21 December 2023
Writing about basketball comes naturally to me because it’s been a huge part of my life, my first love, you can say. I remember asking my parents one afternoon to let me play. At the time, I was still very young and skinny, but I loved the game. I went every day and dribbled on the side of the concrete court right around the corner from my house until I earned my spot on the team.
Basketball has been my escape from a chaotic world where I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. It taught me the importance of wanting something and working hard to achieve it. I took this benefit for granted because now, in my adult life, I have noticed that this is not a given. Many soft skills that have come more easily to me because I decided to pick up a basketball are not easily acquired by other people.
This sport has even helped me pursue my education when my father couldn’t afford to send me to private school anymore. It was stressful transferring to a public school a year before I had to take the Baccalaureate exam in S2 (Science major). But I set a goal to get a scholarship and to continue my studies in the United States. I worked hard on and off the court. I had a very hectic schedule, but I knew that to gain what I wanted, I had to persevere through the hardships. I am grateful because I accomplished every goal I set for myself with basketball.
Sadly, I had to cut my career short due to a knee injury. This pushed me to rediscover and redefine myself. It was tough to step away from the game and figure out who I was without it. People say that God works in mysterious ways, and I have found that to be incredibly true. I needed the experience of losing basketball to lock in and make the final push to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Pre-Med. After obtaining it, I went on to work in the medical field for a couple of years before coming back home to Africa.
Coming home, I knew I wanted to set new goals but didn’t know exactly where to start. Through faith and perseverance, I found myself reuniting with my first love. Today I work as the women’s program coordinator at the NBA Academy Africa and as part of B-Ops. I also coach when time permits. I am humbled and super grateful to have come full circle. It is so fulfilling to get to help kids chase their dreams like I did. As a 27-year-old, I am close to them in age, which allows me to connect with them on a similar level and provide a unique life perspective.
Being selected for the mentorship program and meeting Chrysa was a true blessing. As I have mentioned before, meeting her was the highlight of my year. She is an incredible woman and someone I respect and look up to for her honesty, her genuineness, and her capacity to be an anchor in the face of challenges. She helped me through one of the toughest times of my life, which happened in the middle of my visit to New York. She has been more than a mentor to me. Life has a funny way of testing us, but it also provides us with the right people and tools to overcome these challenges.
I’m grateful to organizations like SpeakUpAfrica and The BAL for giving young women like us (the mentees) opportunities to grow and succeed. We will continue breaking down barriers and occupying space in sports. We don’t take for granted the platform that has been given to us and the opportunity we have to grow our network. We will continue discovering our full potential, gaining confidence, and using the provided support and guidance to persist in setting goals and reaching them.
Through this mentorship program, I have been able to align the two biggest parts of my life: Basketball and the Sciences and decided that I want to start providing counseling to athletes. I have taken a keen interest in sports psychology and have begun taking the first steps to explore this avenue. A new chapter of my life is beginning, and I am extremely humbled and excited to see how far I will go and what is in store for me.
“We will continue breaking down barriers and occupying space in sports. We don’t take for granted the platform that has been given to us and the opportunity we have to grow our network. We will continue discovering our full potential, gaining confidence, and using the provided support and guidance to persist in setting goals and reaching them.”Ndeye Dossou Ndiaye