NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Basketball players make the 94-foot journey up and down the court countless times during the course of a game. It's a journey that adds up to thousands of steps. Yoro Sidibe's journey measures thousands of miles, leaving his native Senegal for high school to pursue a basketball future. Sidibe's trip took him from Senegal to Europe to New York, and after high school he landed at Norfolk State.
"It's definitely worth it," the Spartan junior forward said. "It's been a long journey, definitely not easy, but I'm living my dream right now. I would definitely do it again."
"He comes from very, very humble beginnings," added Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones. "To have the opportunity to play Division I basketball and go to a four year university and things like that, it's something that I don't think he takes for granted."
Sidibe now gets to experience a sea of green and gold in Echols Hall during games, cheering the Spartans onto hopeful victory. NSU is a team that many young fans look up to, thinking of the players as heroes. The junior forward had his own basketball heroes growing up, but never got to meet them or see them play. He also never had the opportunity to attend a basketball camp during his childhood.
"I used to see some people post that they were at camp, but I was never in that position because of the part of Senegal I was [in]," he recalled. "I told myself that when I'm in a position to make a difference, I will definitely have a camp."
That's exactly what he's doing. Now that he's a Division I college player, Sidibe makes his way back to Senegal to hold a free camp for kids each year. It gives him the chance to serve as that hero and mentor, one he was never able to meet or interact with during his youth.
"Growing up I always said I'm going to change that mentality," the NSU junior said. "Once I get to this position, I'm going to make sure I give back, mentor the kids, try to motivate them for them to know that they can accomplish anything they want in life."
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better person to motivate Senegal's youth. Sidibe has walked more than a mile in their shoes- shoes that were often uncomfortable, damaged or even non-existent. The Spartan forward is trying to change that for the next generation. Each year, he collects shoes in the United States to distribute to the kids at his camp in his homeland, with many of those sneakers coming from his teammates and friend.
"Some guys pitched in their used sneakers, slightly-worn sneakers, or even some of the guys had sneakers that weren't used at all that they gave to him to give back to his country," Jones noted. "Everybody kind of pitched in a little bit."
"The hardest thing to do was being able to sit on the sideline, not practicing because I did not have some shoes," Sidibe said of his childhood. "I had some holes in my shoes to the point that my feet would touch the ground. I kept playing with it for the most part, but there were some days that I just had to take some days off just because of that."
Those days are gone for him, but he's looking to help eliminate those days for kids a half-world away, the world in which he grew up. He's doing his part to try and make thousands of dreams come true.
"To be able to chase their dreams, to be more ambitious, more dedicated and take basketball more seriously because it can change their lives, that's one thing," Sidibe said of the impact he'd like to make in his native country. "The second thing is to just never forget where they come from whenever they get to the level they want to reach. Always look back and try to help more people. Just always know where they come from."