A former University of Rhode Island men’s basketball player recently created a non-profit organization that aims to empower and provide educational opportunities for young African men and women through basketball.

Ifeanyi Onyekaba, a senior finance major, left the basketball team prior to the 2015-16 season to focus on his academics. He created Unsung Talent Basketball last June to improve the porous conditions on basketball courts, backboards and rims in his native community of Abuja, Nigeria.

“We all started with a dream, my dream was helping out the needy,” said Onyekaba. “Everybody feels like you can only help out when you’re successful, meaning when you have a lot of money. I look at it like being successful is doing something for somebody, and in a thousand years, they can’t repay you for it.”

At first, Onyekaba told his mother about it and she suggested that he buy food and give it to the rescue mission in Nigeria. Onyekaba also spoke to his friends and former teammates about his ideas and they loved his vision, which led them to doing fundraisers. He then received approval from the Nigerian Basketball Federation in launching a basketball clinic in Nigeria. Over 250 students attended the First Annual Basketball camp held on Aug. 7, 2015, in Nigeria.

“What stood out to me was half of the kids, they were playing basketball with those shoes and that really hurt me,” Onyekaba said.

In addition to fundraising to purchase new backboards and basketball rims, Onyekaba had the idea of creating a shoe drive this year to purchase sneakers for students. Since last June, Onyekaba raised $4,000 through his GoFundMe campaign and bought 240 pairs of shoes and 50 basketballs and jerseys for Unsung Talent Basketball. The Rotaract Club also donated 100 pairs of sneakers to the organization.

Onyekaba hopes to take Unsung Talent Basketball to new heights in the future.

“This year’s goal is to fix one basketball court, and get over 600 pairs of sneakers (new or used) to donate to the youth at the next scheduled camp to be held in August 2016,” Onyekaba said. “I’m trying to make it an annual organization.  He added that being part of something positive has changed his life and made him appreciative of everything he has. “I’ve been blessed with free education, so why not give back,” he said. “It makes me feel good to know that I’m giving back to my community.”

Onyekaba challenges everyone to help give back to the community in any way possible. “Anybody that loves humanity and loves helping out is always welcome to be a part of this organization,” he said. “I challenge you to expand your horizon and do something for someone else. If you want to do something different, Unsung Talent is ready for you.”

To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/Ifeanyionyekaba.