Basketball & Determination Light the Path to US Education

Anne Buford’s “Elevate” chronicles the lives of four Senegalese basketball players as they’re given the opportunity play basketball and pursue their educations in the United States.

Of the four boys chronicled in the movie, Aziz, Byago, Assane, Dethie, Assane and Dethie attend South Kent School developing as students and basketball players

Assane and Dethie graduate from South Kent and now play at the University of Virginia and Roanoke College respectively.

New York Times reviewer, Andy Webster finds the most moving sub-story in “Elevate” in the life of Amadou Gallo Fall:

“We see these young men struggle with assimilation — mastering English and learning to drive, meeting girls, facing a headmaster hell-bent on sending one to Princeton — and feel their joy on trips home. And we exult when they graduate.

Amadou Gallo Fall, a Senegalese man who, early in life, was discovered by a Peace Corps worker and granted a Stateside basketball scholarship. Mr. Fall, a former scout for the Dallas Mavericks, founded the Seeds Academy [Sports for Education and Economic Development] to nurture his countrymen. His conviction, level gaze and firm eloquence instill pride, drive and determination in his players. Mr. Fall, a coach on the court and in life, is the real champion here.”(NYT)

Elevate was released on a limited basis earlier this month.

  • Peter Hutton

    So … school gives 4 students from Senegal “the opportunity to play basketball” and attend a school in a rural area.  Condition of admission is that they be accomplished basketball players.  Scientists need not apply.  Their “assimilation” then includes learning how to deal with being perceived as an exotic addition to the town/school … sort of like subjects for an anthropology project.  Somehow I can’t get my head around the “feel good” elements in exploitation.

    • Bfisher

      I hear you.  Like me, it sounds like your background might be anthropology and I sense a lot of “objectifying the other,” ‘the exotic other’ and issues of “paternalism” in your comment.  To some extent, you’re right. 

      However, I would argue that shouldn’t be quite so damning and cynical.  In a global world talent comes from everywhere.  You might not agree with the value that our culture places on athletics above other things.  (I know I don’t.)  However, to objectify the students, imply that the school and town are such rural rubes and so unsophisticated as not to understand the error of their ways, and vent your frustration that the students are merely and exotic other on display, is a bit much.

      Yes, these student may be riding their athletic talent.  But, many a boarding school courts, admits, and extends financial aid on the basis of all sorts of talents and makers- violinist, actor, athlete, student from the rural south, socio economic status.

      Reading your arguments rural students from the south- whose peers poke fun at them for their accents- could be as problematic as international student who might have been admitted for a reason you see as less than pure.

      It sounds like your issue is with the fact that it’s basketball; the role of sports in our society is something you, or I cannot change alone.  I tend to take a Buddhist approach- trying to work with what’s in front of me rather than wishing things were different.

      Gaining a new opportunity is always going to have an element of paternalism in it for anyone anywhere.  Everyone needs help, and support at some point.

      What’s most important is that these students seem to be productive, hard working, contributors

    • Bfisher


      You might be interested in a post that we just published this morning (11/7/11).  Grantland has published an interview with “Elevate” director Anne Buford.  Two of the questions, and her answers, speak directly to some of you concerns.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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