Modibo Diarra is one of the toughest players you can meet on a basketball court. Off the court, he is soft-spoken and extremely friendly. When you first meet him you can not help but want to be friends with him. I had the opportunity to first see Modibo play this past summer at an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) event. On the court any professional scout in America (including myself) will tell you that come next year Modibo will have the luxury to pick whatever school he wants. He is that talented and that special of a player. Still, there is something about Modibo off the court that makes him such a terrific human being. At a recent hoop tournament that I was covering, I was amazed to see how much excitement there was when Modibo stepped onto the court. At first, I thought well, everybody in the gym must be here to see this extraordinary 6’9″ shot blocker perform. It is true a lot of people did want to see him perform on the court, but there is a different type of fan cheering when Modibo is out there. Friends close to him will tell you that Modibo has a following in and around Boston. People who don’t even follow basketball still go to games and watch him play just because they met him and hope he succeeds. Modibo is some one special He has a gift on and off the court.
Modibo is no stranger to basketball. In his home country in Mali, Africa he was able to catch a glimpse of USA basketball through satellite. Just like any kid in America who has dreams of making it to the NBA, kids in Africa do have that dream as well. They have goals of being successful in life and taking care of their family. When a down and out coach from American University was trying to recruit another player to come to his school, that player decided on playing European ball instead. Scott Spinelli saw a pickup game going on near by, so to ease off his disapointment he stuck around to watch. What he found was were kids playing on a dirt ground, wearing sandals and some just playing on barefeet. Scott saw a young 6’9″ kid who swatting every basket in sight and immediately thought this kid has potential written all over him. After staying in Africa for a couple of weeks and convincing Modibo’s father and two wives that it was alright for Modibo to go to the United States and play basketball, good luck took a major hit. The African federation would not allow Modibo to go to the United States. It took Modibo two months to go through all the red tape of the African federation to allow Modibo to leave Africa. When he finally got through all the legal work he learned that his best friend named Solomon, who planned on coming with Modibo to America, died of malaria. Despite the fact that the African Federation was still reluctant to grant him a Visa and his best friend had just died of malaria, Modibo still went on with his dream of making it America and being successful. When first arriving to Notre Dame Prep. in Fitchburg, Modibo had problems communicating with his teammates and the coaches. He learned through perseverance and a willingness to learn ways other than language to communicate with the people around him.
For the past two years Modibo has spent his time traveling around the United States and meeting people that are willing to help him out and get him acclimated with the United States. When you listen to Modibo speak and hear what he had to go through to get to America and pursue his goal of one day taking care of his family, you then begin to have a routing interest for Modibo and hope that one day he can reach his goal. Through talking to people who know Modibo, I am not the only one hoping he succeeds.