The New Hoop Invasion

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: April 30, 2008

CALIFORNIA – Remember the movie “Coming To America” starring Eddie Murphy and his sidekick Arsenio Hall? Well, it is really happening on America’s college campuses in America.

Big, tall, talented men from Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Senegal, and Cameron are playing basketball for many American universities. Basketball is truly becoming a global sport.

New hardwood stars like Hasheem Thabeet at the University of Connecticut from Tanzania, Mac Koshwal from Sudan at DePaul, Ousmane Barro at MarquetteUniversity, from Senegal and Hamady Ndiaye at RutgersUniversity from Senegal.

These colleges are making their basketball team winning programs.

There are currently 88 African players in the NCAA Division I. Most of these new stars will soon be entering the (NBA) National Basketball Association. The push to globalize this sport is slowly becoming a reality. The NBA began this journey 20 years ago.

Past and current examples of world basketball are Yao Ming (Rockets) and Liu Wei (Bucks) from Mainland China, Manu Ginoblilli (Spurs) from South America, and the many semi pro European players. All have truly globalized basketball.

The United States first Dream Team (1992) promoted this globalization of basketball when they won the Gold Medal in Barcelona, Spain. Four years later the Second Dream team also won gold in Atlanta, Georgia. They also won more converts to the game of basketball.

This African influence and trend started with Hakeem “The Dream”, Olajuwon from Nigeria. Hakeem attended the University of Houston with the team moniker, “Phi Slama Jama”. In 1984 the Houston Rockets drafted Hakeem and the rest is history.

It continued with the lanky legs of Manute Bol from Sudan. Bol played for BridgeportCollege before being drafted in the 5th round in1983 first by the San Diego Clippers. However, it was ruled invalid by the NBA.

Two years later he was drafted again by another team the Baltimore-Washington Bullets. Bol played for the Golden State Warriors, the Phila. Seventy Sixers, and ended his career with the Miami Heat.

An interesting fact Bol was in a car accident a few years ago and was seriously injured. For a few months he could barely walk. He is doing much better now with the help of many American and Sudanese friends.

Four years later, another tall man with a very raspy voice burst on the scene with his wagging fore-finger and gentle smile. Dikembe Mutombo from the Congo attended Georgetown University and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets.

There is a distant memory of the Nuggets beating the No. 1 seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the 1994 Western Conference playoffs as Mutombo lies on the floor at the end of the game looking up at the arena lights hugging the basketball with the biggest smile ever.

The memory will live forever in the minds of many NBA fan. That also made many motherland Africans very proud, and planted the will and desire to come to the United States and play this sport.

Listed below are the other NBA players from Africa

- Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls – Sudan – Desagana Diop, Dallas Mavericks – Senegal – Ike Diogu, Indiana Pacers – Nigeria – Kelenna Azubuike, GS Warriors – Nigeria – Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats – Nigeria – Thabo Sefolosha, Chicago Bulls – South Africa – Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Dallas Mavericks – Ghana – Michael Olowokandi, Boston Celtics – Nigeria – Mouhamed Sene, Seattle Supersonics – Senegal – Pape Sow, Toronto Raptors – Senegal – Ime Udoka, Portland Trailblazers – Nigeria – Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Dallas Mavericks – DR Congo

The tend will continue with the new influx of Africans into American universities but basketball has to contend with the world sport of (futbol) Soccer. That is the sport most young male Africans love, know, and play.

These young men also have to be cautious about recruiting rules and NCAA regulations. They also have to comprehend the English Language and the integral parts and sometimes confusing American culture.

These young men traveled over 3,000-5,000 miles to get here. So if they can that they can overcome anything. Just as their fellow countrymen playing in the NBA now.

Most African players stay in school the full four year and earn a degree unlike their African American brothers who leave after the first or second year of college.

Many college and university coaches love the African player because they can plan their team’s future around their continental African centers or forwards.

These young men from the motherland come to America to get an education first and play basketball second. These African wonders have already planned for the future and a life without basketball. Many return to their home to help their country in need.

Their African American Cousins have gotten it backwards. For them its basketball first and education second, they do not envision their future without basketball.

Maybe our African American brothers should take a page from our homeland brothers. What a thrill it will be to watch these young continental Africans playing basketball in the future.