John Smallwood | Mavs scouting director sowing good SEEDS

Posted: June 20, 2007

CLEVELAND - Amadou Gallo Fall didn't even have the cliché "cup of coffee" in the NBA as a player.

That was fine with him because becoming a professional basketball player was never his intent when a Peace Corps worker discovered him at a basketball clinic in Tunisia.

Gallo Fall was asked if he would be interested in continuing his education on a basketball scholarship in the United States.

"I had no idea of the different levels of basketball in the NCAA," Gallo Fall, a 6-9 native of Senegal, said of that life-changing day in 1989. "But when he called a week later suggesting that somebody wanted to sign me to an athletic scholarship and come to his school and everything was paid for, I signed right there on the third line.

"I figured if someone was fool enough to think that I was worthy of anything on the basketball court to take me over to the [United States] and give me an education, before they changed their mind I better get signed."

Gallo Fall ended up at the University of the District of Columbia - then a Division II school. The highlight of his playing career came as a freshman when he played against Georgetown University's "Twin Towers" of Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.

He blocked a shot by Mutombo and won a tip against Mourning.

In the classroom, Gallo Fall graduated magna cum laude from UDC with a bachelor of science in biology.

So today, when Gallo Fall recruits kids for his SEEDS Academy in Senegal, it is not with the promise of a career as a player in the NBA or any other professional basketball league around the world.

Although SEEDS stands for Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal and Gallo Fall works as vice president of International Affairs and Director of Scouting for the Dallas Mavericks, the primary goal is not to tap in early to Africa as an emerging region for NBA talent. Yes, NBA players Pape Sow of the Toronto Raptors and Mouhamed Sene of Seattle are both SEEDS projects, but most use it as a jump-start to a better education.

Since it opened in 2003, the SEEDS Academy has sent more than 30 young men to the United States to continue their educations.

"The kids who have made it to the NBA are highlights," said Gallo Fall, who has received sponsorship for SEEDS from companies such as the NBA, Nike and a communications company in Senegal called peopleinput. "We have many more kids who have gone on to study to become doctors, engineers and businessmen. Some have come back [to Senegal] and are inspiring other kids.

"Sports is only the hook to get them in. I tell my kids, '99 percent of you will not make it to play professional basketball on any level, but all of you can become leaders.'

"The point is to teach the spirit of teamwork, to offer positive role models, to instill the importance of education, and to demonstrate that with commitment, dreams can come true in whatever your field of interest.

"It is crucial to Africa's future social and economic development that its young people have a sense of hope."

"Hoopland" is a feature-length film documentary that currently is in production about the SEEDS Academy. It follows the yearlong journey of four students - Assane Sene, Bouna Semou Niang, Papa Madethie Fall and Lamine Diame - at SEEDS.

"It's just such an incredible story," said the film's producer, Anne Buford, a former communications executive for Vogue and Polo-Ralph Lauren who established Sharp 7 Films in 2005.

Sharp 7 Films is geared toward examining people who have had significant impact in the world through their non-profit work.

"Hoopland" is its inaugural project.

Gallo Fall, who went to work for the Senegalese Basketball Federation in 1995, joined the Mavericks as a scout while the NBA was increasing its presence worldwide.

In 2003, he served as director of the NBA's "Africa 100 Camp" in South Africa and has worked in the league's Basketball Without Borders program since 2004.

But the SEEDS Academy has become his passion.

"We feel that sports can do so much in communities around the world," said Gallo Fall, adding that the SEEDS Academy will be adding girls next year. "Growing up, I didn't dream of being a basketball player.

"I was impressed with organizations that offered aid. You know, highly trained personnel who offered relief aid to communities and people who needed it. People who risked their lives in places where they had no cultural tie.

"That inspired me to want to do something that would have impact and inspire communities. As I moved into sports, my whole focus was how can I leverage the opportunities and connections I was having for myself into something that could impact things in my home?"

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Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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