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Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon Recruits Basketball Friends For Charitable ‘Starting Five’

Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris have a bit of a tradition going. Whenever the two former college teammates and roommates at the University of Virginia are in the same city—a rarity now that Malcolm is with the Milwaukee Bucks and Joe plays for the Brooklyn Nets—they make it a point to grab dinner together.

This summer, they were both in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League, so they decided to reconnect for lunch. Over dumplings at the Bellagio, Joe found himself committing to play in a lineup with Malcolm once again—this time, far from the hardwood. The 2017 Rookie of the Year recruited Joe to join his “Starting Five” for Hoops2o, a new partnership with the Chris Long Foundation to bring clean drinking water to East Africa.   

“I obviously know Malcolm really well and pretty much anything that he's going to be involved in,” Joe tells CloseUp360 during a recent phone conversation, “I would back him up and follow him no matter what he was doing, because he's that type of guy, that type of leader.”

With Malcolm in charge of outreach among his peers, Hoops2o is committed to raising $225,000 in efforts to bring clean drinking water to East Africa. Each member of the Starting Five—which includes Malcolm, Joe, Justin Anderson (another Virginia alum) of the Atlanta Hawks, Garrett Temple of the Memphis Grizzlies and Anthony Tolliver of the Minnesota Timberwolves—has pledged to raise enough money to build one water well (approximately $45,000) through the “Ballin' for Buckets” campaign.

“When [Malcolm] was laying it all out to me, I was actually kind of blown away how passionate he was about it,” Joe says. “It really brought a focus and attention to me and inspired me to just want to get involved.”

Malcolm had visited Africa throughout his life and seen the need for clean water on the continent before. This past summer, he went to Tanzania and returned with a mission: expand access to potable water for people who don’t have it.

But how could he do this? Where should he begin?

To answer those questions, Malcolm aligned himself with Chris Long, a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, two-time Super Bowl champion and fellow UVA alum. Chris is also the founder of Waterboys, a platform for professional athletes to work with their fans toward the goal of bringing sustainable water to communities in need.

Since 2015, Chris has enlisted the help of 26 NFL players. Through campaigns and pledges, they’ve built 49 wells to date. Hoops2o marks NBA players’ first splash into Chris’ initiative.

“I made a promise to myself that once I reached a time and place in my career where I could do more, I would,” Malcolm said in a press release announcing Hoops2o. “When I learned about Chris’ Waterboys initiative and saw their accomplishments by working as a team of players to inspire action, I knew I wanted to expand his vision into the NBA and address our ultimate shared goal to save more lives faster and transform communities.”

© Clay Cook 2018

Malcolm Brogdon shows dirty and clean water bottles in Tanzania. (Clay Cook Photography)

About 12 hours removed from the Grizzlies’ 89-87 home win over the Denver Nuggets on November 7, Garrett drove to practice and then went to pass out winter coats to local families in need. From sponsoring AAU teams to backing book drives, no matter the cause, giving back is in his blood. His parents, Soundra and Collis, run more than 30 group homes in Louisiana.

That's just how I was raised,” Garrett says. “So whenever I am in a situation where I can help someone less fortunate or honestly just be a voice for the voiceless, I always try to do that.”

That’s how the Memphis guard finds himself in the Starting Five. Unlike Joe, Garrett’s history with Malcolm isn’t so deep. The two met for the first time at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, where they both spoke on a panel as mentors to soon-to-be rookies, and formed a bond.

“I've heard about what type of guy he is,” Garrett says, “and when I met him and actually talked to him, he was just exactly what I thought.”

They hit it off before Malcolm’s trip to Tanzania. When Malcolm returned with a project proposal, Garrett couldn’t turn it down.

Water is the essential piece of life,” Garrett says. “So the main thing that struck me was having something already in place. Obviously Chris Long put it together, and being able to use my platform to try to raise money to help somebody on the other side of the world.”

With “Ballin' for Buckets,” each member of Hoops2o’s Starting Five chooses a stat for which fans can pledge money on PledgeIt.org. In the cases of Joe and Garrett, each time they make a three-point shot in November, a drop goes in the bucket.

Joe has his mom, dad, three sisters and the entire Nets organization on board.

“I mean, ignorance is definitely bliss,” Joe says, “but it just raises awareness and you definitely have a different perspective on things when you see that.”

As of November 14, Joe had made 17 threes in seven games this month, with Garrett canning six in his seven appearances. Both say that they don’t think about providing clean water for people when they’re playing, but that’s the beauty of the campaign—they’re able to do both at the same time.  

It’s all for a good cause, but professional athletes are competitors nonetheless. So far, no trash talking has emerged among the Starting Five. Then again, it’s a long season.

“We may have a group call soon and guys may be starting to shoot some shots at each other,” Garrett cautions. “My friend Anthony Tolliver, who I played with in Sacramento, and I've known for a long, long time, he's on the Starting Five with me. Justin, I don't know if he's back from being injured yet. Joe's been playing well, so guys are definitely going to have some ammo.”

The group has tentative plans to venture to Tanzania this upcoming summer, to see for themselves what Malcolm saw and how their efforts are helping people a world away.

© Clay Cook 2018

Malcolm dribbles a basketball with kids in Tanzania. (Clay Cook Photography)

“It's one thing to talk about it, another thing to see it firsthand, and that's the thing that he was talking about.” Joe says. “[Malcolm] really wants to get the Starting Five guys out to Tanzania next year just to see the work that we're putting in, what we're going to be able to accomplish by bringing in a well and see the actual impact. Because it is really life changing for the people that get the wells.”

Garrett is also looking forward to the trip.

“I've been to Africa three times, but I've never been to Tanzania,” he says. “So I'm very interested to going to see the work that has been done and what we were able to help put there.”

To date, Waterboys has provided access to clean drinking water for 193,000 people across the globe. Together, Chris Long’s long-standing efforts and Hoops2o aim to up that number to one million.

With Malcolm drumming up support, and Joe and Garrett draining triples on the court, the Starting Five is doing its part to reach that goal.


Nikki Kay is a veteran NBA writer based in Southern California. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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