Speaking the language of hoops

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Ruth Riley recently spent nine days in Morocco and Spain, an experience she said benefited her as well as the kids.

Atlanta Dream center Ruth Riley recently spent nine days on a trip to Morocco and Spain as part of a program sponsored by NBA/WNBA Cares and conducted by SportsUnited, an international exchange program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. SportsUnited helps youth around the world learn to translate athletic success to life skills.

Riley, who was joined by former NBA player Adonal Foyle, shares some of her experiences and memories from the trip, and discusses the impact it had on her personally.

Jan. 19: Arrived in Rabat, Morocco, to be greeted by two vans with my photo posted on the side of them. Needless to say, our partner, NGO TIBU, was excited about our visit!

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 20: Quick photo with my ladies after our first full day of skill development and 3-on-3 games. I was really impressed with the amount of girls that showed up for the clinic.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 21: Took a quick lunch with my NBA boys, Marty Conlon and Adonal Foyle, at one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Medina (old town) in Fez.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 22: After a long drive up the mountain, through some snow (yes, apparently it does snow in Africa), we made it to Azrou, where we were welcomed by 300 kids, two hoops and a lot of excitement about basketball.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 23: This trip was historic for me in more ways than one. After our final day of clinics in Casablanca, we attended a reception at the U.S. Consul General's house and got to sit in the room where Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had their post-World War II discussions.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 24: Our final meeting with the TIBU coaches, giving them some last-minute feedback before we headed to the airport. What an amazing and dedicated group of young coaches. The future of Moroccan basketball is in good hands.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 25: The first day of programming in Barcelona was unique for me internationally. Adonal and I shared our stories at a juvenile detention center, where mostly immigrant children between the ages of 14-21 were waiting their court dates. We were able to share our experiences and encourage them to really think about the paths they want to take with their lives, and then we moved outside for a mini clinic.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 26: This was one of my top sporting experiences ever! I went to my first international football match, FC Barcelona vs. Malaga. The atmosphere was amazing. GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!

Courtesy Ruth Riley

Jan. 27: Our final day of programming was a busy one. This is a photo with two groups of kids that we worked with that evening: the FC Barcelona girls' and boys' basketball teams as well as the kids from a local NGO that reaches out to at-risk youth through sports programming in various areas of Barcelona.

Courtesy Ruth Riley

It was truly an amazing trip, where we were able to work with so many kids of different faiths, ethnicities, ages and talent levels. I am constantly amazed at how this sport is able to transcend so many differences and speak a language of unity and inspiration that can't always be expressed in words. I am very grateful to the State Department and NBA/WNBA Cares for putting together this trip and to our partners in Morocco and Barcelona for welcoming us to their homes.