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Out of Africa

Oct. 31, 2011
Oct. 31, 2011

Table of Contents
Oct. 31, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
WORLD SERIES
PRO FOOTBALL
  • Each year San Diego has the look of a Super Bowl contender, only to face an East Coast team and get whacked. Until the Bolts prove it on the field, they'll fight their rep as talented but too soft

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
SOCCER
  • In the fifth and final year of his MLS contract, he's back at the top of his game at last. Now, as the 2011 playoffs begin, he and the Galaxy look to stamp his American experiment a success by winning a championship

JAMARCUS RUSSELL
  • The No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft should be out on the field commanding an NFL team this Sunday. JaMarcus Russell, though, is home in Mobile, absorbing shots to his character and resting on what's left of his $39 million. The most maligned figure in football tells his side

Departments

Out of Africa

A new hoops documentary follows the bouncing ball from Senegal to stardom

Elevate opens to unmistakable images of basketball in the developing world: a stretched yellow tape measure, a rickety scale, a gaunt 7-foot silhouette throwing it down in the moonlight. But the movie, which opens in limited release on Friday, succeeds precisely because the lens of director Anne Buford doesn't dwell on the anatomical. While African prospects are so often reduced to Jay Bilas--isms (Wingspan! Length! Motor!), Buford provides a complete portrait of four Senegalese players whose self-assessments as they work toward a hoops future in the U.S. are as candid as any scout's. "I'm not strong," says 7-foot Assane, 16. "I'm slow," admits the similarly statured Aziz, 17. "I have trouble dribbling," says 6'9" Dethie, 17. Then there's 6'2" Byago, 17, whom we see sobbing after his U.S. student visa has been denied. "Shattered dreams," a family member explains.

This is an article from the Oct. 31, 2011 issue

It is no spoiler to note that Elevate's quartet is far more talented than such appraisals would suggest. Assane, Aziz and Dethie make the leap from Dakar's SEEDS Academy—a boarding school started in 2003 by a former Mavs scout—to some of America's elite prep schools. There, amid so much culture shock, the teens are reminded that they represent not only themselves but also their families, their country and all of Africa. "Your job is to succeed so you can go back and show other kids who want to come here how to do it," a South Kent (Conn.) coach tells Assane after scolding him for two C pluses. "Any questions?"

Yes, actually, there are plenty. See, for example, Aziz, at Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy, learning what a hot dog is, smack in the middle of Ramadan. But by film's end, success is on the horizon. We learn that two of the four players have earned high-major basketball scholarships—and that because the film was shot over a period of four years, we may have already even seen them on TV. From now on, thanks to Buford, these young men will never look the same.

THEY SAID IT

"He eats, poops and sleeps—the dream job for any guy."

HAL GILL Canadiens defenseman, on his then five-day-old son, Talon.

PHOTOJASON O. WATSON/US PRESSWIRE (GILL)PHOTOCOURTESY VARIANCE FILMS/SHARP 7 (ELEVATE)