For the WNBA’s Noel Quinn, the African camp was bigger than basketball

SEATTLE – Once the invitation was extended, there was no way Noelle Quinn could say no.

For some time now, her friend Monica Rogers, who is driving NBA Elite Basketball Women’s Operations Division, approached Storm’s coach about traveling to Senegal for the NBA Women’s Camp – teaching basketball and leadership skills to 25 of the best high school-age women from 11 African countries.

“It was a no-brainer for me to come and impart the knowledge I had to younger girls,” said Quinn, who was also the assistant coach for the Canadian women’s national team at past World Cups. “I honestly didn’t know about the opportunity to actually work in the NBA Academy, specifically with the girls. But going to Africa has always been on my wish list and dream.”

The four-day camp in December also included A.J WNBA The Dallas Wings All-Star squad includes Ariki Ogunbwale and Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas, as well as former players Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Asto Ndiaye and Hamshitu Maiga Ba.

“The state of basketball in Africa is amazing,” Quinn said in a phone interview from Sally, Senegal. “We have to keep bridging the gap, connecting and pouring resources into young girls. Keep holding clinics and teach them not just basketball, but also life lessons, leadership, confidence, teamwork, and all the things basketball teaches you.

“I hope to continue to be a part of this. I was very moved by my experience.”

Since 2001, the NBA has expanded its footprint with Basketball Without Borders, whose star alumni include Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam Jamal Murray and Shay Gilgos Alexander.

In 2018, the NBA Academy’s women’s program began hosting camps in Mexico, Australia, and Senegal while sending 36 participants to NCAA Division I schools in the United States.

“Having a WNBA is important,” Quinn said of the Universal Programs. “You ask a lot of these young athletes what their dream is, and most of them say they want to play in the WNBA. (It) makes it tangible.”

Prospects from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia participated in the latest African camp alongside Ndiaye, a native of Senegal who won the 2003 WNBA title with the Detroit Shock, and Maïga-Ba, who was born in Mali and was the 2005 WNBA champion With the Sacramento Monarchs.

“It’s not just a dream,” Quinn said. “It’s not just seeing us on TV, but seeing us in person and knowing that it’s possible to be a head coach, be a player, run a team and work in the league office. I think that’s very important.”

A normal day at camp began at 8:30 am with warm-ups, followed by Quinn’s mentoring of full drills. Campers spent hours working in smaller groups while receiving coaching from former WNBA players before being divided into teams for games in the afternoon.

Making the WNBA is certainly one of the toughest challenges in professional sports with only 12 teams and 144 roster spots.

“The pipeline can become going to middle school, high school, Division I universities and eventually abroad professionally or the WNBA,” Quinn said, adding that 11 African camp participants have gone on to attend or commit to NCAA schools.

“I think they show me how far basketball brings you, but also what passion looks like and what love, dedication and dream look like.”

In a 13-year career, Quinn has played professionally in Russia, Lithuania, Israel, France, South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic. She also obtained Bulgarian citizenship in 2007 and played for the national team there. Last year, she was also an assistant coach The Canadian team that finished fourth in the Women’s World Cup in Sydney, Australia.

Quinn knew her first trip to Africa would have a profound effect on her in unexpected ways.

said Quinn, 37, who grew up in Los Angeles and starred at UCLA. “This part of our lives is not necessarily recognizable. When I arrived in Senegal, I felt an immediate connection.”

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