving.”
Ask people who know him, and they're sure he is deserving, too.
Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.