Sharing the Backstory to “Elevate”

Anne Buford shares some of the backstory and follow-up to her new documentary, “Elevate.”

In this conversation with Grantland’s Davy Rothbart - Buford talks about how she came to the story and shares some insight into the boys and their experiences.

I wrote a short piece last week highlighting “Elevate’s” opening and its South Kent School subjects, Assane Sene and Dethie Papa Fall. I thought the story was good- bit of warm fuzzy. But, we received a comment (with which I didn’t agree) belaboring the fact that the boy’s basketball skills were being exploited.

Buford addresses exploitation issue in this interview:

Did any part of you feel that these players were being exploited? What would’ve happened if a kid didn’t seem to be living up to his potential on the court, or suffered an injury and couldn’t play? Would he be sent home?

The coaches tend to stand by these guys. If you’re the kind of coach who doesn’t really care about the long-term well-being of your players, word gets around pretty quickly. If a player from Senegal has a bad experience at a school, they’re not likely to get another player anytime soon. But if you treat the players with care and kindness, a lot of others are going to hear about it and want to come to your school.

The players came to the U.S. with the goal of earning scholarships to play college basketball. Did it work out for them?

All of them went on to continue their education and play at the college level. Assane is the starting center for the University of Virginia, and Aziz starts for the University of Washington. Dethie plays for Roanoke College, and Byago is the point guard at Carroll College. I’ve rarely met people who are so devoted to their schooling and their sport. I remember that Assane had only been in the States for three or four months when he took the SAT for the first time. He scored 1080.

Grantland is a Bill Simmons/ESPN vehicle where sports writers cover the overlapping areas of sports and popular culture.

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