Our third stop on the GOA summer tour was Cameroon. The visit was filled with tons of memorable moments, though the clear highlight was the appearance of two surprise guests – Pascal Siakam and Mr. Larry O’Brien.
Pascal made two separate visits to camp, and both times, he was completely engaged with the kids. His trademark smile was plastered across his face the whole time. And his presence sent the campers into a frenzy; they could barely contain their excitement and awe. And things went into overdrive when the Larry O’Brien trophy made an unexpected appearance. As Masai handed the trophy to Pascal, the two were completely swallowed up by the adoring, screaming crowd.
And the impact that Siakam’s visit had on the campers was amazing. We repeatedly heard from the kids that Pascal’s achievements, especially his NBA Championship, had proven to them that anything is possible if you’re dedicated enough and put in hard work. And they applied this lesson not just to sport, but to other ambitions as well, whether they wanted to become a teacher or a doctor or a scientist.
Finally, the GOA team had the chance to experience some off-the-court culture as well. Cameroonian legend, Coach Joe Tuoumou took the coaches to the neighbourhood of Essoss, where he grew up and first fell in love with the game. The team arrived just as the sun was starting to set, and they were greeted by the sounds of a live band performing just off to the side of the court. Kids were scrimmaging, unwilling to let the fading light get in the way of a final run or two. It was a truly magical experience, and it was clear to everyone how proud Joe was to be able to share this part of his history with his GOA sisters and brothers. The visit ended with the coaches forming a dance circle, as everyone had a chance to get right in the middle of the action and show off some dance moves, as the live band played on.