Men's and Women's Hoops Brings Basketball Diplomacy to Montenegro
Sept. 28, 2011
WASHINGTON - While one basketball team was touring China this summer, former Georgetown University men's and women's basketball players joined together with the United States Embassy in Montenegro to bring the Fourth Annual Basketball Diplomacy program to underprivileged youth in the Balkans.
Led by former men's basketball player Sead Dizdarevic(C' 07), the group traveled to Montenegro for the five-day camp which allowed 50 boys and girls to learn basketball and life skills from some impressive teachers.
Dizdarevic, along with Chris Golski (C '09) from the men's basketball office, men's manager Sir Ashley Harrison (C' 06), player Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw (C '06), Georgetown lacrosse player Mark Spring (B' 88) as well as women's players Kenya Kirkland (C' 10) and Monica McNutt(C' 11), traveled to the Balkans for the opportunity to see Montenegro and work with students on both basketball and life skills.
"If I could do it again, I would in a heartbeat," said Kirkland who is now part of the coaching staff for the Georgetown women. "Montenegro gave me an opportunity to experience a new culture and some amazing kids."
McNutt echoed her sentiments.
"The trip was an amazing and extraordinarily memorable experience. Not only was the country itself gorgeous, but we couldn't have asked for a better group of youth to work with. The players were so grateful for the opportunity and so eager to learn. By the end of the week, we didn't want to say goodbye; while the players continued to reiterate how much fun they had and how much they learned, I think their experience may have paled in comparison to ours. I was truly touched and inspired, and am so thankful I was a part of this."
The students were from underprivileged regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. In addition to having an interest in basketball, participants had to excel academically and have an understanding of English.
The Basketball Diplomacy project was conceived by Dizdarevic who saw a need for a program that emphasized sports, academics and leadership in his home country. While basketball served as the focus, skills needed to excel beyond the basketball court were emphasized as well. Perseverance, sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership and integrity were all stressed as keys to a successful team and a successful life.
The coaches also explained the educational opportunities that basketball can bring. They stressed staying in school as well as using basketball as a tool to overcome obstacles.
"With the leadership component, I was impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to participate," said Kirkland. "It's a wonderful program that benefits both the coaches and players, and gives them opportunities they may not have had."
Dizdarevic also saw the camp as an opportunity for the students from different areas of the Balkans to forge friendships among the players from different nations.
"The camp had kids from four different countries that in the past two decades have been affected by wars and ethnic divisions so what we tried to accomplish in this camp was to bring those kids together and introduce them to American culture, but at the same time, use this time to to create new friendships between kids from Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macadonia."
As in the past, the program was co-sponsored by the United States Department of State, the Georgetown Department of Athletics and the Georgetown Center for Intercultural Education and Development along with cooperation from the Government of Montenegro and the town of Bar.
Golski summed it up saying, "This was a great opportunity for Georgetown and we look forward to continuing it in the future."