From Mali to Memphis, assistant coach brings basketball knowledge to Sewickley Academy

Sunday, March 6, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Sewickley Academy assistant basketball coach Almamy Thiero grew up in Mali, West Africa. His full name is Almamy Seny Amadou Yattabary Thiero, and he has nine brothers and sisters.

As a 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward, Thiero was a member of two major college basketball programs during an injury-plagued career from 2002-07.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Memphis in 2006 after being able to compete in only one full season for the Tigers under legendary coach John Calipari.

“Injuries were the highlights of my college career,” Thiero, 38, said. “I was one of the top power forwards in my class of 2002, averaging a double-double. I sustained a stress fracture on my right tibia, and that injury worsened once I arrived in Memphis. The team doctor thought surgery was the fastest way to get me back on the court. They put a metal rod in my tibia in the summer of my freshman year.

“I was supposed to be back on the court in four months, but the surgery wasn’t successful. They replaced the rod nine months later, and I developed blood clots as a result of the second surgery, which kept me on the sideline all my freshman and sophomore years. When I returned, I blew my right knee (ACL). You get the picture.”

Still, participating in a major college program under the leadership of a Hall of Fame coach had its benefits.

“I always knew coaching was in my future,” Thiero said, “so my times recovering from my series of surgeries allowed me to learn the art of coaching from one of the best in the business. I learned so much by watching coach Cal and his staff building a powerhouse in Memphis, from practice plans, game preparation and player development.”

Thiero received a medical hardship waiver as a college freshman. He missed most of his sophomore season after a mid-December checkup found blood clots near his lungs. He also was forced to sit out his 2005-06 senior season while recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the summer of 2005.

The brawny frontcourt player transferred to Duquesne as a graduate student and played part of one season in 2006-07 before blood clots were diagnosed in his lungs.

Almamy Thiero, son of Amadou Thiero and Oumou Diagouraga, lived in Mali with his family for 16 years.

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is the eighth-largest country in Africa with an area of over 480,000 square miles and a population of 19.1 million.

The country’s official language is Bambara, spoken by perhaps 15 million people. It is estimated that about 80% of the population of Mali speak Bambara as a first or second language.

“Life growing up (in Mali) wasn’t easy,” Thiero said. “I’m the youngest of 10 kids, so you can imagine what everyday life was like.

“We started a Charity 501c3 called Gear Up Segou in 2015 to provide kids in my city with food, water, clothing, shoes and sporting goods.”

As a teenager, Thiero attained a coveted athletic scholarship as an exchange student in the United States.

“I was captain of the Mali U16 team that competed in a Nike Tournament in France,” he said, “and that is where I obtained that scholarship.”

Thiero attended perennial national power Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C., where he averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds as the team’s MVP as a senior and was salutatorian of the senior class.

Thiero and his wife Mariam and have four children: Adou, 17, Oumou aka Mimi, 14, Yassa Kande, 6, and Nana Kadidjatou, 2.

Thiero and A.J. Nagel serve as assistants with coach Win Palmer in the Sewickley Academy boys basketball program. Thiero has been a SA assistant for 16 seasons.

The Panthers have won five WPIAL championships and two state championship in the past 14 years.

“This year, Almamy was excused from that responsibility as his son is a senior (at Quaker Valley) and we wanted Almamy to enjoy watching his son play,” Palmer said. “Adou is amazing.”

Thiero adheres to a basic coaching philosophy.

“Each kid matters for the success of the team,” he said. “We win as one, and we lose as one.”

Thiero also is president and head coach of College Basketball Prospects of America, a youth organization.

“We are a year-round organization based at Sewickley Academy,” Thiero said. “We have student-athletes from North Allegheny, Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley, Ambridge, Central Valley, Aliquippa, Montour, Hopewell, OLSH and many other school districts.”

Of course, two of the CBPA’s most accomplished products are Quaker Valley seniors Adou Thiero and Markus Frank.

“Words cannot express how much we are proud of Adou for his accomplishments at Quaker Valley,” said his father. “He’s the most unselfish player you will ever meet. That alone is enough for us.”

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