David Nyarsuk (pronounced with a long "U") began playing basketball at a club in Sudan. Little did he realize then that it would be the avenue upon which he would travel to his lifelong dram of coming to the United States.
" We would play with other people from around [the area], because my school did not have a basketball team, or even a court," the immediately likeable Nyarsuk related. "We would more around to find places to play."
For many in Africa, involvement with basketball ends at that level, as it becomes nothing more than a recreational outlet. For a select few, however, it can open opportunities of a lifetime. Those sometimes boil down to mere chance, as there is no systematic scouting or development programs that cover the vast areas of the continent. In Nyarsuk's case, it was a search for coaching that led him to his big opportunity.
"I was able to find some coaches there to help, and one of them, Michael Windemere, took a great interest in me. He told me that I was working good, and he kept working with me every day. He kept encouraging me to come to practice every day, and when I did, he would give me things to work on. I kept at it, and he ended up helping me get into his school. That school had a basketball team."
While Nyarsuk's height (seven feet) and natural affinity of the game were obvious, he wasn't sure if he had the ability to compete with others in his position. However, his first competitive experience at his new school gave him the confidence he needed to continue on the path that basketball held open.
"Our first tournament we played, we won the championship, and that helped me feel a lot better about myself," said Nyarsuk, who speaks openly about his experiences. "We played a lot, and that helped me. Then I connected with my guardian, Duany Duany, and he talked about coming to the United States to play in high school."
Duany, a former NCAA player at Wisconsin, helped arrange a move to the U.S. via A-HOPE, a charitable organization that matches African basketballers with educational and playing opportunities in U.S. high schools and prep schools. Duany became Nyarsuk's legal guardian, and helped him come to the U.S. in early 2008.
Nyarsuk is matter-of-fact when speaking of his basketball history to that point, but really lights up when discussing the opportunity to come to the United States. It's clear that he views the chance to attend school and play in the U.S. as his personal golden ticket. Even though an entirely different culture awaited him, he said he was not nervous about moving around the world to a totally different environment.
"I was excited about coming to the U.S.," he said of his initial reaction when Duany told him he would have a chance to make the move. "I am coming here to play basketball, and to get an education, and to make something happen. Of course my dream is to play in the NBA, but when I got here, I was very excited, because it was always my dream growing up in the Sudan to have the chance to come here."
Making the trip is just the first step, however. Nyarsuk is determined to make the most of the chance he's been given.
"Now that I am here, I am really excited," he continued. "When I got here, it really put something in my heart to go hard. Just to get here is one thing, but it's not everything. You have to go hard to make your dream happen."