PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They couldn’t be more different – one is a basketball player from Brooklyn and the other escaped Civil War in Africa.

Yet the unlikely duo was in Pittsburgh today carrying a message of hope to students in East Liberty.

One talks about hoop dreams.

“I had a plan and a goal that I wanted to get out of the projects and go to college, and more than going to college, I wanted to play in the NBA,” said Chris Taft, a former Pitt basketball star.

The other uses music and dance.

On Wednesday, they took their message to 6th graders at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 in East Liberty.

“Regardless of where you are in your life, you cannot allow the circumstances in your life to define who you are,” Taft said.

Taft was Big East Rookie of the Year in 2004. After two seasons, he left Pitt for the NBA where injuries ended his budding career.

“Inflammatory muscle condition; nobody knows where it came from,” he said. “I’ve heard so many different things, but I have also heard that I wouldn’t be able to play and do things again and I’m proving that wrong.”

Professional dancer Deo Mwano and his family escaped the Republic of Congo in Africa after his father was assassinated in that nation’s Civil War in 1997.

“A lot of fighting… you would go down the street and a lot of people would be chopped up and people would be burned up in tires. This is the environment I came out of,” said Mwano. “Gunshots were a part of your everyday second. Every time you were outside it would be pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.”

Recently featured on “Dancing With the Stars,” the 21-year-old dance instructor uses his moves to inspire the kids while paired with a 6-foot-10-inch tall hoop star.

“We talk about perseverance through injuries, perseverance through getting out of his neighborhood, and I talk about perseverance through getting out of the atrocity that has been happening in Africa as a whole for many years – let alone in Congo,” said Mwano.

Messages that clearly met the mark with the young kids in East Liberty.

Pittsburgh Public Schools
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