BWB Africa

FIBA - N'Diaye sees golden future for African basketball

SOWETO (Basketball Without Borders Africa) - International star Mamadou N'Diaye is in South Africa for the FIBA/NBA Basketball Without Borders Africa camp, trying to spread the word on subjects as diverse as basketball and AIDS prevention.

N'Diaye is concentrating on the humanitarian side of his visit to the country but still has hopes that his native continent can soon bridge the gap of a game that has become increasingly international in recent years.

The LA Clippers ace is confident that one day soon an African nation can win a major basketball title.

Once a vehicle for domination by the sport's mother country, the United States, the game has seen a shift in the balance of power.

Europe is the home of the world champions Serbia & Montenegro while Olympic gold medalists Argentina gave Latin America a place in the sun in Athens last year.

N'Diaye, a 30-year-old who hails from Dakar, believes that in the not-too-distant future it could be an African nation that follows in the footsteps of those pioneers of the world game.

N'Diaye, speaking to PA Sport by telephone from Soweto in South Africa, said: "It used to be just the United States that would win these competitions but it is much more open now.

"It is a world game now and that's one of the reasons we are here. Maybe an African team could win an important tournament one day - we will have to see."

N'Diaye and his Senegal team-mates will get a crack at that objective next year in the FIBA World Championships to be staged in Japan.

However, the former Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks player is careful not to predict any breakthrough for Senegal in the Land of the Rising Sun next year.

"We are a good team now and if all our players are available then we could have some very good results," said N'Diaye.

"To get past the first round is our only objective for now - that's the only thing you can think about and we have not managed to do it on some previous occasions.

"If we get through the first round then maybe we can start thinking about going further in the competition.

"Definitely we can do very well and we have a good team that will be there."

Japan was not on N'Diaye's mind on Friday with the visiting NBA stars taking a coaching clinic at the American University in Johannesburg before a visit to Soweto for a programme aimed at preventing AIDS.

N'Diaye said: "Today we went to the college with the kids - we were in groups and we worked with them during the morning.

"We worked some special plays with them and in the afternoon we did some special work - we went to Soweto to do AIDS work."

N'Diaye admits that basketball issues pale into insignificance when compared to the AIDS pandemic blighting the country.

"Lots of problems and issues need to be addressed," said N'Diaye after taking part in the AIDS awareness clinic.

"The AIDS issue is top of the list - a lot of the population here is contaminated and I hope we got the message across to the kids today."

Dakar may not be an obvious breeding ground for basketball talent but N'Diaye admits that he had an early advantage over most of his African

"That's because of my Dad," said N'Diaye. "He was involved in the national coaching set-up for women and for a while he was nagging me to play.

"At first I was not particularly interested and it is only when I turned 18 that I really started playing serious."

It was while he was still in Dakar that he was first bitten by the NBA addiction.

N'Diaye said: "We had cable and French channels and we were able to watch some games on TV and that's when I first started to get the bug for basketball."

Despite his family connections, N'Diaye admits that the odds were against a player from Senegal making the world's most prestigious league.

"It's not easy," said N'Diaye. "But if God wants something to happen it will happen whatever background you come from.

"God will do his bit but we still have to do our part -to stay fit, to dribble, to shoot and learn to do the basic things."

The conditions are not ideal in Africa, he admits.

"We don't have the courts, the shoes or the good diet but nevertheless I believe if you are dedicated you will find a way to go - that's the way it is."

N'Diaye has mixed impressions with the facilities on offer.

He said: "They (facilities) are very good at the American University in Johannesburg but elsewhere in the country things are not so good."

Soccer-crazy South Africa also has a strong rugby and cricket tradition and N'Diaye admits that the basketball infrastructure needs to be improved for the country to become a major basketball force.

"All those things you must deal with and that's part of the task we face," he said.

By Tom Ross, PA Sport, exclusively for