It’s amazing how your life can change so drastically after a small turn of events.
Growing up in Africa, Solomon Alabi was a huge soccer fan. But, as legend has it, one afternoon he was out looking for a soccer match to join but found a pickup basketball game instead.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In an ironic turn of events, the man who helped Alabi grow as a player, Toronto Raptors assistant general manager Masai Uriji, may just be part of the NBA front office that helps Alabi’s dream of playing in the NBA come true.
“Masai (Uriji) means a lot to me,” a humble Alabi told the media this morning after his pre-draft workout in Toronto. “When I first started playing basketball in a small town where nobody really knows much about basketball – and only a few people played – he held a camp in my town and he invited me. He only invited two players who played basketball in my town and that is when I started to get exposed to basketball. Since then I’ve taken basketball seriously.”
It was there at this camp that Alabi made an impression and earned an invitation to a Basketball Without Borders camp being run by Uriji. After hearing both men talk this afternoon it became clear it was the invitation to Basketball Without Borders that got Alabi hooked on basketball.
“Basketball Without Borders is the first time I was exposed to organized basketball and that really encouraged me to play basketball more,” Alabi explained to the media huddled around him. “Through Basketball Without Borders I came to America and I was offered a scholarship to go to school to play basketball.”
Shortly after taking part in Basketball Without Borders he moved to Orlando with his family and a couple years later he received a full scholarship at Florida State.
Even though it’s only been a few years since Alabi was introduced to Uriji, there’s already been tremendous growth in the his game.
“It’s funny because Alex English was at Basketball Without Borders when Alabi came and he was in shock to see him today,” Uriji told the media. “Lots of coaches saw him in Basketball Without Borders and now they see that he’s really grown. We’re really proud of him.”
Even though basketball has taken Alabi far from where he grew up, Africa still has a big place in his heart.
After talking with him this afternoon it’s clear he wants to return to Africa this summer to take part in Basketball Without Borders with Uriji and Dikembe Mutombo.
The only reason he won’t fully commit is he needs to see what his future NBA team has to say about him committing to this program when they would more than likely prefer to have him working out with their coaching staff.
“Kids look up to me because I’m the only person to come out of my town to play basketball,” a proud Alabi boasted to the media. “Kids are now starting to play basketball because of me. So, I want to give back to them.”
After hearing him talk about his love of Africa and helping young kids I wouldn’t be surprised if returning to Africa for Basketball Without Borders is something he chooses to do often during the course of his NBA career – even if that doesn’t happen this summer.
While doing so it would be pretty ironic if he’s able to shape young players much like Uriji, English and Mutombo did for him.