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Summer break sees NBA stars in Africa; young players Rise, down south

SILALEI SHANI

IT’S the northern summertime break, which means that some of the world’s biggest names in basketball follow a growing tradition and head “home” to Africa.

Currently, that means the likes of Wenyen Gabriel (South Sudan), Precious Achiuwa (Nigeria) and even American NBA stars like the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler – who went to Guinea Bissau – and the Indiana Pacers Myles Turner – experiencing his first trip to Africa (Tanzania) – have begun crisscrossing the continent.

Often these big names get busy with foundational and basketball development work during these travels. The WNBA’s Chicago Sky Center, Astou Ndour, for example – currently sitting out this year’s WNBA season – and her foundation, AN45, launched the first edition of what will be a basketball camp, from July 28-30 at the Bopp Center in Dakar. The Spanish international of Senegalese origins brought together 50 young basketball players in an atmosphere of fun and joy to share basic basketball skills while reminding young players of the importance of excelling in school.

Ndour, who recently signed with Italian club Beretta Familia Schio, was happy with the success of the camp and shared that it is only one of many projects she would like to be involved in.

“The first Astou Ndour Basketball camp has (come) to an end. We have learned, we have had fun, met interesting people and remembered that studying is as important as playing sports. An incredible experience!” she wrote on her Facebook page, finishing with a “Thank you all!”

Continuing with the development theme, the NBA celebrated Africa Day in Cape Town at the ‘Rise Global Winners’ Residential Summit 2022.

The July 30 event saw NBA Africa and Rise Global Winners partner to provide a sports development workshop and basketball activities during the Rise annual Residential Summit.

The event at the University of Cape Town provided an opportunity for the inaugural 100 Global Winners, chosen from tens of thousands of applicants from around the world, to focus on the leadership journey, peace-building through sport, basketball for good and gender and inclusion through sport.

The 100 participants of the Rise Global Winners’ Residential Summit 2022 include talented boys and girls from 42 countries, including South Africa, currently in Cape Town to participate in leadership development programs, life skills seminars and skill-building workshops, which conclude on August 9.

Nigerian winner, Audrey Ekpenyong Eyo particularly stood out after launching an app for children struggling with obesity. At just 17, her app “Fit as a Fiddle” provides easy-to-follow exercises for children to follow.

The day concluded with an interactive panel discussion which included Basketball Africa League team AS Sale’s Head Coach, Liz Mills (Australia) a trailblazer on the continent who is proactively changing the status quo for women in African basketball.

“I was inspired and in awe of these young adults who are striving to tackle global issues such as climate change, gender equality, technology and poverty. They truly are our next leaders,” Mills posted.

“I am grateful for the NBA Africa team in allowing me to be part of this amazing day and hope in some small way my journey has inspired the scholarship holders as they journey into their futures.”

Mills is the only woman to coach a BAL team and the only woman to coach a Moroccan men’s sports team. She also led Kenya’s national team out of a 28-year dry spell to qualify for the 2021 Afrobasket.

In basketball action, the 3×3 Kenya Lioness and Kenya Morans Commonwealth Games dream came to an end following a hard-fought contest against hosts, England, in the quarter-finals. The Lionesses lost their opener to Australia( 15-21) but went on to win against Sri Lanka (21-8) before falling to Scotland (17-21), despite leading for the better part of the game They then lost to England 12-21 in the quarter-finals.

Team captain, Melissa Akinyi, continues to remain positive about the future, however.

“It has definitely been a privilege and an honour to be the only African team in 3×3. (The) Commonwealth Games is a big deal, so representing Kenya and Africa has been great. I’m proud of my team and our performance,” she shared on social media.

Akinyi was joined by the experienced, Hilda Indasi, Victoria Reynolds, and Medina Akot.

The Morans started their 3×3 campaign well, defeating Sri Lanka (21-18) but went down to Canada (12-
15) and then narrowly losing to Scotland (14-15) in their final pool match. The men’s team which has Faheem Juma, Larry Shavanga, John Odhiambo and Darril Omondi also remained positive about their first 3×3 on experience and performance against top teams.

“The boys stood up to the occasion, only that we missed a few shots and we missed the last possession from the rebound that could have enabled us to tie or win the game. We took Scotland by surprise and they had to hit a three-point that brought that difference,” the head coach, Zadock Adika said.
The Morans were unable to get past a strong Australian side in the quarters, going down 15-20.

/bird story agency