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Basketball Without Borders: Journey through South Africa

By Official Release
Posted Sep 7 2009 6:03AM

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -- Nelson Mandela

Before NBA players and coaches sampled the rich basketball talent of Africa, they first had a lesson on the storied past of South Africa at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Beginning in 1948, the white elected National Party government implemented the policy of apartheid which turned 20 million people into second-class citizens, damning them to a life of servitude, humiliation and abuse. Between '48 and '71, over 150 laws were passed to further widen the gap between whites and blacks, such as the Immorality Act (1950), which outlawed sex and marriage across racial lines and the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (1953), which prohibited different racial groups from using the same public facilities like toilets, parks or beaches.

Photo Gallery
Check out images from the Basketball Without Borders visit to Johannesburg. Read Full Article

After almost 10,000 days in prison, political activist Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990 -- paving the way for a non-racial, democratic South Africa.

It wasn't until the election of prisoner-turned-President Nelson Mandela in '94 that people were liberated and the nation began healing its wounds.

The Apartheid Museum illustrates the story of the system and the struggle to overthrow its tyranny.

A moving and eye-opening experience for the players, the visit proved to be a fitting and poignant start to BWB Africa.

Meanwhile on the court ...

Having come from all corners of the continent, the BWB Africa campers hit the gym to warm up for the next four days of intense basketball instruction. NBA coaches attended the evaluation scrimmages in the afternoon where they scouted the players to draft to their teams for competition throughout the camp.

The first Lifeskills Seminar focused on Camp Orientation that included the rules of the camp and the structure of the coming days. Former camper Luc Mbah a Moute gave a motivational first-hand account of his camp memories from back in '03 when he was a young 16-year-old hopeful from Cameroon. Six years later, Mbah a Moute became the first former camper to return to BWB Africa as an NBA player.

Later that evening, as a special treat for the campers, the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa hosted all 60 participants at his residence in Pretoria for a barbeque and an impromptu basketball game on his private basketball.

Day 2: Gardening for a purpose

Basketball without Borders Africa 2009 officially tipped off today with the opening press conference. A special highlight was the standing ovation Luc Mbah A Moute received from all in attendance when he addressed the group.

"This camp changed my life," Mbah A Moute said. "Three weeks after this camp I left for the U.S. and started my dream. That's why I'm back here today to tell you this is a great experience, take advantage of it."

In the first full day of basketball activities, the campers were broken down into their teams and ran through skills stations with the NBA players and coaches. In the afternoon, the coaches ran their teams through a brief practice session before they hit the court for their first set of games.

Gardening was the focus of the afternoon as the NBA players and their guests visited the Cotlands Home Based Care Facility in Soweto, which was created during BWB 2007 in partnership with the DeBeers Foundation. The NBA group was all hands on deck to help create a sustainable food garden. Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard took the reigns in planting a peach tree while others dug trenches or planted vegetables. The food grown in the garden will be used to supplement meals at the facility and will also be sold to generate income for the grannies that rely on Cotlands.

Day 3: Hard work in the gym -- and in community

When players and coaches signed on for Basketball without Borders, they knew they were going to be working hard in the gym. What they didn't know is that they would be working even harder in the community.

The BWB contingent, including their guests, spent the afternoon in Ivory Park township in Soweto helping build four houses for Habitat for Humanity South Africa. It was the first time in a township for many of the players and coaches as they drove past acres and acres of tin shacks and burning piles of garbage. For these families, these houses will be the first they have ever lived in. Generations from now, the player's hard work will be forever tied to the community in Ivory Park.

Upon completion of these four homes, the NBA will have built nine homes with Habitat for Humanity since 2007.

The day wrapped up with a reception at the new U.S. Embassy hosted by the even newer U.S. Ambassador, who only arrived in Johannesburg two weeks ago. The reception was jointly hosted by the U.S. Embassy and ESPN.

A Special Visitor
South African National Team and Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune stopped by the American International School of Johannesburg to challenge the NBA professionals to a quick penalty shoot-out. Dikembe Mutombo impressed everyone with his juggling skills, but his goalkeeping left room for improvement. Dirk Nowtizki tried his hand at a penalty shot and didn't even come close, with the ball ending up in a tree.

Day 4: Spirit strong in Soweto

Yesterday the players and coaches saw the impoverished townships of Soweto from the window of the bus on the way to the Habitat for Humanity build. Today, they experienced life in a township first-hand as they were led on a tour through Kliptown. Along the way, children of Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY) Trust performed skits and treated to the players to traditional African dances.

One thing stood out as they walked past tin shacks, streams of garbage and shoeless children -- the spirit of the people of Soweto. The children reached out for players hands and the people of the community welcomed the BWB group to their neighborhood. After an energetic performance by the PT group, the players and coaches sat with the children in the dining hall as they ate.

"The light and spirit of the people of Kliptown was amazing and I was truly humbled to be here today," said Chris Bosh.

Camp wraps up tomorrow with the hotly anticipated All-Star game. Talent is deep this year and it is certain the campers will put on an impressive show of basketball talent.

Day 5: Wrapping Things Up

It was all basketball on the final day of BWB Africa 2009, with a women's clinic starting things off in the morning led by former WNBA players Nkeysha Sales and Teresa Edwards. Sixty girls from Basketball South Africa ran through passing, shooting and dribbling drills. After the on-court action, Hoops 4 Hope ran a life skills session for the girls teaching the importance of teamwork and leadership.

The BWB campers played their last games with their teams and the Houston Rockets, coached by Dikembe Mutombo, Teresa Edwards and BJ Johnson, finished in first place in the camp tournament.

The campers waited eagerly for the All-Star announcement and Nigeria and Senegal had the most representation with six and five respectively. BJ Johnson coached Team Black to a 44-31 victory over Team White. After the game, individual camp award winners were announced as follows:

Nike Camp MVP Gorgui Sky Dieng- Senegal
Nike All-Star MVP Cyril Bilong- Cameroon
Sprite High Flyer Godwin Ikonshul- Nigeria
South African Airways Frequent Flyer Award Amro Sherif Mohamed Abd El Halim -- Egypt

The campers then had a final chance to say their goodbyes and trade email addresses with their new found friends at the end-of-camp barbeque.

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