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Daughter of Vietnamese refugees shines on the basketball court and gives back at home and abroad

Basketball star and daughter of Vietnamese refugees says she takes nothing for granted
Basketball star and daughter of Vietnamese refugees says she takes nothing for granted 04:23

DEDHAM - A high school basketball star who grew up in Dorchester is now shining on the court and lending a hand to others.

Christina Pham learned her basketball skills on the streets of Dorchester at Fields Corner, playing with fierce competition and growing up with a single mom in public housing. Now a point guard at Nobles and Greenough Prep School in Dedham, this high school junior did not get there the easy way.

Daughter of Vietnamese refugees

"I think it's very humbling and I don't think a lot of people, especially where I go to school, kind of understand what it means to come from the city," said Pham. "I live in the projects but I kind of grew up around Dorchester playing basketball."

"We hear a lot of negativity around the neighborhood that we grew up in," said Vinh Bui, Pham's uncle. "But the reality is there's a lot of greatness that comes out of there, a lot of positive stuff. And for her, I think the community has really shaped her. And she sees it every day, how they rally behind her and she knows they don't have the opportunity that she has. And she captures that."

Pham's mom, Trish Pham, and her uncle are Vietnamese refugees and they know firsthand the challenges our local immigrants face. And although born in the United States, Pham can relate.

"As an immigrant who may not speak English and comes to America, hoping for a better chance, I think is a great way to put it, they're not any less deserving as anyone else," said Pham.

Giving back at home and abroad

Pham takes nothing for granted and enjoys giving back, paying it forward by teaching younger girls all the skills she learned from those who helped to raise her on the courts.

"I never thought that I would want to be a coach. Like, kind of never really in my mind. But being around these kids and actually helping them and kind of being almost a mentor, a big sister to them, has been really fun," said Pham.

Last year, Pham traveled to Africa through Shooting Touch, an Amerature Athletic Union basketball program based in Boston and Rwanda that uses the sport to improve health and opportunity gaps for youth and women facing inequalities.

"Living in the city, I kind of feel like I have to be grateful," said Pham. "But then going to Rwanda and really seeing what it's like to have nothing and then still seeing people have joy while playing basketball, I think it was very eye-opening."

"He's done everything for me"

Much of Pham's success can be attributed to her uncle, who serves as her coach not just on the court but in life.

"I think in a lot of ways, he's my best friend. Someone who's always been there for me, I think it's easy to say yes, he's my coach, he's my trainer, but he's my father figure," said Pham. "My mom's a single mom and so he's done everything for me."

"I would say it's definitely a father-daughter type relationship," said Bui. "From a very young age, I was able to instill that mindset in her. That these things don't happen for everybody and while you may not start off on a level playing field with everybody else, it's not an excuse to not get where they're going."

Bui's guidance, along with Pham's work ethic and Dorchester upbringing are the ingredients that make her overall game strong and has earned her more than a dozen division offers from elite institutions that include Yale, Harvard and St. John's.

Pham recently showed off her talent at the third annual Medina Dixon All-Star Game in Boston, a tournament that features some of the best local girls in high school basketball.

"I want to play high division basketball and I want to be a star point guard in the future," said Pham. "After all that, I want to play professionally and then stay in the game somehow."

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