By Jen Malti
Assistant Sports Editor
Sal Xheraj is humbled to be part of the FDU men’s basketball team.
As the team’s mascot in his freshman year, the junior guard has now made the leap from the stands to the court, when he checked into the lineup on Dec. 19, 2020, as the Knights faced Drexel, losing 85- 68.
“When I jumped in the game, I was, like, wow I really made it, this is really happening! It was a tremendous moment,” Xheraj said via a Snapchat message.
The 6-footer began his basketball career at Hasbrouck Heights (N.J.) High School and chose Fairleigh Dickinson to pursue his passion for business.
When he began college, Xheraj was given an opportunity to become the FDU’s mascot. He received a small scholarship, saying in a Zoom interview, “you know a small scholarship to me is very beneficial and I mean, like, it saves you money, regardless, no matter the size or the quantity.”
His love for basketball started at a very young age, and he felt inspired by some of the greats of basketball.
“The first player I ever really watched was LeBron James, especially when he was with the Cleveland Cavs,” Xheraj said.
When looking back on his journey, Xheraj never forgets how it started.
“I felt like [being a mascot] was so beneficial … because I got to make so many connections through that position and got to complete a bucket-list moment [being a part of FDU’s play in the 2019 NCAA March Madness], which led to being moved up to being a team manager,” Xheraj said.
When Coach Greg Herenda reached out to Xheraj in the fall, he didn’t know about the opportunity he was about to receive: to be a walk-on player for FDU.
“I mean they could’ve just asked anybody from the university to try out,” Xheraj said.
Coach Herenda said via email about Xheraj, “Sal has been a great ambassador for our university and the athletic department from day one here. Sal had been in our circle as a manager and it was a perfect fit for him to transition to become a member of our team. I think he literally bleeds Burgundy and Blue.”
Xheraj said, “Making the team was a dream come true.”
The Knights were supposed to get back in action on Jan. 7 vs. Wagner at the Rothman Center but, due to COVID-19, that game, and the next two games, have been postponed with no makeup dates set.
So, Xheraj’s next goal is to score in a college basketball game, when the Knights can get back to work. While that date is unclear, there can be no doubt that this guard who went from mascot to Division 1 player will get to score that goal, too.
Watch the full interview with Xheraj.