Gorgui Dieng's NBA journey is a dream for thousands of African families who hope, day-in day-out, for an opportunity to provide their children with both an education as well as a chance to play professional sports.
His is a story of perseverance, hard work and dedication that started seven years ago in his native Kebemer, a small town of northwest of Senega, and turned a new chapter on 27 June 2013 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern announced him as 21st overall pick by the Utah Jazz, although he was later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although Dieng is the only African-born player to being selected in the 2013 NBA Draft, his story is no much different from those of Victor Oladipo, Alex Oriakhi, Dennis Schroeder and Giannis Antetokounmpo, a quartet born to Nigerian and Gambian families who emigrated to the USA, Germany and Greece, respectively.
Oladipo was No 2 pick overall by the Orlando Magic, Antetokounmpo was selected 16th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, Schroeder was picked 17th by Atlanta Hawks and Oriakhi was 57th by the Phoenix Suns.
What makes Dieng's NBA journey unique is that he did not play organised basketball until he joined SEEDS Academy six years ago, before becoming MVP of the 2009 Basketball Without Borders camp and winning a NCAA Championship last April with Louisville University under coach Rick Pitino.
Dieng's life will never be the same again, and his popularity has gone far beyond, Louisville University, SEEDS Academy or his circles of friends. President Barack Obama who was in an official visit to Senegal when the NBA Draft took place hoped to see Dieng joining his beloved Chicago Bulls.
"My goal is to be playing 10 or 15 years in the NBA. That's what I'm all about," the 6-foot-11 Dieng said in the post-Draft interview.
The NBA Draft night was full of surprises, disappointment and, of course, joy.
Canadian Anthony Bennett was an unexpected No 1 pick; Nerlens Noel was only selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans and later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, and an endless of potential picks remained undrafted including Cameroonian Kenny Kadji and Myck Kabongo of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dieng becomes the second Senegalese player in NBA along DeSagana Diop. And the number of African-born players increased to eight, including Luc Mbah a Moute, Luol Deng, Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, Festus Ezeli and Hasheem Thabeet.