This is the fourth installment from Portland Trail Blazers Director of Scouting Mike Born who is helping to lead the Basketball Without Borders in Africa program as we speak. Mike is contributing his thoughts here and you can also read them at iamatrailblazersfan.com.
DAY 4 - Hoops4Hope was back at it today. The message focused on HIV/AIDS and Healthy Living. Just like the leadership message to the campers, this was another powerful session for the kids.
HIV and aids are so prevalent here in Africa and this "Life Skills" message was about how to keep from getting and spreading HIV. The things that I like most about the way that Kita and his group teach is that they have terrific positive energy, they keep the teachings simple, but powerful, and they use the game of basketball to teach the lessons. Obviously, what was taught today is so important because of the loss of life from HIV/AIDS. Many of these boys are at the prime age where they can catch and spread the disease. The campers were split into three groups and each group heard the same message; the best way to never catch this terrible disease is to abstain, be faithful to yourself and protect yourself. Be aware, focused, make good decisions and be conscience of your surroundings. Understanding what the campers are learning through the "Life Skills" portion has become the most important part of this camp. Kita and his group are sending these kids home with power and knowledge from their teachings that can last a lifetime.
After the morning "Life Skills" seminar we got into our basketball. I am becoming the "Post Wizard" as I once again worked on the combination of post defense and post offense. Was back at it with my full-time coach Dwight Howard. He and I have been together all three days of stations now. I have really enjoyed getting to know him and also watching him do a wonderful job teaching the kids. They really look up to him. Chris Bosh joined us again and added his personal touch to what we are trying to teach the campers. He does a great job. After our stations we finished with one game and then we were off to visit Kliptown.
I had heard from our Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan (who attended last year) that coming to this camp was going to be an incredible experience and that visiting Kliptown was going to be at the top of my list. He was right. Our entire group of around 100 people traveled to Kliptown to see SKY (Soweto Kliptown Youth Trust) and take in the African community and the people. This was the sixth year (this is the seventh year of the camp) that the NBA/WNBA has returned to SKY, a youth empowered after-school program based in Soweto. Bob Nemang, who was one of our two guest speakers on the first day of the camp, is one of the main forces behind this building and project. We had the chance to walk through the community and meet some of the people. We also had the pleasure to witness numerous dances and plays put on by kids from SKY and local dancers. The passion, energy and happiness we saw on these kids' faces was amazing. We spent about 30 minutes walking thru the community and then arrived at the SKY building. The children of SKY performed a beautiful dance for us and then we headed inside to one of the buildings that the NBA/WNBA helped build. Our large group got the chance to talk to many of the people who run SKY along with the students. Lisandro Miranda (who scouts with the Dallas Mavericks) and I had the chance to have lunch with four amazing girls ages 8-17. You talk about four young ladies with a positive attitude! They were happy, educated, beautiful girls and SKY is going to help them have a chance to make their lives the best they can be. Bob Lanier and a few of the NBA players spoke along with Bob from SKY giving thanks to many people on both sides for allowing this wonderful event to happen.
We then headed back outside to spend some time with the local people once again. I had the chance to talk to many people of Soweto. I spent time talking to a group of older women about South Africa. I also got the chance to meet a terrific lady named Fusi who might be one of the nicest ladies I have ever met. Her spirit was alive. All the children and people here just took us in and our NBA/WNBA family did the same. I saw all sorts of people from our group holding young children, holding their hands, hugging each other, and taking all sorts of pictures. I know I use many adjectives to describe what I have experienced here...but it is amazing to me the vibrancy, happiness, energy that many South Africans show each day. One of the older ladies made a comment..."we may be poor, but we are happy". This goes right along with the message from Bob (from SKY) that hope and education can take you to places you want to go in life. That people can go where they want to go and not to let circumstances determine your direction. Bob and Kita (Hoops4Hope) are two of the most inspirational people I've ever met.
We finished another terrific day by gathering for dinner. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed everything I have done at this camp and the people I have met. So many of the people who are here are volunteering their time for this camp. Many have come year after year and I see why.
Tomorrow is our final day. I am sad that the camp is coming to a close because I have enjoyed this experience and our players so much!
Thanks again to Mike for sharing his enthusiasm. It's great to know that basketball can mean more than just basketball sometimes.