Gorgui Dieng Comes Home For Basketball Without Borders Africa as Hero to Millions in Senegal
In 2009, a tall, promising teenager from Senegal put himself on the map as a prospect by claiming MVP honors at the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camp in South Africa. A decade later, Gorgui Dieng helped to host the 17th BWB Africa camp in his home country as a role model and hero to his fellow Senegalese citizens.
Over three days this week, 60 of the continent’s top young talents split time between the new NBA Academy Africa in Saly and Dakar Arena in the capital of Dakar, getting coached by and doing community activities with some of the sport’s legends and luminaries.
As one of 28 BWB alums to play in the league, Gorgui is living proof of the program’s power. Thanks to the resources and relationships he’s gained from his six years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the University of Louisville product has already helped millions of people back home through the Gorgui Dieng Foundation, in partnership with MATTER, a Minnesota-based global health non-profit.
CloseUp360 caught up with Gorgui at BWB Africa to learn about the scope of his impact in Senegal, get his thoughts on the NBA’s academy and upcoming Basketball Africa League, and more.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Gorgui Dieng is from Kebemer, a small town in northwest Senegal. (NBAE/Getty Images)
CloseUp360: What does a typical day look like for you at home in Senegal?
Gorgui Dieng: I spend time with my family and friends during the week. I pretty much see my family and friends. That's about it.
CU360: What projects are you involved with in the community in Senegal?
GD: We're working with the community to try to help them have a sustainable agricultural project going. We also help them with health and education. I think that's most of our projects.
CU360: Do you have a sense of how many people you're helping or the significance of the impact you're having?
GD: We help a lot of people. It's probably, I can say, over five million peoples' lives since we started my foundation. I think that's a good thing.
CU360: How do you see your role here at BWB, especially being in Senegal? It must be interesting to see all these kids looking at you as somebody who's made an impact here.
GD: It's important. It's important that we're able to come back in this camp and talk to the kids because we give them hope. We give them that it's possible to make it to the next level.
CU360: What do you think of the NBA Academy Africa in Saly?
GD: It's great. It's great for the kids, it's great for the community and it's great for NBA players also. We have lack of infrastructure to practice, and now we can go there and work out and spend our vacation time in Saly.
CU360: NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the sites for the inaugural Basketball Africa League. What are your thoughts on Senegal hosting games for the NBA- and FIBA-backed league?
GD: It's great. It will give the Senegalese league to get stronger because to be part of the new Africa league, you have to win your region. So it's good that the teams in Senegal will take it serious to qualify to be in the Africa league.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver joined Gorgui and a slew of other players in Senegal for BWB Africa. (NBAE/Getty Images)
CU360: Does it make you proud that other NBA players are giving back to Africa and helping this whole movement?
GD: It's great that we all come back and help Africa. I will say this: only African people can make Africa develop, and that's the key.
CU360: What are your long-term goals in Senegal?
GD: My goal cannot be bigger than just be happy and healthy, you know? I think that's most important. If you have those two, you can accomplish anything.
On-site reporting done by the NBA for CloseUp360.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.