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Hoop Dreams in the Philippines

Basketballs swish gently through rope hoops. Tennis shoes squeak on wooden floors. And Bob Gaillard, head men’s basketball coach at Lewis & Clark, shouts encouragement to a group of excited youngsters. The scene may look like a typical basketball camp, but it’s not. Gaillard is participating inUnderstand the Game, a sports diplomacy program that is designed to bring basketball instruction and open understanding of American culture to children and coaches in the Philippines.

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Understand the Game was created by Brooks Meek ’98, who was a two-time All-American basketball player for the Pioneers in 1997 and 1998. He obtained federal funding for the program with the help of Detlef Schrempf, retired NBA star and former Seattle Supersonic and Portland Trailblazer. Schrempf’s foundation was able to secure funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The State Department funds such projects to fight negative impressions of the United States abroad.

“Our core strategy is to reach out to those Filipinos who would not normally get the chance to interact with Americans, let alone an NBA player,” says Meek. “We use basketball as a tool for developing dialogue on social issues and creating a common bond that enables cultural understanding.”

Understand the Game took place last fall, and nearly 500 Filipino youngsters participated. Gaillard was selected as head coach for the trip by the Detlef Schrempf Foundation. Jeff Flowers ’98, who lives in the Philippines, and Matt Stanley ’02 joined Gaillard, Schrempf, and three other Americans on the trip.

“I view this as a natural extension of the College’s overseas study program,” says Gaillard. “The Filipino youth responded to us with tremendous enthusiasm. With the help of the State Department, we hope to organize more such opportunities in the future.”

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