Following his recruitment by Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team, Nigeria’s Timothy Ighoefe became the latest NBA Africa Academy member to make a huge leap towards actualizing his dream of a professional career in the big league. Georgetown, who represents Georgetown University in the 2018-19 NCAA Division 1 and are coached by Patrick Ewing, announced they had signed the 6-foot-11 center student-athlete to National Letters of Intent in the early signing period. Ighoefe is just one of a number of African bred stars who have made remarkable progress since the NBA brought the development of basketball closer to the young talents on the continent.
In May, 2017, the NBA launched its first Academy in Africa. Located in Senegal, the academy, one of six across the globe that provides teenagers with NBA-level coaching and facilities will work closely with the Sports for Education and Economic Development (SEED) as they aim to transform the youngsters into professional athletes, who in turn can maximize the springboard afforded through competition in U.S Colleges, their national teams and probably the big one, the NBA.
NBA’s Vice-President and Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall disclosed that the program’s of the academy were designed such that talented kids from the continent could have a level playing field in their quest to excel. “The goal of the NBA Academy Africa is to create a more direct path for young people, who have talent so that their future is not determined by chance,” Fall stated.
However, despite the brilliant initiative by the NBA, a wide range of spoken languages across the continent of Africa could prove to be a barrier in an academy where English and French are the official languages. It’s for this reason that the players were drawn from Anglophone and Francophone speaking nations: Nigeria, Senegal, Benin Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Youngsters from African basketball powerhouses Angola, Tunisia, Egypt, and Mozambique were excluded due to their Portuguese and Arabic speaking national origins, a hindrance which hopefully should be overcome to accommodate the very best on the continent.
The NBA has an age-long affiliation with standout players of African heritage: Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Manute Bol, Serge Ibaka, Joel Embiid, Victor Oladapo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, amongst several others who have made an impressive impact in the league. It will be a huge credit to the instructors and sponsors if at least one of the Academy graduates goes on to make the successful transition to the NBA in the foreseeable future. That will further highlight the basketball prospects that abound in Africa and even more importantly serve as an encouragement for the NBA to further invest and beam their searchlight in their bid for talent development in Africa.