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In the truest sense of the phrase, former Arizona basketball player Mohamed Tangara is bearing down for his native country of Mali that is in a perilous situation.
Tangara, who lettered at Arizona from 2005-08, is making a symbolic representation of Arizona and the United States of America by providing a strong positive influence on the youth of his country. In Tangara’s words, “Mali started to become a terrorist territory. I can’t let the radical group brainwash these kids.”
An example of the danger in Mali: Late last night two assailants attacked a United Nations convoy of civilian workers in the northern part of the country, killing two and wounding another, according to an Associated Press report.
With the cooperation of the University of Arizona Honors College, Tangara has a goal of collecting at least 10,000 Arizona t-shirts that he will take home with him in the coming weeks. He will give the apparel to youth in his country as a reassurance that America is an ally and a place of goodwill and opportunity.
“I have so much influence in Mali,” said Tangara, the captain of the Mali national team that is vying for an Olympic berth. “I have to do something for the youth in Mali. I want to have a talk with the youth and use my influence in Mali.
“I can do it by bringing something from the United States. I can talk to them about the United States, give them gifts from the United States and tell them the United States is your friend, not your enemy. These kids will be wearing University of Arizona t-shirts in Mali.”
Tangara and the HCA is asking for donations of any used University of Arizona apparel. All sizes and conditions are accepted. Fans can also write notes of encouragement to the children of Mali along with the apparel. Collection boxes are set up in the Slonaker House and residence hall Arbol de la Vida, C124.
Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:
Mohamed Tangara led Mali to an upset over favored Senegal in February in the FIBA AfroBasket qualifying tournament.
Tangara wrote me this note to share with readers about his project for the Mali youth:
I am really excited about this project since I am in the position to be a positive influence on the youth of Mali. I have to do something about it right now because Mali has started to become an area with radical groups. Poor, young kids are the most vulnerable to be influenced to do wrong things by these groups. Most of the kids look up to me as big brother or role model and I want to make sure they are not influenced by the wrong people.
Because of this, I want to talk with the youth in Mali while I am giving them U of A shirts. I want them to know that if it wasn’t for the opportunity provided to me by the USA and the University of Arizona, I would not be in the position to bring them something to wear, or bring them all of the other gifts I have brought them beforehand. Without the U of A, I would also not be who I am today or maybe even not have had the opportunity to play with the national team, to have the historical victory against Senegal this past February, and to qualify for the African Cup competition, which is our road to the 2016 Olympic Games.
I believe bringing them U of A shirts from the USA to wear will help to tell them that they have friends in the USA, not enemies because these kids will listen to me and believe me. I can’t wait to see these kids wearing University of Arizona t-shirts. I am glad to have Rachel Barnitt on my side to manage this project because her family started the first collection of Wildcat shirts. Arizona, let’s make this happen, I believe we can do it!
MOHAMED TANGARA’S BASKETBALL CAREER
Tangara, 30, knows about the hope America provides for the citizens of Mali. He grew up in third-world conditions in Bamako, Mali, as part of a 10-member family. He left to the United States in 2000 to attend the Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C.
That is where he got noticed by former Arizona coach Lute Olson. In Tangara’s season season at Mount Zion he averaged 13 points and 15 rebounds a game. He signed with Arizona in November 2003 and began his career with the Wildcats in the 2004-05 season.
Tangara was mostly a reserve in his career at Arizona after gaining a medical hardship his freshman season because of a back injury. He concluded his career at Division II Chaminade College in Hawaii as a senior in 2008-09. Before leaving to Chaminade, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science at Arizona in May 2008.
After earning first-team All-Pac West honors at Chaminade, Tangara has continued his basketball pursuits overseas. He has played professionally in Morocco, Spain, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar and Angola. Last November, he was selected by the Bakersfield (Calif.) Jam in the sixth round of the NBA Developmental League but was let go before the season.
Tangara led Mali past Senegal in the qualifying round of the FIBA AfroBasket tournament in February. It was the first time in 26 years Mali beat Senegal in two games to move on to the continental competition for the right to participate in the Olympics. The tournament takes place Aug. 19-31 in Tunisia.