When Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon was a child, he traveled to Africa several times with his family and was stunned by the living conditions. Beyond the lack of luxuries, many communities were in need of bare necessities.
“I really saw a lot of poverty,” Brogdon said on a video call from Egypt Tuesday. “I saw a lot of people struggling from a level I’d never seen in the US, lacking simple necessities like clean water, having food, having shoes to walk around in.
“And that really stuck with me. That lit a fire for me, and it was something I remembered even as a child, so that when I became of age and had the resources, I’d be able to give back and impact those people’s lives.”
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Brogdon got a master’s degree in public policy and did his final thesis on clean water in South Africa. He spent two years working with a foundation that helped build wells in Africa before starting his own initiative, Hoops4Humanity, which is part of the Brogdon Family Foundation.
He has traveled to Tanzania and Kenya six times since then and overseen the creation of more than 20 wells. The approach has expanded over the last two years, as Hoops4Humanity — with the support of about 10 other NBA and WNBA players — built wells, community gardens, sanitation centers, and sports facilities.
“It allows us to reach deeper in the community and help as much as we can before we move on to the next,” Brogdon said.
This week, Brogdon and Celtics forward Grant Williams have been part of an NBA delegation in Cairo conducting a Basketball Without Borders camp for more than 60 of Africa’s top 18-and-under male and female players. For Brogdon, it’s been a more basketball-focused return to the continent, but it has resonated.
“They’re so hungry for the game and they’re so knowledgeable, so it’s really a privilege to be able to work with the kids,” he said. “I really enjoy it. Then to see the country, it’s a beautiful country with such an amazing history, and the people have been very good to me.”
Brogdon said the skill level of the players has been obvious, but the general lack of resources remains glaring.
“They haven’t had the same opportunities as we have in the States,” he said. “The development isn’t the same, the nutrition isn’t the same, and the resources aren’t the same. So it’s not fair to judge them against the US and kids we have over there.
“You have to give them an equal playing field first, and then I think they’ll be just as good if not better. The talent here is incredible.”
Brogdon, who was acquired in a trade with the Pacers last month, said he won’t be able to check in on his own foundation’s work during this trip, because Celtics training camp is fast approaching. He spent about a week in Boston before leaving for Egypt. He worked out at the Auerbach Center and got to know people within the organization.
The 29-year-old guard has battled injuries throughout his career but said he is fully healthy and eager for the season to begin in a few weeks. He’s unsure whether the team will gather for unofficial workouts before the start of camp and said he will let veterans such as Al Horford take the lead there, but he’d welcome some early bonding.
Brogdon said he is ready to embrace a sixth-man role with the Celtics and believes the team is well-positioned for success now that the roster appears settled. He has been friends with Celtics forward Jaylen Brown for several years and reached out after his name started to appear in Kevin Durant trade rumors, but added that Brown “is not a guy that needs pep talks.”
“Like any human being, sometimes you want to be checked on to see how you’re doing, but that’s all I did with him,” Brogdon said. “Jaylen’s a confident guy and he understands this is part of the business as well. So he’s a pro. He’s going to come back ready for training camp and ready to work.”