Photo By: courtesy of Mani Messy
Los Altos Hills resident Mani Messy, center, shows youngsters in Cameroon proper technique for shooting a basketball. A native of the country, Messy has run clinics in Cameroon the past two summers and plans to return next year to lead another one.
Basketball has opened scores of doors for Mani Messy, who took up the sport after moving with his family from Cameroon to Canada at age 5.
After playing basketball on scholarship at Seton Hall University and professionally in Europe, Messy transitioned to coaching. The Los Altos Hills resident runs his own basketball academy and this year took over as head coach of the boys varsity team at Pinewood School.
So it’s no wonder Messy, 30, wants to give back to the game that has given him so much. As the founder and director of Youth Services Beyond Borders – a global youth initiative that provides athletes with service and leadership opportunities in developing countries – he returned to Cameroon the past two summers to teach basketball to youngsters.
The 6-foot-7 Messy didn’t go alone, bringing players he’s coached to Central Africa both times to serve as counselors. Five players from his Above & Beyond Basketball Academy joined Messy in 2011 and 12 came along in June, including Pinewood’s Ryan Brice.
“The most rewarding (aspect) was knowing we all made a difference through the game of basketball and watching my counselors adapt to their roles while realizing that the game of basketball truly is a universal language,” Messy said.
Messy and his players taught the sport to a group of 70 youths. The five-day camp included morning and afternoon sessions.
“All of the counselors had been through the Above & Beyond Basketball program and were put in a situation where they had to teach back what was taught to them,” Messy said.
A mother of one of the campers invited Messy and his counselors over for dinner one night and told them about her days playing basketball for Cameroon’s women’s national team. Messy and his players won’t soon forget how the evening ended.
“She got up, walked to her wall where her national team jersey had been hanging for years and handed it to one of the counselors in recognition for all of their hard work,” he said.
Messy and his counselors shared more than their basketball knowledge, bringing the campers jerseys, shorts and shoes they collected prior to the trip. After the counselors scrimmaged the Cameroonians to conclude the camp, the Americans gave their sneakers to spectators.
“It was a moment to remember for me,” Messy said. “It reminded me precisely why the trip had to keep happening each summer.”
Messy plans to return to Cameroon next year with several more players from his program. There’s still much to do.
“One of the many goals is to resurface the basketball court where we’ve held the camp the last two summers,” he said.
For more information, visit www.aboveandbeyondbasketball.com.