Interview with Maurice Ndour


Interview with Maurice Ndour 15.03.2018

The next interlocutor for the interview was the forward of our team Maurice Ndur. An inquisitive interlocutor is able to turn any conversation into a philosophical conversation for life.

- How do you like UNICS?

- All perfectly. I think we have a wonderful culture. I'm just looking at our team. It gathered guys from different countries and we also play together, which is not so easy. We are just a team of friends, with an excellent coaching staff and excellent administrative staff who do everything to make us feel at home.

Yeah, we saw with journalists how you fooled Stefan after training. With whom else can you have fun, found a common language?

"Sometimes after training we can fool around with Quino. In general, I think, in our team, any player can talk to everyone. And this is the most important when you can chat with each of the guys at any time. And this is really so, we have a tradition to get together, to have supper. Of course, we are friends with Quino, Stephane, and Melvin. But these guys are not from Russia, let's say, the international part of the team and we easily find a common language. But, for example, Vlad Trushkin is also a cheerful guy. We always talk, he's cool, he gives advice. We always joke, he's a good friend.

- Why did you decide to continue your career in Kazan after the season in the NBA and the D-league?

- The most important thing for me was to find a team in which I could fully participate and become a full participant in the rotation. I still consider myself a newcomer in European championships, so signing a contract with UNICS was for me a good opportunity for growth, learn new aspects of the game, improve myself in basketball.

Can you compare the NBA and the Euroleague?

- In NBA is more spacious, physical training is more important. And the Euroleague, and many European tournaments, it seems to me, are built on schemes, tactical tricks, IQ and in general it is important to be able to read the game.

- What kind of basketball is in Japan?

- I think basketball in Japan is the second most popular sport after baseball. But you know, their whole culture is based on discipline. Training in Japan is very difficult, nothing is easy. The basketball, throwing exercises, in general performing any tasks, are laid out one hundred percent. This is embedded in their mentality, in Japan they say "if you do not run, you will not win." And it's always in their heads. Basketball in Japan is very fast. And people like it. And as for the speeds, it is much faster than here in Russia. You can compare with Europe, but faster, of course.

- Stephane opened a basketball school in Gabon. Would you open yours?

- Definitely, I could imagine myself in the place of Stephane. Everyone has a certain range of interests, but for me it's not just basketball. I prefer educational issues, an opportunity to help people who need it. Of course, I plan to conduct some kind of basketball games at home, but besides that, the issues of children's education are very important to me. In the strategic plan, this is much more important than giving some skills in basketball, because education is success. We have a lot of children who do not go to school, because there is no money. And people like me should go back and help them.

- By the way, your attention to the issues of education is difficult not to notice. Why is it so important for you?

- Because the next generation should be better than we, our fathers, our grandfathers. They must be educated. I always believed that education is power. And in general there are no barriers to say that you are too old to learn. There is always something you do not know, even if you are 100 years old. Education is so important to me, because it gives not only the freedom to live as you want, but also an understanding of how this world is arranged behind the familiar surroundings for you. Wherever you live, education helps to understand what is happening in this world. Even if you are from Senegal, you can, therefore, understand what is happening in Russia or in China, for example. Just because you have knowledge in your head. And education will always have value. Actually due to the fact that I always studied, I became what I was now. Only thanks to education, I could play basketball today. I had scholarships to play basketball in the US and Japan. That's why it's important.

You know, you can not be an athlete for a long time. You never know what will happen tomorrow. One day you can wake up and realize that you can not play. That's why education is the most important thing.

"Maybe you could be a teacher?"

- I would say a mentor rather than a teacher. Like any person who helps children find their way in this world. I just share my knowledge, experience. I feel that when I return home, I can help local children so that they will benefit from my knowledge. But I would not say that I can be a teacher.

- When I was preparing for the interview, I wanted to ask you about whether you want to create your own fund, and then you announced an educational project in your social networks. Tell about that.

