Abdul Fofana put the work in, and he finally found his spot.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling to be here and be a part of this basketball team.”

The 6-7 junior college transfer loved the family atmosphere during his Missouri State visit. He says he will always remember a specific moment with strength coach Brice Cox.

“During the presentation, he had my country’s flag on the presentation,” Fofana said. “This just amazed me and after that, everything else came into place in my head. I just have to be here.”

Fofana grew up in the capital city of Ougadougou, in the West African country of Burkina Faso. His father is a dental surgeon in the army.

“I woke up every day seeing my dad and my mom fight to put food on my plate,” he recalled.

When he became a teenager, Abdul decided he wanted to attend college in the United States. Already fluent in French and his native Mossi, Fofana would soon begin English lessons. He was already a great athlete, earning a spot at Basketball Without Borders, a select NBA camp in South Africa.

“It’s awesome. It’s the top 60 players in Africa that come along, and I was the only one from my country to be there,” Fofana said. “Kyrie Irving was there, Dikembe Mutombo, all that. We have this NBA atmosphere.”

He played for his junior national team, but Fofana was not recruited by American coaches. Still, he wanted to earn a degree in America. His father took a new position to pay for Abdul’s first year of school. He moved to Atlanta with a family he knew from back home, but quickly realized community college is more affordable in Texas. He wound up in Houston and played club basketball at Houston Community College. One day, he caught the eye of Preston Ivory, a trainer and former college player.

“He actually came to see somebody else play on my team, the point guard,” Fofana said with a smile. “He saw me and just said, ‘Just come with me, and we are going to find you something.'”

After four months of training, Fofana and two area players earned spots at Dakota College at Bottineau, ten miles from the Canadian border. Coach Brock Lemon called him “a freak of an athlete.” Missouri State coaches brought him in for that fateful visit, and Fofana became the first player from DCB to earn a Division I scholarship. He was one year removed from playing in a community college rec league.

“The struggle was real,” Fofana said. “Things would be completely different. I might not be here talking to you, so that’s why I’m really grateful.”

Abdul is also grateful his father told him nothing is given in America; one must work for it. He worked to earn a basketball scholarship. He is working toward a mechanical engineering degree. And he will continue working, just like he promised his parents in back Burkina Faso.

“I’ve just got so much to learn and experience,” Fofana said. “I’ve been through tough moments, good moments. I think the sky is the limit. I can go way further if I can keep the same work ethic and will to work.”