Oregon Ducks center N’Faly Dante was among the most sought after college basketball recruits going into the 2019-20 season. He is 6’11”, 230 pounds, and boasts a 7’5 1/2″ wingspan to go with a 9’5″ standing reach.
Born in Mali, he is looking forward to the American experience, especially getting able to show his mom around when she can comes to visit, and there is one thing in particular that he can’t wait to show her.
N’Faly Dante’s upbringing
In a personal essay written about his mother for The Player’s Tribune, Dante discussed his upbringing. Missing his mother after his move to America, he reflected on his upbringing. Dante lost his father at an early age, so his mother had to raise him alone. She first brought him to a basketball camp in Mali when he was 12 years old, and he remembers the love and support that his mother gave him in the process.
After struggling through the physicality of the basketball camp, Dante remembers going to his mom complaining and expecting sympathy from her in the process. Instead, she told him not to give up.
“You didn’t even start yet,” Dante recalls her saying. “Get your butt back out there tomorrow.”
Her tough love paid off, and now her son is playing college basketball with hopes that the NBA may be in the future. Throughout the letter, Dante beams about the support from his mother and thanks her for all of the hard work and sacrifice it took to get him to where he is — and he gives his mother all of the credit for his success.
Dante’s letter reflects his appreciation for his mother, stating that his move to America made him realize how much he took for granted. Among the things he immediately noticed moving to America is that they do not, in his words, appreciate peanut butter, like they do back in Mali.
Dante humorously talks about how overwhelming it was to see all the processed peanut butter rather than the freshly-made version his mother worked hard to give him.
It was this hard work that helped inspire Dante to work as hard as he did to get to play basketball. He recalls how this hard work helped bring him luxuries that children in America may not fully appreciate, such as the Chuck Taylor’s he got to play in. He recalls his mother’s demands that he clean his shoes and show appreciation.
Like many people who come over to America from another place, there’s a lot of shock that comes with it, but one particular American staple has Dante excited for when his mother comes.
“The first place we’ll go is a restaurant I know you’re going to love,” Dante tells his mother. “It’s called Chipotle. They have these things called burritos and for a little extra money you can get this stuff called guacamole. It’s hard to describe, but it’s one of my favorite foods now.”
While he acknowledges that he misses his mother’s cooking, this shows just how different the two cultures are. Burritos are an American staple, but an utterly foreign concept back in Mali. Chipotle may be a household brand here, but to Dante, they represent something new, different, and exciting to share back home.
How Dante’s career plays out remains to be seen, but his letter to his mother shows some insight into the college experience from a player who may not have had the same path as his teammates and classmates alike.
He might have to wait on his NBA dreams, but a big man with his skill set could be a hot commodity for an NBA that is seeking new, big talent when he decides to bring his talents to the NBA. Until that moment comes, he will always have his love for both his mother and his favorite restaurant.