Djery Baptiste plays basketball in the home of country music as a center for Vanderbilt, but his love of the genre goes back several years to when he first arrived in the United States from Haiti as a 15-year-old hoping to pick up English as quickly as possible.
Baptiste told The Tennessean how the music, especially the works of George Strait, helped him pick up the new language as he attended boarding school in Massachusetts.
“I was in America and didn’t know how to say anything in the language, but I thought I could learn it through music,” Baptiste said. “Country music was the best for me, and George Strait is my favorite. So I learned how to speak English by listening to him tell stories in his songs.”
Despite his love of the music that made Nashville into “Music City,” Baptiste was not aware of the city’s connection to country music until he arrived for freshman orientation over the summer. The visit included a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where he surprised his teammates and coach Kevin Stallings with his lyrical knowledge.
“I didn’t know it, but he looks like every other guy I see on Music Row or Broadway,” joked Stallings. “I guess Djery sort of has that urban cowboy look.”
The freshman Baptiste can be seen humming All my exes live in Texas as the Commodores begin their season with a home game against Austin Peay on Friday night.
– Brendan Maloy