Preps Talk

CSN's Journey to Cambodia

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CSN's Journey to Cambodia

Watch entire two-part documentary here

I mean hell on Earth. Its apocalyptic. I used to tell people it would be like a scene after World War III, after the nuclear holocaust. You dont feel like youre on Earth. -- Bill Smith

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Its a vast wasteland of trash, poverty and disease; a mountain of garbage, a world without hope.

Its a place youd never want to visit, let alone live your life. And yet, that is the reality for hundreds of Cambodians whose dead-end existence brought them to a place where only a miracle can save them.

Or a man with a camera who wanted to help.

Bill Smith, the longtime team photographer for the Chicago Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks found the Phnom Penh garbage dump while visiting Cambodia 10 years ago. Think of the dirtiest place in the United States, multiply it by 20 and that is where these people work and live -- many of them children, who scavenge through the garbage for 30 cents a day, enough to buy morsels of food.

Its the kind of scene you cant forget. Bill certainly couldn't. It changed his life -- and because of him -- has since transformed the lives of over 100 children from the garbage dump.

He and Chicago Bulls executive Joe ONeil have created A New Day Cambodia, a center two miles from the garbage dump that provides free shelter, food and education for children who once had nothing.

Now they have a chance at life -- which is everything.

The look and sparkle in their eyes is the just the biggest difference, Smith said. Hopelessness becomes hope for the future and its not just that they are clean. They have a whole different persona. They hold their head higher, they have pride, they take care of themselves and feel more human than they were before.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT, Comcast SportsNet will air From the Sports World to the Third World: A Journey to Cambodia, a two-part documentary that takes you inside the garbage dump as well as the center for A New Day Cambodia.

In Part 1, youll meet people like Sokha Chen, who was orphaned at the age of 9, and was living on the side of a road with her brother for six months. After her brother died, she made her way to the garbage dump where Smith found her in 2007. Five years later shes thriving at a New Day Cambodia. She goes to one of the best private schools in the country, she was recently featured in Newsweek as one of 150 women who shake the world, and last year traveled to the White House where she met first lady Michelle Obama.

The metamorphosis from one child to the next is extraordinary.

Ill never forget the day we went out and picked up these children at these shacks and literally the parents said good-bye to their children, ONeill recalls. I think we moved about 15 or 16 kids in the first trip. These kids had to learn how to use a toilet. They had never used showers before. We had hired a staff here and we were scared beyond belief.

Smith and ONeil had no experience in starting or running a charity, let alone 8,000 miles away from their homes in Chicago.

I was worried. My intentions were good, but maybe we had made a mess of things, maybe we had made a mess of their lives, Smith said. We didn't know what we were doing. We took them away from their parents, we turned their lives upside down, we dont really know what were doing, we have no experience in this, but it worked.

In Part 2 on Wednesday, we follow along as Smith and ONeil go into the slums of the garbage dump to choose four more children to bring to the center.

One of the kids is a malnourished 7-year-old boy named Mey-Mey who was living with his mother and five siblings in a one-room shack with barely any possessions.

Smith says that he feels like hes playing God when he decides which children to rescue. Looking inside the home of Mey-Mey, he knew immediately the difference he and ONeil could make in the young boys life.

This puts donation money to work in a way that every single penny will count for this boy, said Smith, standing outside the familys shack, which was surrounded by garbage.

This means the world to this family. Its like giving them a million dollars, or a thousand dollars a week for life. They have absolutely nothing, and now theyre going to have their youngest child go to school.

At home, Smith and ONeil have their minds set on their full-time jobs back in Chicago. However, a large part of their hearts are always with those who they have saved thousands of miles away.

 This is not a charity that you do for a year or two, or a dinner you support and then say, Heck with it. We have 100 children here and they aren't going away, ONeil said. We want to send everyone on their way where they can self-sustain and start a family, provide for that family, provide for their former family and improve not only their life but elevate their country and give back to their country and other children and help the new kids coming along.

Smith has made a career out of taking photographs of some of the most iconic figures in Chicago sports history: Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Derrick Rose, Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

They are heroes for their achievements. The same should be said for Smith and ONeil. Athletes affect lives.

These two men are changing them.

People are neglected, and for some weird reason, Joe and I, weve figured out how to do this, Smith said. And we feel a responsibility now. Like we actually know how to go out to a garbage dump and pick out kids and deal with the parents, and its just kind of an unusual talent that we have learned. They have become part of our family. Its an extension of our family over here and what we get out of it is coming to see our extended family and watch them prosper.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”