Noel Quinn went to Africa for training camps. The flight was much bigger than basketball for the Storm coach. | Storm

SEATTLE – Once the invitation was extended, there was no way Noel Quinn was going to say no.

Some time ago, her friend Monica Rogers, who leads basketball operations for the NBA’s elite, approached Coach Storm about traveling to Senegal to attend the NBA Academy’s women’s camp in Africa to teach basketball and leadership skills to 25 of the best women from high school. 11 African countries.

“It was a no-brainer for me to come and impart the knowledge I had to younger girls,” Quinn said. “I honestly didn’t know about the opportunity to work in the NBA Academy, specifically with the girls. But going to Africa has always been on my wish list and my dream.”

The four-day camp between December 5-8 also included the WNBA squad consisting of Dallas Wings All-Star guard Ariki Ogunboal and Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas as well as former WNBA players Taj McWilliams Franklin, Asto Ndiaye and Hamshito Maiga Ba. .

“The state of basketball in Africa is amazing,” Quinn said during a phone interview on the third of her five days in Saly, Senegal. “We have to keep bridging the gap, calling, and spending resources on young girls. Keep holding clinics and teaching them not only 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 touched by my experience.”

Since 2001, the NBA has expanded its footprint worldwide through Basketball Without Borders, whose alumni are among the biggest names in the sport including Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Jamaal Murray and Shay Gilgos Alexander.

In 2018, the NBA launched its Women’s Academic Program hosting camps in Mexico, Australia and Senegal while sending 36 participants to NCAA Division I schools in the United States, according to the WNBA.

“It’s important to have a WNBA,” Quinn said when asked about basketball’s global outreach 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 for them. A coach being there — and Asto who’s doing some amazing things here in Africa — getting us out here and seeing people like them achieve the dreams they have. What they want is a reality for them.”

This was the fourth African Women’s NBA Academy Camp, which featured participants from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.

The teenage campers, who ranged in age from 13 to 17, likely drew parallels between themselves and camp staff with direct African ties such as Ndiaye, a native of Senegal, who won the 2003 WNBA title with the Detroit Shock and Maïga-Ba, who He was born in Mali and won the 2005 WNBA title 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.”

Playing in the WNBA is certainly one of the toughest challenges in professional sports because there are only 144 available roster spots among the 12 teams.

said Quinn, who notes that 11 participants of the NBA Academy’s women’s camp in Africa have committed to or joined NCAA teams in the United States since the program began.

“There are a lot of great people here,” Quinn said. “And honestly, I learn a lot from them as much as I give them basketball knowledge and life knowledge. I think they show me how much basketball brings you, but also what passion looks like and what love looks like and what dedication and dream looks like. It was really heart-warming to me.”

During her 13-year career, Quinn has played all over the world, including professional stints with teams in Russia, Lithuania, Israel, France, South Korea, Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland and Italy.

She also obtained Bulgarian citizenship in 2007 and played for the Bulgarian national team.

And this year, Quinn was an assistant coach with the Canadian national team that finished fourth at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sydney, Australia.

However, Quinn knew her first trip to Africa would have a profound impact 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 known. When I arrived in Senegal, I felt an immediate connection to being here.

“For me, it was seeing people who looked like me. On TV or in movies you get a certain description or perspective, but until you set foot here, it’s different. To be here, it’s to know Africa. The people have been wonderful and welcoming. I’m touched and feel like I Only at home do I know that this is where my grandparents belonged.”


A normal day at camp began at 8:30 am with warm-ups, followed by Quinn’s mentoring for full drills.

Campers spent hours working in smaller groups while receiving coaching from former WNBA players before being divided into teams for matches in the afternoon.

“There are some young girls here who show great court presence, energetic, athleticism, high IQs and things you love to see in basketball,” Quinn said. “Honestly, from day one until now, the quality of basketball has improved. They’ve kept what we give them. There’s a direct transition from drills and practices to games.”

However, Quinn quickly notes that her trip to the West African country was about more than basketball.

“It is important to know that basketball bridges the gaps, connects us and is the language of love that brings us all together,” she said. “But it’s not just about basketball. It’s about being a whole individual. Learning how to be a good teammate. Learning what it means to be confident and all the things that can go on in a young lady’s life.

“Teaching basketball is important because I may never go back or they may never get taught from me, but what will happen is they go back to their communities and teach their teams and teammates who learned it here. That’s how we develop the game.”

Quinn said she was inspired by African girls, especially young campers with basketball potential and grappling with whether she should follow her ring dream or find a job to help support her family.

“The young athletes were amazing and so excited to learn basketball and be a part of something very special,” Quinn said. “I feel like they have a lot of stories. Maybe they’re having problems at home or at home or whatever’s going on in their basketball journey, but you can’t tell… because they were locked in a mission to get better and learn from us and incorporate those skills into their lives.”

“It just shows the resilience of this country and the people who live here and are part of this culture. For me it’s amazing. I’m just honored to be here and a part of everything that this represents. Again, I’m touched. I’ve learned so much and I hope to be back.”

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