“Basketball is my first love,” junior Chris-Ebou Ndow said.
A childhood passion turned into a gateway to education when Ndow moved from Norway to Maryville to play basketball for the Bearcats.
“It is what I have been doing since I was 5 years old. My dad played basketball, so that’s why I played. ‘Space Jam’ is my favorite movie,” Ndow said.
Since the Bearcat basketball team is the only undefeated team in the nation, Northwest fans are sure glad he did.
Ndow grew up in Stavanger, Norway with his parents, two little brothers and older half brother and sister.
“I always competed with my brothers, but I am almost five years older than the oldest and eight years older than the next,” Ndow said. “I always beat them at whatever it was. We used to be brats when we were growing up. We played soccer in the house and broke things, which always got us into a lot of trouble.”
Ndow’s father is originally from Gambia, located on the western coast of Africa. He came to Norway to study abroad, and that is when he met Ndow’s mother.
Ndow’s family is still in Stavanger, but he moved around frequently growing up. Sports was always a way for Ndow to make friends in his new town.
Going to school far from home is nothing new to Ndow. When he was just 15 years old, he moved five hours away to play basketball for a high school team.
“Basketball is not too big in Norway, so if you wanted to play, you had to go find it,” Ndow said.
Although he was pursuing his passion, moving away from home so young was one of the toughest things Ndow has ever had to do.
“I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone,” Ndow said. “I was only there for basketball. I was immature, so I went through a lot of growing pains.”
Being away from his parents so young meant Ndow had to grow up quickly. He had to learn to deal with difficult situations by himself.
“The first two years were some of the hardest in my life,” Ndow said. “I think I am happy I went through it... It is the toughest part, but also one of the most fortunate in how it has better prepared me for what I am doing now.”
Ndow said he received a lot of support from his friends and teachers, but his father also played a major role in his success.
“My dad is one of the most important people in my life, and he gave me a lot of advice,” Ndow said. “It helped me look at my situation in a different perspective. You can make mistakes, but as long as you learn and grow from them, you’re ultimately better off.”
Ndow’s journey to Northwest is a complicated one. After graduating high school, Ndow went to Atlanta to stay with his cousin and try to find a college to play for.
From Atlanta, he went to Milwaukee and then to Kansas. Along the way, Ndow met a friend who knew one of the Northwest coaches.
“My first impression of Northwest was wonderful. When I came here, I had no idea what to expect,” Ndow said. “At that point, all I wanted was to get somewhere and play basketball.”
Ndow said the school offered him a lot of services to make the transition to the United States much easier.
“They have a wonderful international program here. People are very open and want to help you out; I really felt welcome. Getting involved with the team was really easy,” Ndow said.
Being away from home has its difficulties, but Ndow’s mother has been as supportive as she can from across the world.
“She deals with me being away better than most people, because she is used to it,” Ndow said. “She just surprise-visited me this December for my birthday. It was the first time she had been here.”
The parents of Ndow’s teammates were very welcoming. Ndow said it was easy for his mother to feel at home.
At Northwest, Ndow studies psychology. He wants to have a career in clinical, sports or abnormal psychology.
“I was a business major, but I only did that because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Ndow said. “So far, I love psychology.”
Counseling is something Ndow loves to do and has proven to be good at, as well.
“I like to talk to people and work through their problems,” Ndow said. “I have a few friends who have been to psychologists, and they told me my reaction was similar to their psychologist’s. They told me I had a knack for it.”
However, right after graduation, Ndow’s eyes are still set on basketball.
“I want to do it for as long as I can, for as long as my body holds up,” Ndow said. “I will try to play professionally after I graduate. I want to see how far I can take it.”
Basketball has always been a part of Ndow’s life; he cannot think of what it would be like without it.
Being a full-time student and athlete, Ndow has had to learn lots of time management skills.
“It’s a pretty simple concept, even if it is hard to do sometimes,” Ndow said. “I do what I love, which helps. At the same time, I also really want to do well in school. It’s a hard balance once you throw in a social life and time to skype home.”
Junior D’Vante Mosby plays with Ndow on the basketball team. The two have developed a close friendship.
“Chris is a great guy and very loyal friend. Anytime I've needed him off the court, he's been there for me because that's just who he is,” Mosby said.
A difficult time for international students is the holidays, because many cannot return home. Luckily for Ndow, his friends are more than willing to take him in.
“One of my favorite memories of Chris is when he spent a week with my family in Kansas City over Christmas break,” Mosby said. “We love him like he's family, and hope we can be a family away from his family in Norway.”
When Ndow does go home, he enjoys the time with family, as the opportunity does not happen often.
“I remember coming home from school for the summer and seeing my baby brother for the first time,” Ndow said. “He was born a couple months before I came home. I feel more like an uncle to him.”
Meeting his brother is one of the highlights of Ndow’s life.
“It was the most awesome feeling. He takes a little time to get used to me every summer, but after that he is great,” Ndow said.
More than anything, Ndow tries to remain positive.
“I try to look at the glass half full. I want to spread positivity,” Ndow said. “I am always trying to turn bad days around. I love to make people smile.”