The National Basketball Association (NBA) currently boasts about 30 players from Africa but that is not good enough considering the talent on the continent.
This is according to current and former NBA stars Thabo Sefolosha from South Africa and Dikembe Mutombo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who are in the country for the Basketball Without Borders Africa (BWBA) camp, an initiative that offers training and life skills to aspiring players from 25 African nations.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Sefolosha, and retired Houston Rockets centre Mutombo are just part of a large African contingent that include:
» Luol Deng, South Sudan (Chicago Bulls)
» Serge Ibaka, Congo-Brazzaville (City Thunder)
» Bismack Biyombo, Congo-Brazzaville (Charlotte Bobcats)
» Joakim Noah, Cameroon (Chicago Bulls)
» Hasheem Thabeet, Tanzania (City Thunder)
They will be accompanied by Dominican Al Horford of Atlanta Hawks and Australian Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
All these players are from Africa and are currently active in the NBA.
Sefolosha, a Swiss-born player with South African roots, said: “We still have a long way to build the game from the ground up in Africa.”
He pointed at the basketball school programme that he initiated in Mamelodi, Pretoria, where his father hails from.
“The after-school programme in Mamelodi
started two years ago. It was thanks to the people in the US who made it possible,” he said.
“My team, Oklahoma City, were very generous in helping in that course. We have 150 kids coming there every day after school where we provide them with a safe place and have coaches who teach them about sport and life skills. We are trying to grow that programme.”
BWBA global ambassador Mutombo believes that “there is still a lot to do to unearth more talent from Africa and utilising programmes like BWBA means we are on the right track”.
He cited the ongoing African Basketball Championships in Ivory Coast as an example of how the BWBA has contributed to the professional game.
“There are 11 players currently in Abidjan who came from BWBA. The NBA has 30 players from Africa and this brought joy and happiness to me that I’m doing something to the continent and change lives,” said Mutombo.
“The African talent (in the NBA) is still not enough. There are plenty of aspiring kids in the continent that still need to be discovered and it is only up to the people to find the ways to nurture that talent.”
This is the 11th season of BWBA and the camp in South Africa will run until Sunday.
South Africa has four youngsters in the four-day camp.
– City Press
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