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JJ Should go to Africa


Cooley

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along w/Mav's Donnie Nelson this week! 6-10 (16 year old) kids walking the streets in Africa. I've always wondered why our coaches don't spend more time in Africa looking for untapped talent. The D/FW area has enough African residents to make their cultural transition a smooth one. Since we can't recruit the 7-0 foot All-Americans here in the states, Africa would be good thing.

Nellie Jr., Africa explorer

09:29 PM CDT on Sunday, August 31, 2003

The range of Donnie Nelson's African experiences have roughly matched the size of the continent. In three trips, he has been awed, amazed, afraid and amused.

And that was during one cab ride in Nigeria.

"We got caught in a monsoon," said Nelson, the Mavericks president of basketball operations, "and the water started rising really fast. The taxi couldn't move, but the driver acted like nothing was going on. 'Happens all the time,' he said."

Nellie2 was trying to decide whether the proper response was panic or prayer, but when the water neared the bottom of the taxi window, it began receding and he could focus on the task at hand.

"You know," he said, "I did see a lot of 6-10 guys walking around the streets."

Ever the scout, Nelson will get an eyeful this week when he joins a group of NBA representatives to conduct clinics for African players between 16 and 20 years old. The "Africa 100 Camp" will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, beginning Tuesday and lasting until Sunday. Nelson will be part of a group that includes Amadou Fall, the Mavericks' director of scouting, and several NBA players including Nets center Dikembe Mutombo of the Congo.

One hundred players from 19 countries will take part in the seminar, which will include classes on HIV awareness, healthy living, leadership and drug abuse.

Africa is undoubtedly the next great source of talent for the NBA. The continent has 13 percent of the world's population, but it has provided the NBA with few players. And that is despite the impact of Nigeria's Hakeem Olajuwon, who was Houston's No. 1 draft pick in 1984.

Olajuwon, however, did not open the African floodgates. There have been other players who have had an impact – Mutombo, Manute Bol of the Sudan and Michael Olowokandi of Nigeria – but not as many as might be expected.

The reasons are obvious – poverty and a lack of facilities and coaching. But there is no doubt that the Africans are outstanding athletes. After the 1992 Dream Team played Angola, the Americans raved about the Africans' athletic skills. They were limited only by a lack of basketball skills.

"Basketball is like a lot of other things," Nelson said. "If you don't get exposed to the fundamentals early, you become too old to learn them – at least at a level to play in the NBA. That is our ultimate purpose on this trip. To lay the foundation for them for the future."

Nelson has been impressed by several traits he has seen during clinics – the competitiveness and commitment.

"I once gave a two-hour clinic in Nigeria," he said, "and there were three kids who did not have shoes. They couldn't afford them. It was kind of heartbreaking, but it was also eye-opening. We were on an asphalt court and they participated in every drill, including the defensive drills where you slide your feet. I kept asking them if they needed a break or wanted to sit out, but they said no. They just wanted to play."

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