LEILA FADEL, HOST:
There are big moments in a teenager's life that they just want to share with a parent.
N'FALY DANTE: I think about you, Mom, in our home back in Mali every single day.
FADEL: About four years ago when he was just 14, N'Faly Dante moved to the U.S. from Mali. Today, he's almost 7 feet tall and a top basketball recruit.
DANTE: There's so many big moment have happened or are happening to me right now. I know that these are your victory every bit as much as they are mine.
FADEL: Dante recently decided to go to the University of Oregon to play basketball for the Oregon Ducks. And he shared that decision with The Players' Tribune, which published his thoughts in the form of a letter to his mother. She lives in Bamako, Mali. She's a widow, and Dante says she worked hard to support him and his four siblings.
When Dante started playing basketball, he wore an old beat up pair of low-top Converse All Stars. He says they really hurt his feet.
DANTE: It was horrible. Like, when I was playing outside, I twisted my ankle. I was like, oh, no, I would quit.
FADEL: His mother told him to get back out there, and she saved up money from making peanut butter to buy him his first pair of real high-top basketball sneakers. She made him take really good care of them, too. She also encouraged him to go to the U.S. to get an education and play basketball. Now that he's headed to college, he's really looking forward to upping his game.
DANTE: To go play against some good players, you know, to go see the next level. Like, I'm so excited to play.
FADEL: He's also ready to see his mom. He's really missed her. It's been over three years.
DANTE: I can't wait to see her (laughter). Maybe next year. I will try to go next year, for sure.
FADEL: Dante hopes she'll come to visit him in Oregon. And the first thing he'll show her is burritos. He loves burritos with guacamole, and he thinks she will, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF VAMPIRE WEEKEND AND STEVE LACY SONG, “SUNFLOWER”) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.