Hoops duo travels for outreach
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.
GAINESVILLE — For Florida junior forward Will Yeguete, it was a homecoming of sorts.
For several other Gator athletes, it was a chance to touch lives halfway across the globe. Yeguete, Florida center Patric Young and Florida all-purpose football back Trey Burton were among a delegation of athletes who took part in an outreach trip to Africa this past summer. The global sports ministry Athletes in Action organized the trip to the Ivory Coast, a French-speaking, West African nation with a population of more than 20 million.
The UF athletes spent a week in the port city of Abidjan, conducting sports clinics in basketball, football and track and field. Other Florida athletes who made the trip included UF tight end Clay Burton and UF track athletes Ashley Miller, Alishea Usery and Ashley Usery.
“It was life changing,” Young said. “They were just so appreciative of everything that we were able to give to them. I feel like we could have given so much more. I wish the trip would have been longer.”
Yeguete was born in Bordeaux, France, but spent the first 10 years of life in Abidjan before moving back to Paris. The 6-foot-7 Yeguete returned to the house where he grew up.
“It was really small,” Yeguete said. “I guess when I was growing up everything was so much bigger. And I got to go around my neighborhood, went to my old school. It was weird but I was really blessed to have a chance to go back there.”
The trip also served as an eye-opener for Florida athletes to conditions different from their home countries. Poverty, disease and malnutrition all have been issues throughout the Ivory Coast since its Civil War in 2002. According to a 2010 study, a quarter of the nation's people live on less than a dollar per day.
“What stood out to me the most is how much people over there, not just over there but in the world, are looking for hope and a reason to live and a reason to do what they do,” Trey Burton said. “We were able to bring it to a lot of people, a lot of athletes over there in the Ivory Coast and it was just an awesome experience.”
The sports clinics, in particular, generated smiles throughout the 110 participants. Young donned a coach's whistle for a few days.
“We worked with 30 athletes, kids ranging from about 16 to about 21, 22, just taught them a lot of basics,” Young said. “I think the coolest part was when we got them to do the shell drill and three-man weave and the five-man fast break drill. At first, they were struggling a little bit, but when they finally got it I was really excited to see them actually learn the stuff that we were teaching them.”
Along the way, Young noticed some players with potential.
“Soccer is usually the first sport but there were some guys that were basketball-first players, some guys that had some height on them,” Young said. “I remember one kid, he just wouldn't miss mid-range, he just wouldn't miss.”
Said Yeguete: “They loved it. They were taking in everything, they really wanted to learn and they were just having so much fun. They really enjoyed the couple of days we had with them.”
Fluent in French, Yeguete served as the translator throughout the trip. Florida athletes also had time for some cultural experiences within the city before returning to the United States.
“It was just a blessing to be out there and help the kids because I was one of them growing up,” Yeguete said. “Going there with Pat, Clay, Trey, all the track girls, it was an amazing experience.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.