Bloomington – Bawa Maniru is making the nearly 800-mile trip from Charis Prep to Bloomington today for his official visit, but that pales in comparison to the journey he's taken to get to where he is today.
A native of Ghana, Maniru's childhood wasn't an easy one. His family lived in poverty in the rural portion of the west African country, forcing Bawa to ultimately leave his family and move to the near-by city as a youth. He fended for himself and eventually was noticed by A-Hope Foundation founder Mark Adams approximately five years ago, and Adams helped arrange for him to come the U.S. to pursue an education and a basketball career.
While Maniru was already a physical specimen back then, his basketball skills were non-existent.
"When I first came to America, I didn't know how to dribble the ball," Maniru admitted. "I had to learn from scratch."
Making things even more challenging was the fact that much was expected of Maniru early on. As a 6'11", 250-pound chiseled big man with a 7'3" wing span, many on-lookers didn't realize he was still very much a work in progress when he first arrived in the United States.
"Because of my size people expected a lot from me, and I tried," Maniru said. "I did everything I could. But I needed time to get better."
He's had that time, and his skills have developed to the point that he's a coveted big man in the 2009 class. Before enrolling at Charis Prep this fall, Maniru had spent the previous three seasons at Madison (Ala.) Academy and helped lead the team to three consecutive state championships. He averaged 15 points, nine rebounds and nearly three blocks as a senior, but decided to reclassify to the 2009 class so that he could complete his core curriculum courses and be eligible to play in the 2009-10 season.
College basketball is the next step for Maniru, who is chasing his dream of playing in the NBA one day and then using any success he has at that level to help the less fortunate back home in Ghana.
"I'd love to play in the league if I have the chance," Maniru said. "If I'm able to get there, whatever I've been blessed with at that point, I'll use to help the less fortunate ones back home that are in the position that I used to be in."
While he's been in the U.S. for approximately five years, Manuri has been able to return to Ghana on a couple of occasions. Two of those trips came courtesy Madison Academy, which sponsors mission trips to various Third World countries. In each of the past two years Maniru has accompanied approximately 30 others to Ghana, where he's been able to reunite with his mother in her home village.
"It's been amazing to go back," Maniru said. "They're able to see that I'm pursuing my dream of being successful and then being able to help out back home. It's been a dream come true."
It's been a long, challenging, and sometimes painful journey for Maniru, but one that is paying off in the end.
"Sometimes I ask, ‘why me?'" Maniru said. "All these blessings have been given to me. I believe when I'm able to achieve at a high level, I need to go back to help the unfortunate ones."
Maniru Overcomes Plenty During Hoops Journey
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