The Archibald Red Flames were losing by 22 points with only a quarter of the game to play. The basketball court at the National Stadium was packed and hissing with noise from the crowd and the sound of pounding rubber soles and colliding bodies on the concrete. Due to foul trouble, most of the first team had been benched for the first three quarters. But there was no more time to think cautiously. In stepped Yao and Sammy. The lead was cut down to 7 points. But lapses in concentration meant it rose again to 17 points. 6 minutes remaining. On came Toshiba, nursing an ankle injury. Suddenly everything clicked. Yao, Nyakeh, Sammy… were on fire. With 2 minutes to play Tosh sank the game-changing basket to take the lead. The scouts couldn’t contain their excitement. The Flames took charge of the game for those last 2 minutes to win the Western Area Basketball Association Championships in two straight games. Yao was the highest points scorer, winning the Most Valuable Player award in the process, the youngest to ever do so.
Fast forward a few months later and 18 year old Alimamy Koroma, “Yao”, is now enrolled at Prolific Prep basketball academy, a training and mentorship program for high-school level athletes, preparing them for college and professional basketball. He trains with the best young talent in American basketball and his mentors are basketball legends. If he does as well as his immense talent suggests, the 6 foot 9 216 pound Forward will eventually get drafted into an NBA team, becoming the first Sierra Leonean born basketball player to play in the NBA. His former teammates Mohammed “Tosh” Sesay and Nyakeh Foday are also garnering attention from scouts, with both set to make the jump to higher level basketball.
This tiny country on the West coast of Africa is the source of some of the best raw talent in African basketball and is starting to catch the eye of an increasing number of basketball scouts from all over the world. Basketball has really taken flight in Sierra Leone in the last few years with The Archibald Red Flames just one of many great semi-professional teams in the country. Yao’s success could inspire many more talented youngsters to believe they can play at the highest level. The Flames have big dreams, hoping to keep generating a stream of talent and with plans to build a professional level basketball academy to turn those budding stars into top athletes.