For most kids, access to the game of basketball is simple. After all, players only need a ball and a hoop.
But for third-year Sunrise Christian Academy center N’Faly Dante being able to play the game used to be a struggle, and it means more to him than most people will ever know.
“It’s my family,” Dante said. “We got like a difficult time. I just got to just do that for them, to make this right and help them.”
Before coming to the U.S., Dante lived in the Republic of Mali in West Africa where basketball wasn’t a big deal. He dreamed of playing at the next level, but the 6 foot 11 inch athlete knew the sport would take time and dedication.
“It was really, really hard because my school and where I was training, it’s like really, really long, if you walk, it’s like two hours.”
The goals that his sister once called ‘crazy dreams,’ began to take shape at the age of 14 when Dante met head coach of Sunrise Christian Academy ‘Elite’ team, Luke Barnwell.
“When you see him, you’re like, ‘Okay. He’s the real deal,'” Barnwell says.
Today, Dante is sitting at the top, tapped as the number one recruit for the state of Kansas and number 12 in the ESPN top 60 of the 2020 recruiting class. But he plays little attention to the accolades.
“Even people be like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re the number one center. You number one.’ I don’t care about this stuff. I just want to keep working,” says Dante.
“I think he has a little bit of competitive streak in him, and when he’s like that, we’re really hard to beat,” adds Barwell.