Among my favorite pregame routines during media access throughout the 2008-09 regular season was stopping by the locker of the always interesting D.J. Mbenga.
Of course, many of the conversations were about basketball. But just as often, the topic would drift to international news, particularly anything involving Mbenga’s native land, Africa. His eyes were just as likely to sparkle when talking about his favorite cause – education in Africa – as they were when an opposing player tried to lay the ball up near his sacred land (the paint).
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mbenga was forced to move to Belgium, but his love for Africa makes it no coincidence that he has been in Johannasburg, South Africa, with the NBA’s Basketball without Borders (BwB) Africa since Wednesday.
The NBA described the project:
The focus of the NBA Cares social responsibility efforts for Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa is education, grassroots basketball development and health related issues with a focus on HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. The BWB Africa camp also features a product donation for local non-government organizations (NGO’s) that includes school supplies, sports equipment, clothing, toiletries, hygiene products and other necessities. Social responsibility efforts are split into two categories. The first is Life Skills seminars, which are hour long sessions held daily for the campers. Life Skills seminars will run in the following schedule: Day 1 – Orientation, Day 2 and Day 3 – HIV/AIDS education and living a healthy lifestyle presented by Hoops4Hope. The second category is community outreach events that take place each afternoon around the Johannesburg community.
The event runs from Sept. 2nd to 6th, and aside from a bevy of basketball activities featuring the Top 60 African players from 15+ countries (ages 19 and under), includes the following visits by the NBA: Sustainable Food Garden Project at Cotlands Home Based Care Facility- Soweto; Habitat for Humanity Build Day; Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY) Trust Visit; Hoops4Hope Girls Basketball Clinic; and Life Skills Seminars including two sessions on “HIV/AIDS Education and Living a Healthy Lifestyle.”
Mbenga’s fellow participants include close friend and fellow native of Congo Dikembe Mutombo (pictured above), Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and WNBA/Team USA legend Teresa Edwards.
We’ll catch up with Mbenga for all the details of the trip upon his return.