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Sidibe helps youths back home with African NextGen Camp

Norfolk StateNorfolk State men’s basketball player Yoro Sidibe, a native of Senegal, returned to his home country over the summer and started the African NextGen Basketball Camp in an effort to give back to his community.

The three-day camp included 50 players, 25 girls and 25 boys, from ages 13-19. It was held in the southern Senegalese city of Kolda, where Sidibe grew up. It offered him the chance to help younger players who don’t always have access to camps in that area. It also gave him the chance to continue handing out shoes he’s collected from people here in the States.

Below is a Q&A with Sidibe, a rising junior with the Spartan basketball program, about the camp and the impact it had on both him and the players.

Where did the idea come from to hold a camp?

Growing up, I had never been part of a camp. I used to see people posting that they were at a camp, but I was never in that position because of the part of Senegal I was in. That was something I always told myself, that once I’m in a position to make a difference, I will hold a camp for kids who do not have access to one.

How did you get the camp started?

Every time I went back to Senegal, I used to bring some shoes, share them with the kids and work out with them. This year when I was going back to Senegal to visit my parents and renew my visa, I brought some shoes I had been collecting for the last two or three years. But I also talked to a few people, and they gave me ideas on how to make a camp really big. I texted a few people I work with in Senegal, and they helped with the organization since I wasn’t there yet.

How did you go about collecting the shoes?

Shoes have always been big for more, because I never could really have some while I was there. I know a lot of kids can’t have them. That’s where it all started. Every year I get around 5-10 pairs of shoes. I basically started collecting those. When I was ready to go, I texted some of my friends and my teammates and they were able to get me some more pairs. This year I brought back around 45 pairs and got five more when I got to Senegal.

Why is this camp important to you?

It’s a big deal because Senegal is a big country for basketball, but everything is usually in the north. Close to 90 percent of the kids in the south cannot have access to a camp. Knowing that growing up I had never been to any camp, I just promised myself if I could have one, I would create one. That’s just how it started and that’s how important it is to me. That’s something I’ll keep fighting for.

Who helped you with the camp?

Some of my friends I grew up with. Also, once I posted it on Instagram, one of the best coaches in Senegal (Malick Goudiaye) offered to come and volunteer at the camp. That helped a lot.

What did you do at the camp?

For the first day, we just focused on the physical aspect of the game. We had some physical workouts, a little bit of basketball in the morning. In the evening we did some scrimmages. The next day we did more basketball in the morning and finished with some more physical activities. We had some programs on leadership and finished the camp with some cultural activities: African dance, music, that sort of stuff.

What do you hope the players took away from the camp?

I hope they learned leadership first. Also a work ethic, because no matter how bad the situation there is, if they work hard, I believe they can make a way. Also having a vision. I remember being there, I had a vision but no one could understand it but me. That’s one thing we really focused on for sure.

What did you learn about yourself by hosting this camp?

It just made me remember how far I’ve come, and being proud of that. Being able to make something happen after I told myself when I get to this level, I would not forget. That was a big thing for me. No matter how high I get, I stay the same person. I didn’t let success get in my head.

What are your plans for the camp next year?

Next year I’m definitely trying to have 200 kids involved. So I’m trying to make it a little big bigger. I’m also planning on having some coaches from here go with me and help me with the camp next year. I’d also involve more cities in the south (of Senegal) that don’t have access to a camp.