'Rice & Sugar': WNBA's Ndour In Senegal Helping With COVID-19 Fight

Dorothy Gentry

While waiting for the WNBA season to begin, Dallas Wings player Astou Ndour is making the most of her time by working to help youth and others affected by the Coronavirus in her native Senegal.

“With this COVID-19, I wanted to give back and give them basics like rice and sugar – they need that,'' Ndour told DallasBasketball.com via phone from Senegal, where she is sequestering with family. "And they were very happy.”

Through her Astou Ndour Sports-Études Association, Ndour recently donated essential bags of rice, sugar and oil – basic staples in Senegal - to ensure families are able to cook meals and be fed during this stay-at-home time.

“It’s a global problem and here it has also been affected,'' she said. “Above all, life has changed from day to day – masks, distances … It seems that we have fewer dead and infected than other countries, but we remain on alert because it’s a very serious issue.''

Ndour’s foundation will also bring basketball and education together for the youth of Senegal. She started the foundation in her birthplace of Dakar, she said, to give kids access to education and school and to help them be able to play sports and have a place to grow and thrive.

“Before, I didn’t have this opportunity when I played basketball; materials and things like that,'' Ndour said. "I didn’t want my other generations to have the same issue. I wanted them to have good conditions like places to practice and going to school, clothes and everything they need.

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“We are in the initial phase because we want to do things well and go in a line of values that allow us to make a quality intervention with different groups,” she said. “Now we have wanted to help people who had COVID-19 for the most basic things, eating.

“But we are also going in the line of uniting basketball with education. The virus has stopped us a little, but we are working to get going when it happens, because it will be necessary.”

While growing her foundation, Ndour said one thing she believes in is the real impact of an action. 

“That and the impact that we leave with our example; that cannot be measured,'' she said. "We will see it in future generations. But when this virus ends we want to be serving around 50-100 boys and girls.”

The Spanish-Senegalese player – she became a naturalized Spanish citizen in 2011 after moving to Spain to play basketball as a youth – was drafted by the San Antonio Stars with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft. She played two years before being traded to the Chicago Sky in 2017. She enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, averaging 17.5 minutes and 6.8 points per game in the regular season and 25.5 minutes and 16.5 points in the playoffs as a starter. Ndour ended the season as a restricted free agent, was re-signed and traded to the Dallas Wings.

“We are extremely excited about Astou,” said Wings coach Brian Agler. “We know she has the ability to play a huge role for us this season. Astou is extremely versatile both defensively and offensively.”

The 6-5 Olympic medalist, 25, is also a five-time FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup champion, and reigning MVP of FIBA Women’s Eurobasket 2019. Ndour has earned a total of eight medals in seven years of overseas play (2011-18), including a silver medal while representing Spain at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

While spending time at home during the pandemic she talked with DallasBasketball.com about growing up in Senegal, how she’s staying prepared for the WNBA season, her favorite player in the world (yes, Michael Jordan), celebrating many Mothers Day’s and more.

DB: Where were you when the pandemic broke out? What have you been doing with the time?

AN: I was in Russia playing overseas (Dynamo Kursk). I told them I wanted to go home and be with my family. So I came home so I could quarantine with them. Since then I’ve been taking care of myself, staying in shape; we don’t know about the WNBA or the season start so I’m just staying at home, going out just to buy food. I’m also practicing with a personal trainer on Zoom with video conferences.

DB: How did you spend Mother's Day?

AN: In Spain, Mother’s Day is the first Sunday in May. In Senegal it’s May 31, so I have many Mothers Days, ha ha. But my mother is happy because it’s been a long time since we could spend so much time together. It’s a positive matter of this (COVID-19) situation, the time that we came to share with loved ones and that we could not before. I think we will all value them more in the future.

DB: You come from a family of athletes, right? Tell me about that.

AN: Yes, they played sports. My mother and my dad – but not professionally; just in high school and college. My grandad played. Also my brother is playing now, too. It’s great.

DB: What do you know about Dallas?

AN: I have friends there. I like it. Before, when I was with the Sky and we came to play the Wings, they would say ‘Maybe you can come here and play’ and I’d say I don’t know, maybe. And now I am.

DB: How was it playing in Europe then getting drafted into the WNBA?

AN: I’ve always wanted to play in the WNBA, it’s the best league in the world. I love playing basketball. I feel so good. Every time I have an opportunity to play I do well and I’m proud. It’s been a little hard sometimes because you don’t understand the rules that much; my first year it was difficult. But I’m good now.

DB: Who are you favorite athletes or players you’ve enjoyed watching?

AN: Tina Charles (Washington Mystics) is someone I like. She’s like a sister to me.

And my favorite is Michael Jordan. When I was a kid I would always watch him. That’s why I wear No. 45 (Jordan’s second jersey number when he returned from retirement). I love the way he played, his mentality on and off the court. I was so happy when I got to Chicago because I was saying I’m going to meet him but I never did.

DB: So what do you think of The Last Dance?

AN: I’m not watching it yet. I’m downloading it but I will catch up. Can’t wait.

DB: How do you spend your free time right now?

AN: I usually like to go out and see my friends but can’t do that now. I also spend my time with my family.

Astou said she doesn’t know when she will head back to the United States because the WNBA season is still on hold. But she assures fans in Dallas, she’ll be more than ready.

“I train hard and prepare every day to be ready for when I have to go be 100 percent before an exciting challenge with Dallas,'' she said. "I’m ready.”

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