Eli Saslow of the Washington Post concludes his excellent series on basketball players leaving Nigeria for the USA today. He profiles Joe Smith (not that Joe Smith), whose has made a six-figure nest egg in dicey businesses like importing diamonds from Sierra Leone and gold from Mali.
"The best product over there," according to Smith, are African basketball players.
Saslow describes Smith's operation in detail. He goes to Africa, befriends good basketball players, gives them sneakers, arranges their visas, connects them to American coaches, and expects a decent chunk of their NBA dollars when they eventually arrive.
It's fraught with peril. You'll see. This time, I really recommend reading the whole thing. Rather than the import of basketball players, it seems to be more about the export of the USA's corrupt basketball development culture. (I know, I know, Nigeria is already famous for being one of the most corrupt places on the planet. But you know what they teach kindergarten kids about two wrongs...)
Remember Olumide Oyedeji? He played a little for Orlando and Seattle. He has some perspective in Saslow's article:
Olumide Oyedeji, a 24-year old Nigerian who has been in and out of the NBA, paid for about five Nigerian players to come to the United States during the last two years. He might not do it again.
"When I help, I make enemies because people think I'm costing them money," Oyedeji said. "It's all business now. Nigerians, Americans, they all want to make money off the players. It's like a slave trade. They're not thinking about the best interests of the kid. They're looking for the best interests for themselves."
My thought is that with the hundreds of thousands that people are spending to get these players to develop some basketball skills in the United States, you could fix up a top-notch basketball training facility in Nigeria, complete with staff. Then the best players wouldn't be hidden away, selling themselves on shadowy websites, but could instead get trained by good coaches with connections to professional leagues. That would let a little sunshine in.