A social media devotee, I recently saw a Facebook post from Kigali, Rwanda, authored by former Plymouth State basketball star Moses Jean-Pierre. He was there doing work for the NBA-Africa hoop league—of all things and of all places.
A subsequent FB message to MJ-P led to a phone conversation where Moses shared some pretty cool b-ball news. But before sharing the hoop gouge, a bit of history …
As a Plymouth State University Sports Information Director three decades ago, I once produced a promotion piece highlighting Jean-Pierre’s hardcourt exploits. It was entitled “Moses is Leading Plymouth’s Basketball Panthers to the Promised Land.” The flyer had a photo and listed Jean-Pierre’s accomplishments, awards, and stats.
A favorite MJ-P memory was of a home game against the University of Southern Maine where Moses scored his team’s last twenty points in regulation to force an overtime from which the Panthers emerged triumphant. MJ-P finished with a record 50 points.
I particularly loved Jean-Pierre’s bounce passes. When opponents would double team MJ-P, “no-look” bounce passes to teammates would set up pretty scores. So while Moses was certainly a scorer, he was also a team player.
Moses would indeed lead the Panthers to a “Promised Land” when Plymouth received its first-ever NCAA basketball tournament invitation.
The son of Haitian immigrants, MJ-P grew up in greater Boston and graduated from Cathedral High School—where he is enshrined in the CHS Sports Hall of Fame. (He’s also a Plymouth State Hall of Fame inductee.)
Moses went to Maine Central Institute for a post-graduate year where he caught the attention of Plymouth State Coach Paul Hogan, who convinced the six-foot speedster to come to “The Home of The Panthers.” The rest is history, a history which included a record 2000+ career points.
Now Director of Athletics and head men’s basketball coach at NHTI-Concord, Hogan recalls MJ-P fondly.
“Moses could dominate a game at both ends of the court,” recalled Hogan. “His defense was exemplified by quickness and ball pressure. Offensively, his ability to penetrate and push the ball was extraordinary. He was an easy player to coach but incredibly hard for opponents to strategize against. And most importantly, Moses loved to win.”
MJ-P went on to play professionally in Turkey and Britain and was on the NBA’s “radar screen” when a knee injury ended his professional hoop aspirations. So Moses redirected from the hoop world to the entertainment world. He developed new skills in the areas of booking and promotions and eventually became road manager for comedian Michael Blackson. He also co-owned an Atlanta Lounge for over six years. But while you could take MJ-P out of basketball, you couldn’t take basketball out of MJ-P.
… So that history segment brings us to Kigali. How did Jean-Pierre come to make that Facebook post from an African venue so distant from Boston, Plymouth, or Atlanta?
“I’d returned to New England a few years ago and saw that fellow Plymouth State grad Eric Wilson was doing some sports outreach to Haiti focusing on rugby,” explained Moses. “I wondered if maybe basketball could be included in the mix. I sent him a message and eventually, we partnered up.”
“Hoops for Haiti” was the result, an international sports initiative to MJ-P’s parents’ homeland that not only supported basketball in that impoverished nation but also created a potential conduit to bring Haitian hoop aspirants to America to pursue their basketball dreams.
Moses’ entrepreneurial inclinations also led him to create “JP12 Sports and Entertainment” which among other things involves scouting for basketball talent—an endeavor for which MJ-P is particularly well-suited, given his basketball skills and feel for the game. He later contracted as a scout for Zambia’s Unza basketball team that competes in the NBA-Africa league—which is sanctioned by FIBA, the international basketball governing body. Moses is helping to strengthen the loop’s NBA ties.
Jean-Pierre met league president Amadon Gallo Fall of Senegal at a hoop event at a Brooklyn Nets facility. Like MJ-P, Fall had played American college ball—at the University of District Columbia—and soon Moses was involved with NBA-Africa itself. Hence the Facebook post from Kigali.
While many associate Rwanda with the horrific genocide associated with the 1994 Civil War there, Moses lauded the state of the country today.
“Kigali is now a clean, modern city,” explained Jean-Pierre. “And there are definitely players with NBA potential playing in Africa.”
MJ-P added that traveling to and from Kigali involves patience and endurance but that he enjoys his new role as an international basketball ambassador of sorts.
“Fortunately, most of the people I deal with speak English.”
Sports bring people together from all nations. Subsequent friendships and business relationships increase cross-cultural awareness and appreciation while countering the currents of conflict and prejudice. Every player that Moses brings from Haiti or Africa to America—the Promised Land—becomes, like Moses, an international goodwill ambassador.
And the more such goodwill ambassadors we create, the better our world becomes.
State Rep. Mike Moffett of Loudon is also a sports columnist who played basketball at Plymouth State.