- We recently announced a program called "Clean Senegal". When I was last home, I clearly saw that the country was dirty. All around were some trash cans, and people do not know how to clean and recycle waste. The Maurice Ndour Foundation presented a program for processing, first of all, for schools. We talked with schoolchildren and directors to introduce it everywhere. Imagine, children go into the history or mathematics room and within 15-20 minutes are removed at school or around it. Our partner is a plastic processing company, which helps us sort out garbage dumps in every school in Senegal. The reason we started it in schools is, as I said, children are our future. Therefore, if we teach them to take out the garbage and process it, then, having matured, it will become their habit. And they already bring this habit to their families. They will talk about how they retired to school friends, in their social circle. Our foundation is now focused on this project. But I'm looking further. I think in 3-4 years we will be able to focus in food. We want to teach people how to eat right.

- Who helps you with the fund?

- Basically, I do it myself. But there are several really close friends who follow the work. My friend Gianna also helps us. He is a leader, a landscape and gardening. He also teaches people how to become an entrepreneur, doing plastic processing. Of course, I'm the project manager, but they help me a lot, because I'm still busy with my main job, basketball I hope that in a year or two I will have a leader who will lead everything on the spot, and I will only help with advice.

- You have recently announced the program, but maybe there are already some results, something you did not expect?

"You know, yes." This idea came to me in June when I was at home. From September to December we actively discussed it. We planned to start somewhere on January 21, but did not expect that there would be such support from the people. I called up my team and they told me that it was unbelievable. People were really happy, a similar program was needed for a long time. We started with five regions of Senegal, we work there with 29 schools on a recycling program. But I hope that soon the number of schools will increase significantly. They will see the results of other schools and want to join the program, to make their school cleaner. Our goal is to attract at least 3 to 4 schools in each region, and the rest will themselves want to join. The first reaction of the society made me very, very happy

- It is evident that you are very concerned about the future of Africa. What do you think should be changed on your own continent in the first place?

- Of course, a lot has to be changed. There are many problems in Africa. But the first thing that I would change is people's consciousness. What they think, and how they act accordingly. For a very long time we were colonized and were toys for Western countries, we are not accustomed to think independently. I want to teach the people of Africa that they do not have to leave their country to make changes. They can occur in your home, community and, ultimately, in the country. For me it all comes down to the education of our children. Once again, they are our future. And they need to explain that all the tools to achieve the goals in their head. And you can achieve everything you want. To understand how the world works, you just need to be open to knowledge. It seems to me that the time has come for Africans to take control of their lives, not to wait for help from outside. You need to be independent, you need to work. You can not live and ask "give me, give me." We need to learn. When I left Africa for Japan, I had no idea who I would be, whether I would play basketball. I just knew that I would have to work hard. And I think people should think so. We need to raise new leaders. That's why I say that I would like to be a mentor, to help the leaders of tomorrow.

- In general, your position may sometime in the future become a good platform for a political career. Could you become a politician?

"I'm not sure that I want to be a politician, but I definitely use my social networks to influence people and share my knowledge." Sometimes I specially write such posts so that people ask questions. I always answer, try to explain some things. I for this reason also use social networks to train people, to help them. People pursue different goals, registering in social networks, my - to show that you can be independent, do something that you like, and not repeat after others. In addition, in my social networks, I tell you which Africa is beautiful. People have a stereotype that Africa is always something bad, but it is very beautiful.

Where is your home?

"My home is in Senegal, but I always said about myself that I was cosmopolitan. I am a resident of the whole world, do not belong to one country, one continent. It seems to me that we are all one in this world, no matter where we come from, black or white. We are all one.

- In what language do you think (Maurice Ndour speaks French, English, Japanese and two dialects of Senegal - approx.)?

- I used to think in French, but after I moved to the US five years ago, English became the language I use every day. Now, if I want to say or write in French, I first think in English. Such is the skill that now makes it easier for me to think in English. Just this language became more in my life when I crossed the ocean.

- And in the childhood?

- In my childhood I also thought in French, it was just taught in schools. Always spoke and thought in French. Senegal does not have its own language, which would be taught in schools and on which we write. Our official French language, in our dialects, we just say. For example, Wolof, silver, diol. Dialects are many, but we only talk about them.

