8NBA Stars Serge Ibaka and Gorgui Dieng arrive in Ghana on Monday June 8 for the 2015 Sprite Ball Clinic, Rite Multimedia has confirmed.

Ibaka, who plays for Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) and Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves will spend two days in the West African country between June 9-10, 2015 where they will interact with players and officials as part of the promotional drive for the sport which is mainly powered by Sprite.

The duo and officials from NBA Africa will hold discussions with the Ghana Basketball Association and participate in player clinics.

The first session will take place on Tuesday June 9 at the Lizzy Sports Complex in Accra from 12pm where players drawn from the Greater Accra region will be exposed to some new basketball knowledge by the visiting NBA players.

The team will then move to Cape Coast on Wednesday June 10 for a similar exercise at Adisadel College. Players will be drawn from Senior High Schools like Mfantsipim, Aggrey Memorial, Wesley Girls, Ghana National College, Cape Coast Technical School, St Augustine’s College as well as the host.

The two-day event forms part of a screening exercise to select two players to represent the country at the 2015 Basketball Without Borders programme in South Africa from July 29- August 1.

Talented Ghanaian duo Nathan Mensah and Joel Mensah represented the country at the annual event last year after impressing during the second edition of the clinic in Ghana.

The visit of the two players follows last year’s edition with Miami Heat star Chris Bosh which dominated the major talking points in the country.

Miami Heat’s Luol Deng and former Toronto Raptors player Pops Mensah-Bonsu participated in the maiden edition in 2013. There is tremendous potential for basketball success in Ghana and the clinic will provide the NBA with an opportunity to continue their evaluation of the level of talents in the country. The visit of the Serge Ibaka and Gorgui Dieng will inspire the basketball community to pursue excellence on the court.

“We are delighted to announce that Oklahoma City star Serge Ibaka and Gorgui Dieng of the  Minnesota Timberwolves will be the face of the 2015 Sprite Ball Clinic,” Rite Multimedia boss Yaw Sakyi Afari said in a statement.

“Serge and Gorgui are key NBA players of African descent whose stories will serve as an inspiration to the many budding talents in Ghana. Last year we had Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat and that followed previous visits from Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu for the Sprite Ball Clinic. We are happy that Serge and Gorgui Dieng have agreed to join us and we look forward to an amazing experience with the two and their team” Mr. Philip Assah, Brand and Marketing Services Manager said.

This visit is made possible by the collaborative effort of Coca- Cola Company, NBA Africa, the Ghana Basketball Association and enabled by Rite Multimedia.

NBA Africa is collaborating with their local partners Coca-Cola and the Ghana Basketball Association to bring you the 2015 Sprite Ball Clinic, which is organized by Rite Multimedia.

Brief history of Serge Ibaka

Born September 18, 1989, to basketball-playing parents in the city of Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo and home to nearly 1.5 million Africans situated along the Congo River.

It was not an easy place to grow up. The third youngest of 18 children, Ibaka was forced to leave his hometown around the age of 8 at the start of the Second Congo War, also known as Africa’s World War. A bloody civil war that was chronicled throughout the world, more than five million people died as a result of that conflict and aftermath.

Raised by relatives during the civil war, Ibaka returned home three years later. It was then that he started to pursue his love of basketball. Ibaka’s father, a member of the country’s national team, introduced his son to the game.

Ibaka learned the game mostly on the streets, where courts were speckled with holes and divots and the children played in plastic sneakers; Nike, Adidas or Reebok weren’t options. But Ibaka’s raw talents could not be suppressed.

By age 16, he was playing for the club Avenir du Rail, a team that competed in an African pro circuit. From there, Ibaka continued to climb the circuit ranks, and it wasn’t long before he landed on the radar of European scouts. In September of 2006, Pere Gallego, from the Barcelona-based sports agency U1st Sports, had a contact watching the African Junior Championships in Durban, South Africa. Ibaka was named MVP of the tournament.

When he landed in Spain in March of 2007, Ibaka essentially started from scratch.

Ibaka played for the Spanish clubs L’Hospitalet in Barcelona of the LEB, a second-tier league, and DKV Joventut before landing with Ricoh Manresa.

A child of war

Ibaka’s mother died of natural causes when he was 8. It was a loss Ibaka struggled to understand at such a young age. Her death brought him closer to his family, particularly his father and grandmother, Christine Djonga.

Still, civil unrest threatened to tear apart Ibaka’s family. Ibaka was days shy of his ninth birthday at the start of the Second Congo War, the largest war in modern African history. It included eight African nations and recorded a death toll of more than 5 million, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II.

As millions of Congolese fled their homes, Ibaka’s family moved north to the small town of Ouesso. Ibaka remained there for nearly four years, living in adverse conditions that have been characterized as having no electricity or running water.

With political strife still going strong upon the family’s return to Brazzaville in 2002, Desire Ibaka was captured and imprisoned when he returned to his old job. Desire worked at a port just across the border of the neighboring country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a citizen of the Republic of Congo, Desire Ibaka was jailed essentially for being on the wrong side of the battlefield. Serge lived with his grandmother while his dad was in prison. His father wouldn’t be released until a year later when the war “officially” ended.

Gorgui Dieng

He is a Senegalese professional basketball player who currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Gorgui means “the old one” in his native language Wolof.

He was invited to the “Basketball Without Borders” camp in South Africa in 2009 as one of 60 promising players selected from across Africa, he was named MVP of the camp.

Dieng was recruited by Marquette, Marshall, Colorado, and Louisville among others who came in late.

Dieng was drafted 21st overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2013 NBA draft and was then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 14th pick, Shabazz Muhammad, in exchange for the ninth pick, Trey Burke.

On March 20, 2014, in a game against the Houston Rockets, Dieng recorded 22 points and 21 rebounds, the first ever 20-20 game by a rookie in Timberwolves’ franchise history. He is also just the sixth player since the NBA began tracking starts in 1970 to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds within his first three career starts.

On April 11, 2014, also against the Rockets, Dieng scored the game-winning basket with 4.6 seconds left and finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds.

As a result of his improvements throughout the second half of the season, Dieng was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team.

On January 12, 2015, Dieng tied his career-high 22 points in a 101-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets. On January 28, he was named a representative of Team World to compete in the 2015 Rising Stars Challenge.


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