• Kaunda Chama

McCoughtry inspired by African girls

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry says that she is so inspired by the passion for basketball expressed by African youths that she will encourage other players in the league to visit the continent and contribute to the sport's development.

Her sentiments came after the two-time scoring champion turned what was initially intended to be a vacation into a giving back exercise that brought her surprises and much joy.

With the help of the NBA Africa office, McCoughtry used her third trip to Africa to host a basketball clinic for more than 120 girls in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has previously visited Kenya and recently conducted basketball development work in Ghana.

“These girls have sacrificed their Saturday to be here, it speaks volumes about how sports is growing everywhere, especially in Africa and for women in particular,” she commented.

McCoughtry said that she was equally humbled by the kids' knowledge of the NBA and WNBA leagues, as she didn't expect them to know as much as they did.

A day before the camp, she visited a school in South Africa's Limpopo province, where girls waited for her in the sun from early morning till 2PM. “That showed me just how committed to the sport they are,” McCoughtry noted.

At the camp, she took time to encourage the girls to stay committed to sports because it can be a conduit to achieving great things like getting college or university scholarships and at the same time dedication to a sport can greatly help reduce incidences of unwanted pregnancies amongst the youth.

“You don't always have to go pro, but sport opens up so many other doors, these girls can play sports all over the world; the US, Europe and even Asia,” she said. “The world of sports has grown so much for women, these girls can one day coach if they want to. The NBA is hiring more women, collage coaches are also making a decent living, they can even become referees – there is so much they can get into.”

McCoughtry used her self as an example, stating that when she first started playing basketball, she never imagined that she would one day ply it at the highest level and even end up winning two Olympic gold medals in the process.

She was quite amazed at the fact that woman's sports clinics are still not more common place on the African continent. “These are woman-power years. We have seen soccer players speaking out about equality and even Serena Williams has been speaking out about equality,” she noted. “Going to college through sports will give the girls something they can always fall back on after sports or if they don't specifically go pro. About 90% of WNBA players finish their tertiary education before joining the league.”

McCoughtry said that she was impressed with some of the talent and fans that she has encountered on the continent, pointing out the crowds at the recent FIBA Women's World Cup in Senegal as testament to how much the game is loved in some parts of Africa.

When asked about participating in a WNBA Africa Game, McCoughtry said that she hopes the opportunity materialises soon and stars from the league can get the opportunity to showcase their talents on the African continent.

Meanwhile, she has had the opportunity to play against a number of players with African roots and points out the Nigerian-American Ogwumike sisters of the Los Angeles Sparks and Senegalese-Spanish center Astou Ndour from the Chicago Sky.

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