Saturday, March 31, 2012

African Madness: Marching towards the NCAA

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 12:  Peyton Siva #3 ...
LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 12: Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball while defended by Baye Moussa Keita #12 of the Syracuse Orange during the Big East Conference game against at the KFC Yum! Center on February 12, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
As I was watching the American NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) college basketball tournament, dubbed  "March Madness", I noticed that the team I was supporting, Syracuse University, had a player with the same last name as great African musician, Salif Keita. I knew instantly that this player was a son of the continent.Typically, I am used to seeing several African players in sports like soccer (what the rest of the world’s calls football), rugby, and of course, track. As the tournament went on, I noticed a number of names that stood out as possibly being of African origin. I started to wonder how many players were of African descent in the tournament. There seems to be a noticeable growth of the number of Africans playing in the NCAA (see full list of African players in division one of the NCAA). In looking at the compiled list of Africans in this year’s NCAA tournament (see below), it looks like players from West Africa make up the majority of this category - with Nigeria taking the clear lead. Other players from Senegal and Cameroon are also represented in strong numbers. There is a noticeable absence from players from Southern Africa (Countries like Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Zambia) There is only one player from this region represented who is from South Africa. In part, it seems to be representative of breakdown in numbers of the wider African immigrant population in the U.S.  The  list of African players in this year’s NCAA consists of  54 African student-athletes. When considering the numbers of Africans in the U.S., this is a significant proportion. This includes African-born immigrants and non-immigrants as well as first generation Africans in America. It is going to be interesting to watch how many of these players  will march towards the professional league, the NBA. 

It seems that there is corresponding large boom in the popularity of basketball in Africa, particularly and the (voluntary) African diaspora.
Day 4 Basketball (18 August 2010)
Day 4 Basketball (18 August 2010) (Photo credit: Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Game
Although there has been a tradition of basketball on the It seems that there is corresponding large boom in the popularity of basketball in Africa. continent for a long time, basketball in Africa has marched forward. Basketball however has not reached the same frenzy and madness centered around soccer, but is making its mark. Basketball is probably slower to penetrate in Africa because it requires equipment (the hoop) that cant be easily improvised. In  soccer  one can use two bottles, sticks ... etc.. (there are endless possibilities ) to create goals. Basketball is also largely dominated by America and the NBA. An African basketball tournament that has also been taking place in Africa since 1961 officiated by the International Basketball Federation or Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) - Africa. Many African teams also participate in basketball in the Olympics. However, the NBA arguably remains the most prominent of the basketball tournaments. Therefore penetration to the NBA is no easy feat. Similarly, playing for the NCAA is very competitive. It will be useful to keep track on this recent surge of players and how they will influence basketball on the continent. It is worth considering though if it is the growing popularity of the game that’s influencing the number of players that are choosing to play the game. Whether it’s African players influencing the popularity of the game or the popularity of the game influencing a rise in players, basketball is having an impact on Africans.  It will be useful to also keep track of how many of these player play in the NBA in the future.
Dikembe Mutombo playing with the Houston Rockets
Dikembe Mutombo playing with the Houston Rockets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was able to locate one list of African basketball players in the NBA compiled in 2008 (See I’m an African in New York). I was not able to find an updated list therefore some of the players on the list may not be playing in the NBA any longer. However, this list includes the players like: Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls  (Sudan), Desagana Diop, Dallas Mavericks – (Senegal), Ike Diogu, Indiana Pacers  (Nigeria), Kelenna Azubuike, GS Warriors  (Nigeria), Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats  (Nigeria), Thabo Sefolosha, Chicago Bulls (South Africa), Dikembe Mutombo, Houston Rockets (DR Congo), Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Dallas Mavericks (Ghana), Michael Olowokandi, Boston Celtics (Nigeria), Mouhamed Sene, Seattle Supersonics (Senegal), Pape Sow, Toronto Raptors – Senegal, Ime Udoka, Portland Trailblazers (Nigeria) and Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Dallas Mavericks (DR Congo).  In the next four years there should be more players that will join this list of Africans in the NBA. Below is a list of the African players in this year’s tournament and the countries they represent (the names in bold are rising stars likely to make the draft:

West Region (U.S.)
  1. Teeng Akol Western Kentucky (Sudan)
  2. O'Karo Akamune (Nigeria)
  3. Kene Ayigbo Western Kentucky (Nigeria)
  4. Melvin Ejim Iowa State (Nigeria)
  5. Alex Oriakhi Uconn (Nigeria)
  6. Ehimen Orukpe Wichita State (Nigeria)
  7. Osamuede Egharevba Wichita State (Nigeria)
  8. Teddy Okereafor VCU (Nigeria)
  9. Victor Oladipo Indiana (Nigeria)
  10. Christian Kabongo New Mexico State (Congo)
  11. Bandja Sy New Mexico State (Mali)
  12. Tshilidzi Nephawe New Mexico State (South Africa)  
  13. Brice Massamba UNLV (Congo)
  14. Deuce Bello Baylor (Nigeria)  
  15. Michael Gbinije Duke (Nigeria)
East Region (U.S.)
  1. Baye Moussa Keita Syracuse (Senegal)
  2. Chudier Pal North Carolina Asheville (Sudan)
  3. John Nwannunu North Carolina Asheville (Nigeria)
  4. Victor Ojeleye Kansas State (Nigeria)
  5. Festus Ezeli Vanderbilt (Nigeria)
  6. Steve Tchiengang Vanderbilt (Cameroon)
  7. James Siakam Vanderbilt (Cameroon)
  8. Steve Moundou-Missi Harvard (Cameroon)
  9. Ugo Okam Harvard (Nigeria)
  10. Cheikh Mbodj Cincinnati (Senegal)
  11. Alexis Wangmene Texas (Cameroon)
  12.  Myck Kabongo Texas (Congo)
  13. Okaro White Florida State (Nigeria)
  14. Youssou Ndoye St. Bonaventure (Senegal)
  15. Guy Landry Edi Gonzaga (Cote d’Ivoire)
  16. Mathis Keita Gonzaga (Mali)
  17. Chido Onyiuke Loyola MD (Nigeria)
Midwest Region (U.S.)
  1. Osas Ebomwonyi Lamar (Nigeria)
  2. Mogboluwaga Oginni Creighton (Nigeria)
  3. Moussa Gueye Alabama (Senegal)
  4. Retin Ojomoh Alabama (Nigeria)
  5. Michael Eric Temple (Nigeria)
  6. Bak Bak California (Sudan)
  7. Jordan Omogbehin South Florida (Nigeria)
  8. Eso Akunne Michigan (Nigeria)
  9. Moses Ayegba – Georgetown (Nigeria)
West Region (U.S.)
  1. Jamal Olasewere Long Island (Nigeria)
  2. Kenny Onyechi (Nigeria)
  3. Robinson Odoch Opong Long Island (Kenya)
  4. Hippolyte Tsafack Memphis (Cameroon)
  5. Gatete Djuma Long Beach State (Rwanda)
  6. Gorgui Dieng Louisville (Senegal)
  7. Youssef Mejri Davidson (Tunisia)
  8. Frank Ben-Eze Davidson (Nigeria)
  9. Chris Otule Marquette (Nigeria)
  10. Charles Abouo BYU (Cote d’Ivoire)
  11. Nyandigisi Moikubo Iona (Kenya)
  12. Will Yeguete Florida (Cote d’Ivoire)
  13. Assane Sene Virginia (Senegal)