- Listen, do not you think that this way your language can disappear? In our region, too, they speak their local language and there are fears that it can disappear if it is not taught in schools?

- No, this will not happen. We're talking on it. The more you communicate, the more you remember. When I'm at home, I never speak French, I always use one of the dialects. With the family, too, I communicate in a dialect. I do not think that language can disappear if you continue to talk on it. Here's how to stop using it, and lose it. ...

I have a favorite expression from Marcus Harvey (founder of the World Association for the Advancement of Black Men - Ed.): "People who do not know their past, like a tree without roots." So if you do not know your culture, your history, you will be like a tree without roots. You will be waved to the right and left, without roots there is no power. Culture and language, as its component, are very important. If you do not know where you are from, then you do not know where you're going. I am against those who do not know their history, culture, language, but are trying to go somewhere. I always speak my native language Wolof, when I return home by phone. It is important for me to know my roots.

- And how do you say? At us in Tatarstan begin a phrase on Tatar and finish in Russian.

- It's funny that you say so. In Senegal, too. People start talking at Wolof, but French and English words are added. It turns out a mix of languages. Just because some words are not in our dialect. It seems to me that you also have. We mix languages, but we understand each other.

- Tell us about your roots?

- I grew up in a big, but at the same time a small family. I say so, because my mom's brothers and sisters were about ten, but we have only two mothers. Me and my brother. I'm the eldest. We grew up in a believing Christian family. Grandpa always told me, "You must go to church." And my mother, too, so every Sunday we went to church. My family really believes that. I was raised and put on my mother's feet, my parents divorced when I was little. It was she who showed how to be a real man, how to work, how to live. I grew up with my brother alone. It was a glorious time, she did not teach us, she just showed us how to live. I went to work and brought food to the table. I saw all this and I grew up very early.

Up to 15 years old I went to school in Senegal. I finished high school in Japan, where I spent three years, played basketball and studied. I had the opportunity to continue my studies at a university in Japan, but I left for the USA, not only because of basketball. For me it was a kind of challenge, an opportunity to get an education. I left for the USA in 2011, entered college. He studied for two years, was educated. And a new journey to professional sports began.

You know, growing up in Senegal, on the one hand was easy, but at the same time it's not very simple. It was easy, because I had a mother, and we did not grow up in poverty, as many people think. I had everything I needed, but it was difficult, because not everyone had the same opportunities. As a child, I saw that someone belongs to the upper class, someone to the middle, and someone lives in outright poverty. That's what I meant when I said that it was not very easy to grow. I've always been such a guy who always wanted to help everyone, I wanted everyone to be equal. If I had two pairs of shoes, and someone did not have one, I gave mine. People are mired in the material world, they have forgotten what is really important. It's important to love each other. Only I understood this. When I left Senegal, I always knew that I was doing this not only for myself, but also for the people of my country, so that they had the same opportunities as I have. Understanding this made me stronger.

- When did you meet your wife?

-  Good question. We met in Spain in 2016. She is from the USA, she also played basketball. And I was playing for Real Madrid. Then we met. I played a lot, thought a lot about different things. God just brought her into my life. From that moment it seems to me, I'm younger by ten years. Here they say "love the first time," then there is some reason for this. I really believe in this, because from that moment on I became better, and my love only grows, she is a very important person in my life. Helps with my foundation too. I think about her all the time and she's my biggest fan.- Recently I read in the instagram that you do not want to know the sex of the unborn child. (Recently, Maurice and his wife Kelsey had a daughter - approx.)

- Yes, it is. I'm a simple guy. Everything should be as simple as possible. Our parents did not know who they were born, boy or girl. Now thanks to technology, we have such an opportunity, but this deprives us of excitement from the expectation of the child, pleasure. I did not want to know the sex of a future child, because I wanted to fully enjoy this unique experience of expecting a child. I do not know who to be born, boy or girl, and it invariably gives me a smile. And my wife and I are in solidarity. She is also simple, always lived a simple natural life. Technology is determined by not all. We are such young people with grown-up souls.