There have been eight players out of Senegal that have made it to the NBA, the most notable of which is Bobcats center DeSagana Diop.
But the path out of there is hard — they learn the game on a dirt court at the SEEDS academy. If they catch a coach’s eye and can get the paperwork handled, they can get into a prep academy in the United States, where they have to adjust to a new radically new culture, a new school setting literally an ocean away from their families. All while trying to keep their eye on the basketball prize.
The new documentary Elevate — which opened in New York and Los Angeles this week — shows the challenges four players at the SEEDS academy faced. Anne Buford, sister of Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, directed the movie (funded in part by ESPN films).
Below is the trailer for the film, which looks promising. There is a review up at SLAM. Check it out, keep an eye out at your local art theater and Netflix. This one may be worth watching.
Video: NBA stars head to Africa for Basketball without Borders
Growing basketball — and in the NBA’s eyes it’s brand of basketball — in Africa is rife with challenges.
But for a decade now the NBA has been trying through its Basketball Without Borders program. Trying to find something through sport that can help unite people all over the continent that has been ravaged by draught and war. Trying to spread a love of the game.
Recently a trio of former Georgetown stars — Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Morning — went to Africa to promote the game. Below is some video of their trip. Enjoy.
But they pale in comparison to what the combination of draught and war has brought upon people in parts of Africa.
Dikembe Mutombo — who has worked hard for people in his native Congo — is now calling for help for the people of Somalia. There a terrible drought — the worst in 60 years — is driving people to refugee camps, and they do not have the resources to meet all the needs.
…Mutombo expressed the need for people to not only donate to the cause, but to spread the word and raise awareness regarding a situation that isn’t going away. The Guardian recently reported that about 1,400 Somalis arrive in (the camp at) Dadaab every day.
“How many more children have to die,” Mutombo asked, “before we react?”
This is a place where just $10 or $20 goes a long, long way. If you wish to make a donation, you can do so through futurefortified.org
Despite fact that players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, Luol Deng, and Serge Ibaka have all come to the NBA by way of Africa, the sport hasn’t really caught on over there. According to a recent New York Times article, Amadou Gallo Fall, vice president of NBA development in Africa, is doing his best to get young kids playing basketball while Africa is in the throes of World Cup fever.
Fall and the NBA both wanted to open up their offices while World Cup hysteria is at its highest and the sports world has its eyes on Africa, but that doesn’t mean the task in front of them any easier:
Fall may have the toughest sports job in Africa. He certainly faces one of the most daunting challenges: planting the N.B.A. flag here and using the league’s enormous global brand to develop basketball on a continent where the game of choice is soccer.
“There’s no question that we’ve got some work to do to get the game where it is really accessible,” he said. “That’s our main mission, not just in South Africa but throughout the continent. The good news is that we’ve been coming here for quite some time. We’re not starting from scratch. We have something to build on. It isn’t completely uncharted waters.”
According to the article, the challenge is not creating interest in basketball, but providing the resources — indoor courts, coaches, clinics — necessary to cultivate that interest.
The NBA has made efforts to develop the game in Africa before, developing the Premier Basketball League in 1993 (it disbanded in 1996), and making regular visits to Africa as part of the Basketball Without Borders program in recent years. The hope is that a more permanent presence will allow the interest in basketball that exists in Africa to turn into more kids getting scholarships, playing in leagues, and eventually making it to the pros.
Professional basketball has obviously been tremendously successful in Europe, and the passion for the NBA game in China is incredible. If the game can catch on in Africa, it will be one more example of the amazing work David Stern has done to make the game global.