Pro Hooper, Author, Founder of WAKE
Feature No. 22 | September 14th, 2020
Talk about your upbringing and what life was like before basketball?
Life before basketball was filled with a lot of love, spirituality, and storytelling. I grew up as a First Generation Muslim Woman in New York City and my mother constantly told us of what life was like growing up in Guinea, Conakry. As a first gen, one of my main focuses was education as that was referred to as a means to success.
Tell us about your basketball journey, starting at Blair Academy, an elite boarding school in New Jersey, and then going to Uconn?
I began playing basketball at the age of 12. I quickly picked up the game and had amazing coaches at a young age who supported and pushed me to be better.
In eighth grade I began exploring opportunities to attend a boarding school, and after careful consideration, Blair was the best fit for me. At Blair, our entire day was outlined and we trained, studied, and lived like college student-athletes. It was not an easy adjustment, but I continued to improve and during my junior year I was being heavily recruited to attend the University of Kentucky. Upon completing my freshman year at UK, I transferred to the University of Connecticut for four years.
What was special about playing at Uconn and under Geno Auriemma?
Uconn is such a special place filled with rich tradition, hall of fame coaches, and for me relentless teammates who became like sisters. Everyone in the program is dedicated to your holistic growth and truly wants the absolute best for you.
I believe in my heart that is what makes playing at Uconn so special.
Geno Aurriemma is one of the greatest coaches in the game. I believe it is his attention to detail and getting the most out of his players that makes him so special. It was an honor and a privilege to learn, grow, and play at Uconn.
You built your own nonprofit organization called Women and Kids Empowerment (or WAKE) while you were in school. What was that like and what are you looking to accomplish?
I started Women and Kids Empowerment in 2017. We work to empower, educate, and equip young girls through sport, STEM, and social entrepreneurship programs.
When you create something like WAKE it forces you to do a bit of soul searching and figure out your deeper ‘why?’ It was not an easy process, but it has been a fulfilling experience with great people who support the mission.
In my heart I pray for a world where every girl in the world has access to sport for the positive benefits it has on their life. In Guinea, we are working to provide as many girls as possible with opportunities through sport and education to captain their own lives.
What inspired you to write the childrens book a Basketball Game on Wake Street?
I was inspired to write “A Basketball Game on Wake Street” through a combination of my travels, playing pick up basketball in NYC, and the gift of meeting new people.
I remember falling in love with basketball in NYC through pick up basketball games. I learned many lessons on the court and felt like it was one of the only places where I could connect with new people.
I began to travel for WAKE and remember during one pick up game having the opportunity to play with beautiful kids with unique abilities. I reflected on my upbringing and who I did or didn't play with. I wanted kids to be able to see themselves in sport specifically girls as they are an underserved population. I wanted them to know there are people all over the world playing sports.
Hopefully this book would allow them to learn and connect with those they may have never met.