Archdeacon: Transfer gets second chance to make impression at UD

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Dayton Flyers practice highlights: Oct. 7, 2021

Who says you don’t get a second chance at a first impression?

While 6-foot-8 Toumani Camara was at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood, Fla. – where he averaged a double-double as a junior and a senior basketball player and won first team All-State 5A honors – he said he was recruited by more than 30 Division I schools.

The Dayton Flyers really wanted him and he came to visit the UD campus. He toured Kansas State and Georgia, too and decided on the latter.

With Georgia, he knew he’d be at a Power 5 school, playing an SEC schedule. And he made a splash there in his first two seasons.

He started 23 games as a freshman and all 25 last season, leading the Bulldogs in rebounds and blocked shots and he was the team’s third leading scorer. He was a co-leader in the SEC with eight double doubles.

But the team – coached by Tom Crean – experienced a mass exodus at season’s end.

“Eight players left,” Camara said.

“I knew I’d have a big role there again this year, but I just felt I could develop more someplace else. I wanted to be able to express myself more and really become a leader of a team. But for me to do that I felt I needed to start over somewhere else.”

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University of Dayton basketball player Toumani Camara. Tom Archdeacon/STAFF

University of Dayton basketball player Toumani Camara. Tom Archdeacon/STAFF
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University of Dayton basketball player Toumani Camara. Tom Archdeacon/STAFF

At Georgia he said he had led only by example: “I wasn’t somebody that talked a lot. I didn’t want it to seem like it was all about me. But I needed to work on that. To really lead a team, you have to have a confidence in your experience and be willing to speak up.”

A lot of people thought he might transfer to the University of Miami. Since coming to the United States from Belgium when he was just 16, he has been tied to South Florida. He played his prep ball there and lived with two host families there. And his girlfriend lives in North Miami.

‘Dayton checked all the boxes for me’

The Athletic rated him the No. 11 best player in the 2021 transfer portal which included 1,573 players.

UD’s first impression of him never changed and Flyers assistant coach Ricardo Greer made sure Camara knew that.

And it was obvious Dayton needed on-the-court leadership for this coming season.

Six players were gone from the 2020-21 team, four of them starters who had graduated – Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson, Jordy Tshimanga and Rodney Chatman – each of whom had played in at least 100 college games.

That left Elijah Weaver as the only Flyer with substantial college experience, having played two seasons (59 games) at Southern Cal and last year at UD (18 games).

Camara narrowed his transfer list to four schools – Miami, Florida State, Arkansas and UD – and decided he had a second chance to make good on Dayton’s first impression.

“I already had a good idea about Dayton and I committed pretty fast,” Camara said.

He mentioned the coaches, the campus, the community support and the way the other players seemed to accept him as a leader as reasons for coming here:

“Dayton checked all the boxes for me.”

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Toumani Camara signs an autograph at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Toumani Camara signs an autograph at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
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Toumani Camara signs an autograph at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Hoops, not soccer, in Belgium

Camara grew up in Brussels, Belgium.

He said his mom – Anne Le Docte – has roots in Belgium and Haiti and is dad is from Mali in West Africa.

“From the time I was 5, my mom raised me and my older brother (Tidiane) by herself,” he said. “She did the best job ever with both of us.”

“My brother started playing basketball first and I followed him,” he said. “I was about six.”

Unlike here in the Miami Valley, where a lot of kids grow up with a hoop outside of their house, Camara said basketball was far overshadowed by soccer in Brussels.

“There was a basketball court at a park about a two-minute walk from my house, but it was only free at night,” he said. “Most of the time it was used by soccer players. I couldn’t get on it until at least 8 at night. There weren’t any nets on the rims and the backboards were metal, but it was a place I could play.”

He developed into a promising player and was part of Belgium’s U-16 national team that played in the European championships in Portugal.

“At first the only basketball I ever saw on TV was the NCAA Tournament, just the Final Four and the championship games,” he said. “Then I found a website where I could watch NBA games at like 2 a.m.. I saw the Miami Heat play and win a championship and I became a fan of Dwyane Wade.”

His Belgian coach had a friend who coached in Weston, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale, and he agreed to help Camara find a school in the United States.

“It was weird,” Camara laughed. “When I was little I used to go to camps a lot, but I always missed home after a couple of days. I was afraid to be away.

“When I came to America and started to play basketball, I was just 16, but I wasn’t nervous anymore. My basketball gave me confidence.”

And it didn’t take long for him to pick up a nickname that now has become his Twitter hashtag.

“We were playing 5-on-5 in open gym at Chaminade-Madonna and I was playing really good,” he smiled. “I was scoring a lot and one guy took my name and changed it. He said, ‘Toumani? No, you’re Too Many…Too Many Buckets!’

UD now hopes he has a second chance to live up to that first impression, as well.

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Dayton's Toumani Camara dunks at the Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton's Toumani Camara dunks at the Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton's Toumani Camara dunks at the Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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