Teaching The Game to Give Back in Cameroon

Greetings from Cameroon, where I’m conducting my second annual Luc Mbah a Moute Basketball Camp.

We completed pre-selection for the camp last week with visits to my hometown of Yaounde and also Douala. I left for Cameroon on Monday, July 11th and the Yaounde pre-selection was July 13th. Then it was over to Douala on the 15th to see the rest of the potential campers.

From those two tryouts, we narrowed down a large turnout to just 50 young players. We posted the names of the playershere on my website.

Last year was the first edition of the camp and it was really successful. To get the top 50 kids age 12-16 from the two pre-selections, we had to narrow down a group of about 350 players to just 50 for the camp. With those kinds of cuts, you get to the cream of the crop so it’s really the top players in the country. Then at the end of the camp, we select five players to represent Cameroon at Basketball Without Borders.

Last year, four of our five players made the All-Star team at Basketball Without Borders and the MVP of Basketball Without Borders was the same kid who was the MVP of my camp, so I was really happy with that. It was a really great experience.

Four of the kids from the camp last year are now in the United States on scholarship, going to high school and kind of doing what I did. To me, that’s my way of giving back. My goal last year was just to have one kid get a scholarship and go over to the United States. To have four now, all going to high school in the U.S, is incredible.

If every year I can have at least one kid that has the chance to go to the U.S. and get a better education using his athletic ability, that would be great.

That’s what made me who I am. I had a chance to do pretty much the same thing. So I think it’s important for me to go back and give back to the kids. Hopefully then, sometime in the future, they can become better basketball players and get a chance to become professionals.

The game has grown a lot in Africa, but at the same time, it hasn’t.

Where it has grown is that basketball is now the second most popular sport in Africa, behind soccer. You can tell just by looking at the NBA Draft. It was crazy for me to see how many players from Africa were selected. Back in the day, it used to be one or none. Nowadays it seems like every year there’s somebody from Africa coming in and making an impact on a team. That’s good. It shows how the game has grown in Africa. The talent is here.

But we still have trouble with facilities and equipment. It’s the same trouble that we had when I was growing up. That’s kind of sad because now we have kids wanting to play and ready to get involved with basketball but they don’t have the means. A lot of kids don’t even have basketballs to play with. They don’t have courts that they can go to and play. Sometimes, even if they have those two, there’s really nobody to teach them how to play.

That’s a big problem for basketball in Africa right now. It’s something that guys like myself and other players that go on and become successful in basketball have to try to address along with the federation and hopefully NBA Africa. We have to work on the infrastructure to help out the talent that is here.

It’s also one of the things I try to address at my camp. Every kid that comes to the camp, we give them plenty of gear including a basketball and shoes and then we try to teach them basic skills.

This year’s camp begins on Friday, July 22nd and I’m really excited about it. The goal of the camp, along with helping a select few kids try to get an education, is to help all of them learn the basics of the sport. A lot of kids here, they just get up and play. They don’t have coaching and it’s kind of hard for them to develop the knowledge of the things you need to play the game.

So in the morning we’ll have a drill session where we really teach them the fundamentals of basketball. We’ll do a bunch of different drills and break the group down into stations. We’ll do ball-handling, shooting, L-cut, V-cut. Just stuff like that. We put them in a one-on-one situations with the coaches so they can really learn.

In the afternoon, we come back and do some team stuff, like the five-man weave and other team drills. Then we’ll let them play for about an hour and myself and a group of coaches will sit there and watch them to evaluate the players. That’s how we select the top five.

We had a big partner who came on board this year and they’ve been doing a great job promoting the camp. I think everybody is excited. A lot of the guys saw what the camp did for last year’s top five, giving them an opportunity to travel, come to the United States and get a better education using basketball. So now, so many kids want to participate. I think it’s good that all of them are getting involved. It gives them something to look forward to and something to work toward.

Even for the kids who don’t make the top five, with those morning drills, we try to give each student a blueprint of what they can do on their own or with their friends to get better. By the end of the camp, you don’t have any more excuses. You have a basketball, you’ve been taught how to play, now make the best of it.

It’s a guideline for how to get better. If you go out everyday and you do what you were taught here at the camp, there’s no doubt that next year when you come back you should be a better player than you were the last year. Hopefully that will work out with the guys that were here last year. We’ll see this year how much better they got. The point is to just give them those drills and hopefully they can take that knowledge in and use those drills and the gear to become better players.

While I’m in Africa for the camp, I’m hoping to spend some time with my family and travel around the country a bit. I haven’t done that in a while. I want do the tourist thing for a couple of days.

I really appreciate the support everyone over here has given me and shows me whenever I come back. In the first few years after I went over the U.S., when I came back, a lot of people didn’t know about me, because they were all just big fans of soccer.

But over the last couple of years, with the success I’ve had and the growth of basketball, along with the different stuff I do here, I’m more recognized when I’m walking around. I always make sure to take time for the fans. It’s great to be back. People always show me love and support me in everything that I do.

I’m looking forward to another successful camp and a great trip home. Thanks for reading, everybody!