NBA Africa Game conference call notes: Ujiri, Lowry, Ibaka

A handful of Toronto Raptors representatives are with the NBA in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week for Saturday’s NBA Africa Game. President Masai Ujiri, point guard Kyle Lowry, and forward Serge Ibaka were available via conference call to discuss the event on Thursday.

Masai Ujiri

On what it means to have two of his players attending with him:

It’s almost like this has become kind of like an All-Star kind of weekend in Africa. It’s unbelievable how much it has grown from two tables when we first started here to tons and tons of people. You can just see Kyle and Serge really observing it and really enjoying it. Kyle came and went on a safari and did all of the activities with his family. He’s really embraced it. He came with 11 people, even. To me, that shows me that he’s taking pride, he’s using this as an instrument to learn. They do great work on the basketball court with the kids. I think for the African kids, you see them. I spent a lot of time with Kyle and Serge today. I’m proud of them that they’re coming here and doing this when you could easily be doing anything else.

On what he thinks Lowry has drawn from it:

You can see it in his eyes, you’re appreciative of what you have, for sure. He has seen where some of your teammates – Pascal was in Basketball Without Borders, that’s how it all started for him – he’s seen where he came from. You meet other people, you meet other NBA players, you get a feel for how they feel about it. They are working with the NBA. The feel of being on the continent is special, and going and doing other things other than basketball. The habitat work they’re doing, tomorrow they’re going to the SOS Village and visiting underprivileged kids. So many things here that I think that are eye-opening. It’s an education and you feel the human side of everything, and you can tell in his eyes that he’s absorbing it really well.

On the impact the event can have on kids and communities:

It’s huge, you know. It’s kids selected from all over Africa, girls and boys, a total of about 80 kids here. Not only that, there’s so much work done in the community here. I can’t imagine when I was between the age of 14 and 18, being in Africa and seeing an NBA player. And these guys are seeing 20, 22, or 24 NBA players, how many there are. These kids are getting to see these guys one-on-one, take pictures with them, interact with them, get coached by them. It’s phenomenal. For the community over here in South Africa and Africa as a whole, for the NBA to come in here and show all of this, a commitment with an NBA office here, the continent is growing with the game. It’s a great way for us to take advantage, and I’m talking as an African. The coaching, learning, there’s a business summit tomorrow, so many activities here that we can learn from and get from all these NBA experts and business people that are here. So lots of stuff going on.

It’s creating so much more awareness. Kids are dreaming big, they’re believing. The business part, which is most important – and when I say that, we have to focus on building facilities and coaching the coaches and taking it to other places other than this – teaching people to go back to their communities and make a difference. Go do something else and improving them in that way is very important. Over the years, it’s so important that they see JoJo Embiid and Luc Mbaha Moute and Gorgui Dieng, guys that have come out of this camp and gone and succeeded. When we do our life skills session, it’s important for us to mention that Luc Mbah a Moute was sitting in those seats, or Gorgui Dieng was sitting in those seats. And then the legends, you know, the Dikembe Mutombos, the work that Amadou Gallo Fall is doing down here, it’s good that these kids and people know that even if you don’t make the NBA, there are other things you can do related to sports. And that’s how big the NBA is. This is definitely a great time.

Kyle Lowry (Team World)

On charity work on the trip:

Actually today has been an unbelievable day with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for the people in need here. I think we built 10 homes. It’s just being out here and giving back as much as we possibly can. And then going through camp and helping the campers, giving them little insights on how to play, how to help them. The experience, it’s an honor to be here and a pleasure of mine to be around.

The game has taken me so many places, and this is another place that I can take off the checklist now. The game of basketball has been amazing to me, to my family. I understands that, that’s why I appreciate it and I give so much back to the game. Being able to experience these things from the game of basketball, it’s pretty cool. There’s no way to say I’m not happy about it. I love it, and I’ll always continue to give back to the game. The NBA and basketball has given so much to grow the game globally, I have an opportunity to be there, to do it.

On going on safari:

Awesome, man. It was an experience that I got a chance to do with my family, I got a chance to really see lions, an elephant, giraffe, leopard, wild dogs, impala, all up close and personal. Those are the type of things you don’t get to experience every day. Then you’ve got your kids and your family with you. Those things right there alone make you feel good about being able to do that and being fortunate enough to have your family and your kids and be able to see those type of things So it was pretty amazing.

On the talent pool at the camp:

It’s just different. The game’s different. It’s not as advanced as our game. There are things they need to learn that they haven’t learned yet. The talent pool, it’s crazy. The length, the height, the size of these kids are pretty impressive. The game isn’t taught from the age of four or five or six years old. It’s usually soccer, the first thing these kids pick up. But I think these kids over here have as much as talent. The things that they’re doing with BWB, will just continue to grow through the game.

On getting to take his kids:

Well, it shows them how lucky they are, that things aren’t as great as we have ’em. It kinda makes them see there’s always a way to give back and there’s always a way to be able to say, you know, you can help someone else. That’s the most important thing you wanna do with your kids. And for me, especially, I wanna let my kids know there’s always ways to give back and you should always give back first and look out for others before yourself.


Serge Ibaka (Team Africa)

On the experience so far:

Coming from Africa, I feel so proud and blessed to be here in this moment. The last time I missed the game because I was hurt. I’m looking forward to this time, I’m very excited.

It means a lot to me. It’s something I love to do. I’ve been doing this kind of work the last eight years now, since I’ve been in the league and I love to do it, every time I have an opportunity to come back home and do those kind of things, to me, it’s a blessing and it’s my job, it’s my job to do that. Because I know there’s a lot of people watching, a lot of young kids watching, one day, they are going to make it out of there and it’s always good to show them how those things work. Wherever you make it one day, you never forget where you come from. Thank the NBA Cares for giving this opportunity to do this again. I’ve been doing this kind of work with my foundation back home in the Congo, before here, and having another opportunity to come here and do it again, I feel blessed for that.

On potential trash talk when he goes head-to-head with Lowry:

This is the first time I’m doing this with one of my teammates, and Masai of course. It feels good. It’s very nice to see them here. When I saw them here, when I saw Kyle the first day, I I was very happy to see him here.

Right now, we don’t have trash talk, maybe in the game it can happen in the heat of the game. Today we had a long day, we had a lot of activities, we did NBA Cares, so everybody was tired. But I’m sure starting tomorrow, the trash talk gonna start.

Raptors’ assistant Patrick Mutombo is also listed among those participating, and I believe there are even more people from the Raptors’ organization on-hand. The league’s second ever game in Africa is being played in support of three different organizations. From a league release:

NBA Africa Game 2017, which will take place following the 15th edition of Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa, will once again feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format and will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA). The game will air live at 5:00 pm CAT in sub-Saharan Africa on Kwesé’s TV, Internet and mobile platforms, including Kwesé Free Sports, Kwesé Sports, Kwesé partners Soweto TV (South Africa), Canal+ Afrique (Francophone Africa) and other select free-to- air channels, Kwesesports.com, and the Kwesé app.

The sold-out NBA Africa Game 2015, the first NBA game on the continent, took place Aug. 1, 2015 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg. There have been more than 70 current or former NBA players from Africa or with ties to the continent, including NBA Africa Ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) and Dikembe Mutombo, both of whom played in NBA Africa Game 2015.

For more information, fans can visit www.NBA.com/Africa, the league’s official online destination in Africa, and follow the NBA on Facebook (NBA Africa) and Twitter (@NBA_Africa).

The game will be on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday. No word on Canadian airing, but you’ll probably be able to find a stream, at the very least.

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