_Poor Man's Commish (aka "dreambLogue")
Letter from Mozambique: Hoop Dreams and Real Life
|3/19/2007 back to dreamblogue|
|[Editor’s Note: In September 2006, dreamleaguer Marshall Cho moved out to Africa, shortly after tying the knot. In the first of what hopefully will be a semi-regular feature here on the Dream League website, Cho shares the adventures he’s had in basketball, relationships, and life in general. Be careful, there’s some knowledge headed your way.]|
March 16, 2007
What's up Dream League!
Let me start back with last September when we [Marshall and his wife] came out this way after getting married in August. Before coming out, I had contacted the folks at the NBA about volunteering for the Basketball Without Borders camp. I was fortunate to have a FIBA contact who referred me to the right person at the NBA and ended up working as a "junior" coach alongside Dikembe Mutombo and Manute Bol. The camp consisted of the top 100 prospects in Africa who were invited to participate in the week-long camp. The campers were then divided into 10 teams and each team consisted of 2 NBA players, a coach/scout from an NBA team, and a junior coach, such as myself. Usually the junior coaches were local coaches from Africa so I was fortunate to be assigned. My team was designated as the Rockets and we ended up going 4-0 in the prelims before losing to a Terry Stotts-coached Bucks team in the final game after blowing an 11-point lead in the 4th quarter.
During the off-hours I got to bond with a lot of the campers, which as a former teacher and coach was my favorite part of the camp, even more than getting to rub shoulders with legends such as Alex English and Maurice Lucas. Some of the stories they shared about learning basketball and ending up at the camp was humbling considering how easy it is for us in the States to have such easy access to courts and balls.
This kid on the Rockets team I worked with, Harry (first player squatting on the left) hails from Nigeria and was the MVP of the entire camp. Standing at about 6', the kid has a solid all-around game and can just jump out of the gym! I've been keeping in touch with him and he's most recently had a stint with a club team in France. We also have another kid who I recently heard from, Assane from Senegal, who made his way over to South Kent prep school. A lefty standing at 6'11" with a wingspan that probably covers out past 7'6", has a silky smooth jump shot and plays solid help-side defense. You'll definitely be seeing this kid in the NCAA's.
Don’t try to climb Mount Mutombo!
As for coaching, I got to be involved in some great exercises, such as the rebounding/shot blocking station I worked at with Dikembe and a couple of other coaches. The players rotated around to other stations as well but as a junior coach i was assigned to stay with a particular station. I still think it's hilarious that out of all the stations, I ended up being assigned to a station with two of the greatest shot-blockers of all time, Dikembe and Manute.
But who’s smile is bigger?
At the camp, I also got to work with some Senegalese junior national team players. Great bunch of kids and they have the benefit of being under the leadership of Amadou Fall, who was one of the camp directors and also works for the Dallas Mavericks. Just in the way they carried themselves with confidence and poise, you could see why they have one of the strongest basketball programs in Africa.
One view of Xia Xia
As far as our personal life, we've been living in Xai Xai, located 3 hours north of the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo. The community here was devastated by a flood back in 2000 that completely submerged the downtown areas and resulted in many deaths and displacements. I'm at the moment trying to do a little bit of fundraising so that we can rehabilitate a couple of courts in the community. I'll write more about this later but there are very few public places where kids can play. No public parks as we have in the States. Building a court from scratch can be quite expensive ($10,000-$20,000) mostly due to the high price of cement. So I've been looking for spaces that have already been paved that would only need to be fixed up a bit and have hoops added. I got my inspiration to pursue this based on a recent visit I had to Zimbabwe (see pics below) while accompanying the Mozambican national teams. I visited a group called Hoops 4 Hope who are doing grassroots-community based basketball programs in communities near and in Harare, Zimbabwe and Cape Town, South Africa.
I got a chance to visit a couple of sites where there were on average, 150-200 kids showing up to one court on a daily basis to play basketball. The practice sessions were usually led by 4-5 Hoops 4 Hope coaches who ran stations and also taught life skills and HIV/AIDS lessons.
These kids play better D than Mike Owh
I'll tell ya, it's been a challenge trying to come up with effective drills that can incorporate 20-40 kids just using one ball. Fortunately, I've been able to steal some drills from very creative coaches in Mozambique that I've found to be effective.
That’s a lot of shoes, but not enough
In addition to having practices and leagues, H4H also collects used shoes and equipment donated from the states and redistributes them to the kids & coaches in the rural areas. Most of the coaches work for a small stipend (about $10) so the shoes are a huge motivator for them. It's crazy to think how many pairs I've gone through the states that could've meant so much more to people here.
She’s got next!
I've had a couple of hoops put up in my backyard (story in Connie's [Marshall’s wife] blog) and I had been having kids from the neighborhood come on a regular basis to play. The hoop in the picture was actually bought from an American family that was moving back to the states. I asked for the mom to donate it but she insisted on selling for a price and I ended up paying $50 for it. Not a bad deal considering just buying a rim would cost me $40 here.
The Xia Xia Ballers
I've also organized a team out here. Even though we're only 3 hours away from the biggest city in the country, there's been very little development for basketball being done here. There are some talented kids here but most of those who stay after secondary school stop playing because there are no organized programs or venue
for them to continue playing. Through some connections i made down in Maputo, we were able to invite a team to come up this way and had the first post secondary school game in this community in years.
First game, but hopefully not the last
It's been hard to have more games since we would have to raise the necessary funds to host them. The costs include transportation, lodging, etc. This first game cost us about a $100. I know it doesn't seem like big money but it's been hard to find sponsors in this town to fork up the money. Hoping that with more positive exposure in the community, some of the community leaders will step up. The idea is for the community to have ownership of the team so that it would be sustainable even after I leave or else I could be the benefactor and invest some of my own money.
It feels like I'm just scratching the surface on my "basketball" experience here so far. So there you have it; not quite the Air Up There story like many of my friends figure.
We hope to see more pictures like this
If you would like to know more about Marshall’s adventures or would like to contribute funds, shoes, or well wishes to the Cho’s, please email email@example.com.
Comment on this post or View comments