One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
This fact is powerfully illustrated by the dozens of gently used basketball shoes collected by 2017 Nyack College alumnus Naanma Yamsat. He’ll pack the shoes in suitcases and take them home to Nigeria for the “1st Xmas Tournament” sponsored by his nonprofit, NaijaOutreach Sports, December 20-22 at the Youth Center at Dadin Kowa in Jos, Nigeria.
When Naanma signed on to play basketball at Nyack, the stroke of his pen on paper was headed for a stroke of genius that unveiled his philanthropic spirit.
Not only was the 6’ 5” forward outstanding on the court, but during his four seasons as a Warrior he was recognized as an Honor Roll Student-Athlete (2013-17), Presidential Scholar-Athlete (2014-17), Harold W. Bowman Character Award Winner 2017, Nyack College Athletics Warrior Award (2013-17) and was named to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference All-Academic Team (2014-17). Today the computer science and math major is employed as a field technician for a tech company, Site Service Now and he has returned to Nyack as an assistant coach for men’s basketball.
“As an international student athlete, I remember going home to Nigeria every two years to renew my visa. I always tried to bring stuff back to people like my coaches and close friends. In my first two years of college, I always noticed that at the end of every season some of the guys threw away their old shoes. For me this was baffling because I know people who need shoes like this. So I decided to collect the ones that were in fairly decent shape and with the help of one of my teammates, Frank Martin (NC ‘16), who gave me more of his old shoes, I was able to take home a bunch of used sneakers in 2015.” That was the year Naanma’s nonprofit organization, also known as “The 9JA Outreach,” was founded.
It didn’t take long for the results of his generosity to be realized. He shares, “The sincere appreciation and feedback I got was so astonishing; one could not help but be compelled to try to help others. I remember coming back to the United States and I got a message on Facebook from one of the guys I gave a pair of basketball sneakers. It was filled with so much appreciation and honest gratitude. The sneakers were not even mine. They were a pair Frank gave me, and so I got to share with Frank the impact a simple pair of his old shoes made. To us, here in the United States, it was just a pair of shoes we did not want, but to him and many others, it meant everything.”
The content of Naanma’s character may have matured during his college years, but the seed of his substance was planted at home. “My dad always used to say, ‘We do our part and God does the rest.’ I am excited to be a part of something bigger than myself. If we can help one person that starts a positive impact in motion, one person at a time, one day at a time, we can impact the world positively.”
Not only does NaijaOutreach Sports keep interest in basketball alive, but it is a means to nurturing community during the holiday. “Everyone is welcome to play in the tournament regardless of age, location or religion,” Naanma explains, “but because there is a little prize money involved, we decided to make some rules to prevent super teams or a single dominant team from competing. We want to make it about communities and bringing people together for Christmas.”
Graciously, Naanma explains that Nyack’s influence on his life cannot be narrowed down to one thing or one person. Instead he categorizes his experience as “lessons learned.”
“While I was a student athlete under the men’s basketball coaching staff, simple things like being on time, time management, preparation, teamwork, putting God first—all these and much more have impacted my life outside college so much. I have learned lessons and been put through situations that have taught me to overcome and strive to be the best version of myself. There are so many faculty and staff who have impacted my life; not just the Athletic Department, not just former head coach Jason Crafton and assistant coaches that were here when I was playing, but some of the greatest people I have met at Nyack I now consider my friends.”
“My experience as a student athlete is the reason I am who I am today. ‘As iron sharpens iron so does one man another.’ That was our team motto. I was around so many good teammates and people who saw beyond basketball. That’s the meaning behind ‘it’s more than basketball.’ So now I have the same opportunity to help others here and abroad.”