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A collection of Stories from the 2016 Youth Reporting Institute

Youth Radio: Hoop Dreams

Courtesy of Djelimory Diabate
2016 Summer Reporter Institute intern Djelimory Diabate dreams of playing basketball at the college level.

This story is part of WUNC's 2016 Youth Reporting Institute, an annual summer program that teaches young people how to tell stories about their community in their own voice.Meet: Djelimory Diabate
Age: 17

The discipline to excel

My father, Mamadou Diabate, is one of the best kora players in the world. That's a West African stringed instrument with 21 strings. He knows the discipline it takes to excel at his craft.

"Nobody beat me in competition," he said. "There is no Kora player in the world I am afraid to compete against because I know who I am. I believe [in] myself. I know my talent."

I don't play kora. I play basketball. Like many high school basketball players, I dream of playing at the next level on a college basketball team.

College Basketball Dreams

Throughout my spring and summer, I have spent hundreds of hours in gyms like this one at Proehlific Park in Greensboro. I travel with the Bull City Silverbacks. It's an AAU team that plays in front of college scouts and coaches from NCAA Division 1, 2, and 3 schools.

Jason Porter, the scouting director for All Star Preps, has dedicated his life to evaluating players and helping them play college ball. While almost everyone at this tournament shares the dream, Jason says only a few will make it.

"Usually, if you haven't got an offer on you by the end of your junior year, then chances of a D1 happening for you, or even a D2 in some cases, are gonna be kinda slim," Porter said.

I'm not surprised to hear this. My coaches, parents, and teachers have been telling me for years I might have a chance of playing college ball. I know it's a long shot. But as my friend Justin Kobler says, there's a lot we can do to increase our chances.

"This past spring, after our season ended, I emailed the coaches at Harvard, Princeton and Yale because those are all schools I really want to go to. All of them responded back. All of them invited me to their team camps," Justin said.

Most camps cost money. Sometimes hundreds of dollars—and there’s the cost of travel. Justin went to all of these team camps, but still doesn’t have an offer from a D1 school.

Like Justin, some of my top colleges for academics and ball are D1 but as a scout Jason says that might not be an option for me.

"You are a D3 player right now," Justin said.

"What shot do you see me of D1 or D2?" I asked.

"D1 I would say percentage wise I would give you about a 1 percent chance because if they wanted you they would already have you. Getting D1 you have a better chance of finding an 18 leaf shamrock at this point in time," he said said.


Not letting go of the dream – just yet

Wow, so it's unlikely I’ll play for some of my favorite colleges. I brought Jason in to see some of footage of me playing.

"This is just part of our teams mix, so..."

"Ok, yeah by all means I'll take a look at it," he said.

"So advice or any tips based off of that?" I asked.

"The best advice I can give you: work on your strength, work on your quickness and play to your strengths. From where you're at right now you need to focus on being a power player," he said.

My dad definitely believes that education is the priority for my future, but he still wants me to excel at the sport I love.

"How would you feel if I didn't end up playing college basketball?" I asked my dad.

"Well it would be sad for me if you don't play but I know you also have a chance to have a good academics so you already have that but let's focus let's see what will happen this year and a half before your graduation okay?" my dad said. "You don't give up. You stay fighting. You don't backup that's the competition there."

I'm still working hard at school and pursuing college basketball. Justin and I are leading our team as seniors in the winter so college coaches, if you’re listening, we'll be working.

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