BY DANIEL DOUSE | STAFF WRITER
Anthony Kabala is a freshman at LIU Brooklyn and a member of its Division I basketball team. But he’s no ordinary student-athlete. Kabala, who is a native of Paris France, reaches out to players from his country, and connects them with universities here, giving them the opportunity to play basketball in the U.S.
He says that this is just a “hobby,” but it’s more meaningful: what he’s really doing is helping them fulfill their dreams, to play basketball at a high level — and earn a U.S. college degree.
“Honestly it's not really like recruiting players, it's more just helping them out right now,” said Kabala. “You know, having no diploma or anything, I just know it will help them. If I see people who I know, in bad [socio-economic] situations back home, I know it can be fixed by just coming to the United States.”
Kabala began helping other basketball players from France two years ago while attending a prep school in Massachusetts.
“In the second year, I knew that my school was recruiting players,” Kabala said. “I started calling my boys back home to see what they were doing. At the same time, a lot of schools were hitting me up. So, I stayed in contact with all these college teams that were interested in me, because I knew that these schools weren’t the right fit for me, but might be a right fit for my guys back home.”
Kabala then kept the colleges’ contact information to help his friends find a school that would offer them a scholarship and be the right fit for them..
Among those he’s helped since then is his long-time friend, Mohamed Diarra, who now plays for Garden City Community College, in Kansas. The two met while in a basketball tournament competing against each other. But, Diarra never knew his connection with Kabala would land him an opportunity to play for a college team.
“In France, the opportunity is not the same,” said Diarra. “I knew that Anthony knew a lot of college coaches. Anthony had told me that he believed in me and said he was going to help find a school for me. In about one week, he helped find me one.”
Impressed by Diarra’s style of playing, Kabala asked him for a highlight tape and talked with the coach at Garden City on his behalf.
“He talked to the coach, sent my highlights, and the coach said he was interested in me,” Diarra said. “Anthony helped me translate since my English isn’t very good in order for me to do the paperwork. After that, I was enrolled in the school.”
Although Diarra is only in his first of two years at Garden City, he has his eyes set on transferring to a larger program such as the University of Miami, in two years. Diarra, grateful for his old friend’s efforts in getting him to Garden City, understands that moving forward, his future is now solely up to him.
“Now if I play well, I can go play for a Division I school,” said Diarra. “But if I don’t play well, [Anthony] can’t do anything for me. I have the opportunity to go play in America, so now it’s my responsibility to perform.”
Aside from helping Diarra get recruited, Kabala’s personal experience playing basketball has also shown him the potential he has to positively impact a young person’s life.
Between the ages of 11 and 13, Kabala had the opportunity to travel extensively across Europe for basketball tournaments. Kabala’s experience traveling internationally helped him mature at such a young age, as he says it enabled him to understand that not everyone has the same opportunities that he has. Being exposed to different cultures and diversity while traveling also made Kabala more “open minded.”
“I’ve been to different places and met different people, so it helped me observe how people see things, within different cultures,” says Kabala. “I feel like that's why I am who I am right now.”
Coming to America and now, helping fellow players from France come here as well has opened up a whole new world for Kabala, as he is a Sports Management major at LIU with interest in becoming a sports agent in the future.
Despite the competitive nature of the field of sports management, Kabala is determined to pursue this career goal. However, for now, he modestly downplays his actions as a “hobby,” saying that he is just giving a helping hand.
“I just try to reach out to [the basketball scouts] who I know, to see what they need,” Kabala said. “Then from there, I just see how I can help these guys [in France] to come here.”
The road to become a sports agent is indeed a difficult one. A degree alone doesn’t automatically give you easy access into the field; that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Darren Heitner, of The Bleacher Report, explains: “You need to have not only a love of the game of the athletes you promote as a sports agent, but the game of promotion and negotiation as well. A good agent knows how to play the game and always keeps his or her clients’ best interests in mind whenever doing business.”
Though just a college freshman, Kabala seems to already have a head-start. But, he says he’s not putting any additional pressure on himself.
“I’m just focusing on my basketball and going with the flow,” Kabala said.