Joel Embiid, Tacko Fall, NBA Luminaries Support Basketball Without Borders in Senegal
The NBA finished an eventful month of July on a high note by bringing the 17th edition of its Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Africa camp to Senegal. From July 28-31, the league hosted clinics and activities for 60 teenage boys and girls from 29 different African countries at the NBA Academy Africa in Saly and at Dakar Arena in the country’s capital.
The activations involved participation from a long list of hoops luminaries—from Hall of Famers (Dikembe Mutombo) and champions (Chris Bosh) to All-Stars (Joel Embiid and Luol Deng), young ambassadors (Malcolm Brogdon), long-time veterans (Luc Mbah a Moute) and Senegalese standouts (Gorgui Dieng, Tacko Fall, Makhtar Ndiaye and Boniface Ndong).
“It's a great opportunity to come here and meet NBA coaches and players, even for me, because it's just the beginning,” said Tacko, who made his first trip home since leaving to pursue his education in the United States seven years ago.
The itinerary for the annual camp put on by the NBA and FIBA included a SEED Project-supported Jr. NBA basketball clinic for 100 local kids on two newly renovated courts in the Guediawaye suburb of Dakar; a visit to the S.O.S. Children’s Village to the west of Dakar; practices for the Jr. NBA’s Africa teams in Thies; league games for the four boys and two girls teams at Dakar Arena; and announcements about the format and host cities for next year’s inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) at the Museum of Black Civilizations in downtown Dakar.
Alongside BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall, FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis, special advisor to the president of Senegal Ndongo Ndiaye and a slew of NBA and WNBA players, NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed that Dakar would join Cairo, Egypt; Lagos, Nigeria; Luanda, Angola; Rabat, Morocco and either Monastir or Tunis, Tunisia, as host cities for the regular season, with Kigali, Rwanda, serving as the site for the BAL Final Four and BAL Final.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver (center) and Minnesota Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng (second from right)) were among the pillars of pro basketball to participate in this year's Basketball Without Borders camp in Senegal. (NBAE/Getty Images)
The core of the programming, though, was the camp itself, which afforded dozens of talented young players from across the continent an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of NBA personnel, and spend time with established pros who came up through the same pipeline.
“Work pays. Everything is possible. I was in [the campers'] position in 2011,” Joel said. “And it's thanks to Basketball Without Borders that I'm where I am today.”
So far, 28 BWB alumni have played in the NBA, including Cameroon native Pascal Siakam, the league’s reigning Most Improved Player who helped the Toronto Raptors win their first championship this past June.
“I wanted to be the first player from Cameroon to win an NBA title, but I am very happy for Pascal Siakam,” Joel said. “Before every game, I would send him a message. It's huge what he did.”
BWB will continue its world tour next month with its 11th Asia camp in Tokyo, Japan, from August 14-17.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.