By David Cordova
Every year, the game of basketball keeps growing on the international level, especially in the continent of Africa. Players from that continent have been making their name in the NBA for many years, including players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol and more recently, Serge Ibaka. Unlike their American counterparts, these guys have faced plenty of barriers and obstacles, including learning a new language and learning a new level of play in a foreign world.
However, there is one program that recently helps them overcome these barriers and also gives them a chance at getting an education through the game of basketball and also the chance to make something of themselves. The name of the program is called the SEED Academy, in which SEED stands for: Sports for Education and Economic Development.
Since 2014, the SEED Project has partnered with the Dyckman Basketball Tournament in the Inwood section of Manhattan, New York, in doing a yearly exhibition game. It is the chance for many of the players to experience playing on the legendary asphalt, but also for the fans to witness why international competition has played a pivotal role in the game of basketball today.
To learn more about the program, we interviewed SEED’s executive director Noah Levine, to get a full concept of everything the program stands for.
Q & A with the executive director of the SEED Project, Noah Levine:
What is the mission behind the SEED Project?
Well, the mission behind the SEED Project is pretty straightforward, it’s all about using basketball to inspire youths across Africa, to focus on education and to become leaders in their country. We have an after-school program for about 7,000 students across Senegal and Gambia, we have thirty schools and we have an elite boarding school for twenty boys and twenty girls each year, in which we help them pursue higher education. Most of them collegiate scholarship offers to go to universities.
How long has rhe SEED Project been in existence?
We were formally founded in 2002, and in 2013, we launched our after-school program and our girls academy. For the first ten years, we were an all-boys boarding school.
How many players from the program have gone on to college?
We’ve had more than 60 kids go on to college and we’ve had more than 110 kids go on to university or find employment through the program.
How many players from the program have played professional basketball?
We’ve had about 40 kids go on to play professional basketball, we’ve had five play in the NBA and number of them played overseas.
How did the partnership with the Dyckman tournament come about in regards to this exhibition game?
Well, this game was personal for me. I was born & raised here in New York City, played with the New Heights AAU program & was a part of their first graduating class back in the day. Brandon Adams & I started talking about how we could showcase our program in New York and he was involved with Dyckman and I was running SEED, so it kind of came together naturally.
What does it mean to the players to come out to New York and play in front of a raucous crowd?
Well, it’s big for them. Growing up in Senegal, there’s obviously less access to basketball courts and this is the Mecca of Basketball, so for them, they don’t get to see each other often, they’re all in different parts of the country, so this is an opportunity for them to bond together.
What’s next in the future for the SEED Project?
The future for SEED is bright, we’re looking to expand our program in other countries around the continent and we’ll be launching a program in South Africa this fall and hopefully improving our boarding school as well.