Joe Bamisile has been called an elite scorer. He’s a four-star basketball recruit and a self-proclaimed “psychopath” on the court.
The incoming Virginia Tech freshman averaged 28.7 points as a junior at Monacan High School and is considered one of the best high school shooting guards in the country, despite missing his senior year recovering from knee surgery.
“He’s a tremendous worker,” said RJ Spelsberg, Bamisile’s coach at Monacan. “It’s hard to kick him out of the gym. He’s just an elite scorer. He can put the ball in the basket.”
But when Bamisile does get home from the gym every night, he leaves his “basketball persona” at the door. The person he is off the court may surprise those who have only seen him with a ball in his hands.
Bamisile keeps three daily journals — one to summarize his day, another for poetry and a third for quotes. He also meditates between 50 minutes and an hour and a half every day.
Then there is his passion for music. Late last year, Bamisile started posting music online under the name Phouelisi. Today, he has about 50,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Bamisile has been interested in music since he was 4, when his mom got him a guitar. He also learned to play the piano but put both instruments down a few years later when basketball became a priority.
He started producing beats at age 12, teaching himself to use the equipment through a series of YouTube videos.
Basketball has always been the priority — putting music on the back burner — but this fall, Bamisile was faced with some unexpected free time. He was told he would have to have surgery to repair a cartilage injury in his knee.
The surgery could have been postponed, but he decided it was more important to be fully healed in time for his freshman season at Virginia Tech even if it meant missing his senior season.
After the surgery, Bamisile was stuck in bed for weeks, giving him plenty of time to focus on his music. In total, he’s made more than 30 songs.
Bamisile always starts with a beat when he’s making a new song. He wants to make sure the melody conveys emotion on its own.
“You ever listen to Mozart or classical music?” Bamisile said. “For its time, it was really good, and I think it’s because composers like that mastered how to tell a story or evoke a feeling without words. Over time, that’s been lost, so I try to start with that and then add words because nowadays, everyone has ADHD and needs words.”
In December, Bamisile’s mom told him he had to post some of his songs online.
So he did, under the name Phouelisi. The first three letters come from his first name, Joseph. The last five come from his last name, Bamisile. The “u” in the middle is meant to represent the listener, a sign of appreciation for those who listen to his work.
The stage name serves two purposes. First, he doesn’t want people to listen to his music solely because of the name he’s established in athletics. He hopes to grow an audience that connects with his music — people who may not know he plays basketball.
Bamisile also likes the stage name because he sees his music as another side of himself. He sometimes feels as if he’s three different people wrapped into one.
When he’s on the court, he’s Joe, the tireless worker and scoring machine.
At home, he’s Joseph, the thoughtful 18-year-old who likes to write poetry and hang out with his friends.
Sitting at his computer making music, he’s Phouelisi, the musical artist inspired by alternative and Japanese music.
“Right now, this is Joseph you’re talking to,” he said.
Bamisile attributes these three identities to the meditation.
It’s taught him how to “flip a switch,” allowing him to bring the aggression when he’s on the court without bringing it into his day-to-day life.
“When I’m on the court, I’m a terrible person,” Bamisile said. “I would hope no one who encounters me on the court would assume that’s how I actually am as a person. When it comes to basketball, I don’t even see myself in that person sometimes.”
Music and meditation serve as stress relievers for Bamisile. He says mental health is an important topic in his family.
As he talks about Mozart and mindfulness, it’s easy to forget Bamisile is only 18.
“I get that a lot,” he chuckles. “I feel 12, though.”
He believes his meditation and his music have enhanced his basketball career. Music has taught him how to find rhythm in everything, whether that’s a daily schedule or the movements of basketball.
“He’s mentally in tune with life and himself,” Spelsberg said. “He’s very committed to succeeding in life — on and off the court.”
Basketball is Bamisile’s primary focus, but he hopes to be able to leverage his position as a college athlete to launch his music career. His goal is to make it to the NBA, but he knows basketball won’t last forever. Whenever that day comes, Bamisile wants to make a name in the music industry.
Why just stop at one dream when you can have two?
“I don’t want to stay stuck a basketball player until I’m like 40,” Bamisile said. “That’s boring.”