Men's Basketball
Duffy takes shot at nothing but net(s)

Joe Duffy pictured with a mosquito netJoe Duffy pictured with a mosquito net
March 1, 2010

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In May 2006 former Sports Illustrated and current ESPN The Magazine columnist Rick Reilly penned a column that would not only change lives, but also save the lives of many.

Titled "Nothing But Nets," the column shed light on the deadly battle against malaria in Africa, where a child dies from the disease every 30 seconds. To combat malaria, Reilly challenged his readers to donate $10 for the purchase of an insecticide-treated mosquito net. Readers answered Reilly's challenge with an overwhelming response, which led to the creation of the "Nothing But Nets" campaign--a campaign that raises awareness and funding to combat malaria.

Since the movement began in 2006, the organization has provided more than 2.5 million mosquito nets to those in Africa who most need them.

The column has been an inspiration to many, including Vanderbilt junior forward Joe Duffy. It was Reilly's column that first spiked Duffy's interest to join the campaign, but it was the idea from a few friends that helped send him down the path he hopes helps most.

Last year, members of Davidson's basketball team put on a 3-on-3 basketball tournament with proceeds generated from the event going to the Nothing But Nets campaign.

"I wanted to get involved with Nothing But Nets, but wasn't sure the route I wanted to go," said Duffy, who is from Charlotte, N.C. "I have good friends that play at Davidson and I saw their Web site last year for a 3-on-3 tournament they were doing. I saw how much good they were able to do with something fun, so it was a win-win."

Duffy took the idea and ran with it. In April, he plans on having a similar tournament at Vanderbilt to raise money and awareness for the campaign.

"I met with those guys that did it and went through the details with them," said Duffy, who works out with members of Davidson's team in the offseason. "It's not starting a brand new thing. It's been tested and it worked there, and I think with the support we have in Nashville for Vanderbilt basketball, I think it is going to be a big success."

The tournament will be for kids from third to eighth grade and will be at Memorial Gym. Funds are generated for the event by fundraising efforts by each team with the caveat being that the team that raises the most money will have the first pick of selecting any Vanderbilt player as its coach for the tournament. The process of selecting coaches will continue right on down the line until all the teams have a coach. Davidson had 27 teams participate last year, so players coached multiple teams.

Duffy is still finalizing plans, but in addition to the tournament, he hopes to raise additional funds by having a silent auction. As the event nears, more information will be made available on the tournament's Web site,

From team fundraising, donations and auctions, Davidson's tournament brought in $16,000, which went directly to purchasing 1,600 nets. Since the cost of having a net purchased and delivered is $10, Duffy plans on taking an approach of having things done in $10 increments.

"When you pay $10, you see the direct correlation and know that it is going to go straight to purchasing a net," Duffy said. "We are going to keep everything in increments of $10 so they can see that they are directly helping somebody else."

Having a basketball tournament to raise funds for Nothing But Nets seemed like a natural fit for Duffy when he heard what was done at Davidson. However, for him to pull it off at Vanderbilt, he knew he'd have to have his teammates behind him.

"I pitched the idea to the team to make sure everyone was OK to commit a Saturday to coaching, and everyone was all for it," Duffy said. "Everyone enjoys doing camp during the summer. It's fun to be around the kids and see everyone excited about basketball, so this tournament will be like having a day of camp in April. The team has been very supportive of the tournament."

One of the players who has been behind Duffy's initiative has been sophomore forward Steve Tchiengang.

Tchiengang knows all too well about the devastating effect malaria has had in Africa. He spent the first 15 years of his life in Cameroon and has seen firsthand how deadly the disease can be.

"I think the tournament that Joe is having is a great thing," Tchiengang said. "Because of the poverty we have, we don't have the financial means to get the medicine needed. The nets protect you from mosquito bites, which could eventually lead to malaria. Malaria is a very devastating disease if you don't take care of it. I've seen families going through it and not have access to the hospital because it is expensive."

Even Tchiengang has had malaria a time or two in his life.

"I've probably had malaria once or twice in my life, but I have a very strong immune system that helped me through," Tchiengang said. "My brother had it a lot as did my sister, it definitely can kill because of the difficult access to hospitals in Africa. Fatal diseases like malaria can kill literally because you don't get the support you need."

Tchiengang was one of the 500 million people who are infected with malaria each year, but fortunately was not one of the more than 1 million who die annually from the disease.

Duffy hopes the tournament will help put a dent in those numbers this first year and lay the groundwork for something even larger to come.

"I wanted to start it this year so hopefully I can get two years of it," Duffy said. "Hopefully it is a success this year and if we grow it next year, by the time I leave maybe I can pass it down to some of the younger guys and see if we can get it to be an annual event that people get excited about."



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