USC's Gert Lisha Wears His Albanian Heritage On His Sleeve|
Sept. 2, 2015
LOS ANGELES - USC's newest men's volleyball player, Gert Lisha, possesses a strong Albanian heritage, which is reflected in a special tattoo he got last December.
The redshirt sophomore setter transferred to USC this fall after two seasons at Lewis, which reached the 2015 NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship match in May.
Helping pave the way for Lisha's transition to USC was close family friend Donald Suxho, a native of Albania who was the 2000 College Player of the Year at USC and then was a 2-time U.S. Olympian (2004, 2012).
"He (Suxho) is considered a prized possession of Albania because he is an athlete so connected with Albanian culture," Lisha said. "Now, we have a similar path as we both played on the Albanian National Team when we were 17 and then came to USC."
Lisha was born in the U.S. but has dual citizenship in Albania. His parents, Besnik and Valbona, were professional volleyball players in that country before coming to America.
Lisha's pride in his heritage stems from his grandfather, Albanian author Mentor Quku. Not only has Lisha spent every summer in Albania since he was five, but he lived there with his grandfather during his freshman year of high school before returning to the U.S. to attend Naperville (Ill.) High.
When his grandfather fell ill with cancer, Lisha decided that he wanted to get a tattoo to honor him.
Quku asked his grandson to get a tattoo in memory of Quku's writings about Albanian priest Ndre Mjeda. He asked Lisha to get the letters "OMSMP" tattooed on the inside of his right forearm. Those letters stand for the Latin phrase, "Omnia Mea Simul Mecum Porto" (All That Is Mine I Carry With Me), which Lisha interprets as "My Wisdom Is My Greatest Wealth" based on how the phrase was passed on to him by his grandfather.
Now, whenever Lisha extends his arms skyward to set a ball, he is reminded of his late grandfather and his Albanian heritage.