ND basketball coaches go barefoot for charity

ND basketball coaches go barefoot for charity

FARGO, N.D. (AP) More than 25 years ago, a missionary in Nigeria gave a 9-year-old boy his first pair of shoes and told him to dream big. For Emmanuel ``Manny'' Ohonme, that translated into a love for playing basketball, an athletics scholarship to a North Dakota college and 5 million shoes for poor children.

Ohonme founded Samaritan's Feet, a charity that, with the help of thousands of barefooted basketball coaches, has given children around the world the same ticket to a better life he received from the man known only as Dave From Wisconsin.

It's homecoming week for Ohonme, who received undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Fargo area and met his wife at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. He traveled from his home in Charlotte, N.C., for this weekend's college basketball rivalry game, in which North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips and University of North Dakota coach Brian Jones plan to roam the sidelines sans shoes.

``My break was given to me here. My education was given to me here. The opportunity I have today was given to me here,'' Ohonme said.

Ohonme, 42, is a native of Lagos, Nigeria, where he grew up in a two-bedroom cinder-block house shared by 13 family members. Families in his neighborhood lived on less than $1 a day. Children would pray for zero-zero-one, which meant, ``I don't have breakfast or lunch, but at least give me supper to make it to the next day,'' Ohonme said.

His life changed in 1980, when a volunteer from the United States came to his neighborhood to help with sports camps for children and teach basketball, of all things.

``Before that, if there was anything round that bounced, we kicked it,'' Ohonme said. The 9-year-old wound up winning a hoops-shooting contest. His prize: a pair of canvas shoes.

Dave From Wisconsin - Ohonme says to this day he doesn't know the man's full name - told Ohonme that being surrounded by poverty was no reason to give up hope. So when Ohonme wasn't selling water and soft drinks to supplement his family's income, he took refuge on the closest crude basketball court.

With the help of the same basketball coach who mentored NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, Ohonme was able to attract interest from colleges in the United States. One of those schools was thousands of miles away, in a cold place called North Dakota.

``I decided that the school that gives me my travel papers first and sends me the best-looking brochures, that's where I'm going,'' Ohonme said, laughing about his decision to attend Lake Region. ``Obviously they took that picture in the summer.''

He arrived in Devils Lake on a Sunday, clad in a linen suit that provided little protection from the chilled air. As he walked around town, a couple stopped on their way home from church and offered him a ride. They took him home, fed him his ``first American cuisine'' with mashed potatoes and gravy and let him snooze on the couch.

When he woke up, the family was gone, but they'd left him a note to help himself.

``I am from Lagos, Nigeria. Nobody leaves a stranger in their house,'' he said.

Ohonme finished his stint at the two-year college, finished his undergraduate years at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and received a master's degree from NDSU. He and his wife moved to Charlotte to begin their business careers and raise a family.

When Ohonme returned to Nigeria for his father's funeral, he revisited that old basketball court and saw kids with no shoes - and no future.

It led him to start Samaritan's Feet in 2003, but the momentum it needed didn't arrive until 2008 when Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis basketball coach Ron Hunter shed his footwear and help generate donations for 100,000 shoes.

Since then, more than 3,000 basketball coaches at all levels have coached in bare feet. Ohonme said the charity has helped more than 5 million children get shoes in 65 countries.

``What started in my little garage in 2003 has now galvanized a global movement,'' Ohonme said. ``It's going to be exciting for me to come back to what we knew as home and see the people of North Dakota rally around this.''

This year, he said, more than 50,000 children will get shoes in 86 U.S. communities, including the Fargo-Moorhead area.

It will be the second time that NDSU coach Phillips will ditch his shoes. He jokes that rival coach Jones, at 6-foot-11, will be making a much larger contribution, but hopes their solidarity will convince fans to donate to the cause and a goal of 10,000 shoes.

``We will still be trying to beat each other's brains out during the game, but we can agree that we can do some good here in the meantime,'' Phillips said.


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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”


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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!