Less Than 2 Months to Liftoff

By Jake Mendys, 2016-17 Shooting Touch BHC Fellow

Wow…less than two months until Chloe and I leave for Rwanda to coach basketball and teach basketball for an entire year with the awesome group at Shooting Touch!

If someone had told me at the beginning of my senior year at UNC that I would be going to Rwanda to coach and teach for a year, I would have stared back in disbelief. However, to borrow a thought from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, all of the dots connect perfectly as I reflect back on the past year, and honestly the entirety of college (I wrote a blog on this bit prior to my graduation in May).

Graduation Day 2016!

I started my senior year expecting to chase after an elusive job from one of the companies who came to recruit students from UNC Kenan-Flagler. As I went through numerous job interviews (the two suits and the rest of my limited professional attire got some serious wear and tear) nothing I encountered sat well with me, none of the companies I met with felt “right” with me. Midway through the year, I was losing hope, and then a dear friend of mine (here’s to Hoops Africa and to you Mr. Sharp) introduced me to 2014 BHC Shooting Touch Fellow Kevin Kettl. After a few phone calls, some research on ST, and 5 minutes of video later, the rest is history.

I couldn’t be more thrilled about the upcoming opportunity in Rwanda. Basketball truly has given me every meaningful opportunity that I’ve been fortunate to have thus far in life, both personally and professionally. I am so excited to pay forward my blessings and make a difference in the lives of a group of people who are looking for the type of mentorship I’ve received through basketball over the years.

I’m feeling a host of emotions with each passing day – nerves and anticipation ruling most of all. After meeting the ST team at Coach Hurley’s camp in Boston earlier this summer, I realized I have some big shoes to fill and a wonderful group to represent while I’m overseas. I’ve spent the weeks since camp saving up and brainstorming ways to ensure that my fellowship makes everyone in Boston proud and adds to the incredible legacy that Shooting Touch has already begun to leave throughout Rwanda. Each day Chloe and I are in-country, I know we both will strive to do right by that legacy.

Me and NBA Camper of the Day, Lila, at Coach Hurley’s Camp.

Educating and empowering youth gives us pretty broad license in the different routes we can take to change lives while in Rwanda. I’m a big picture person, but I’ve already been challenged by the Shooting Touch family to be grounded and bring my A game every single day, regardless of how easy or difficult that given day might be. I want to make sure that I am patient and energetic at all times, that I find small ways each day to live presently and put together a complete experience for everyone I meet in Rwanda.

2013-2014 UNC JV Basketball Team Photo (featuring Coach Davis, Graduate Assistant Matt Van Hoy, and our all star team of managers)

To borrow another thought, this time from the UNC Basketball coaching staff, (and a favorite for “thought of the day” during our practices at UNC) about patience “Not to always worry about home runs, when a single will do.” I cannot thank the UNC Basketball Program, especially Coach CB McGrath, for giving me a chance to be a minuscule part of the Carolina family, and Coach Hubert Davis, for being a model person at every practice.

I tend to get caught up worrying about hitting “home runs,” even when a “single” will get the job done. That isn’t to say I don’t want to shoot for the stars when I’m in Rwanda, but that I need to be grounded as I go about my 11-month journey. To throw a B School buzz-phrase out there I know I’ll need to avoid trying to “boil the ocean” and instead focus on taking each day in stride.

I know I am going to be challenged in ways that I can’t imagine, but that I am going to feel satisfaction and joy that I also can’t imagine. I’ll be part coach, teacher, big brother, event planner, supervisor of morale, budget manager, and operations specialist, and still more jobs I haven’t yet considered.

At the end of the day, my heart and mind are at ease because both are telling me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. I’m excited to learn from the Rwandese as they learn from me, and to make the jump from Mendys the Muzungu to a seasoned member of Shooting Touch’s family. One last quote – my philosophy for the next year is going to center around making sure to “surf the waves of uncertainty” (thanks to UNC’s Dave Bond) as they roll in.

Thank you to the Shooting Touch family, especially to Justin, Lindsey, and the Board, for giving me this chance to serve as an ambassador for the organization. I won’t let you down, Turi Kumwe.


2 Replies to “Less Than 2 Months to Liftoff”

  1. Jake – I don’t think my first comment was posted. If so, sorry to repeat! I am so excited for you as you head out on this adventure. I know you well enough to know that you will find your cup half full more often than half empty but I know it will be challenging. When I was about your age, my mentor told me that I should remember that I might not see the impact I was making on young people. He told me that change can be a generational thing – that someday one of the young people you touch will find themselves using your positive words with their own children. And, you will have changed the world. So many good wishes to you! Can’t wait to follow your blog!


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