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For Joe Harris and Garrett Temple, bringing water to Africa is a priority

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Clay Cook Photography for Water Boys

Back in the summer, Joe Harris got a lot of attention for his world travel. He was in China in both September and October, first for the FIBA World Cup, then the NBA China Games. But they weren’t the only stops on his itinerary. He spent time in Africa as well, Tanzania to be specific, on a mission beyond basketball ... bringing clean water to the continent.

It didn’t get the attention his trips to China got but for Harris, the stop in Kilimanjaro was at least as rewarding.

Harris is part of Hoops2O Hoops, aka “The Water Boys,” founded by professional athletes many of whose roots go back to the University of Virginia, Harris’ alma mater. Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers point guard, initiated the program along with former NFL defensive end Chris Long, a two-time Super Bowl champ. Long put together a video on the group’s mission...

“Malcolm is very passionate about it. He had spent some time in Africa growing up,” Harris told the Nets’ Tom Dowd. “He had seen the need for clean drinking water and it had a pretty profound impact on him. He talked to Justin (Anderson) and I about it. Originally, he threw the idea out to Chris. And then one thing led to another.”

Indeed, Brogdon recruited others he knew from Virginia and the NBA, including Harris, Garrett Temple and Justin Anderson, who played with Brogdon and Harris at Virginia and as of Monday night is back in the organization as a member of the Long Island Nets.

“Justin and I were I think the first guys to get on board with it him from an NBA standpoint. And then he got Garrett and Anthony Tolliver. That was the original, I guess, starting five if you will, and now it’s up to nine guys,” said Harris.

The nine include Kyle Lowry, Donte DiVincenzo, Tim Frazier, and two more recent Virginia products and NCAA champs Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter.

“Each guy they have a goal where they, to build a well, it costs $45,000 and each guy their fund-raising goal is 45K,” said Harris. “Everybody sets out to raise 45 individually, and then you get five wells. We raised over a quarter of a million dollars last year. You hold different fundraisers, different events just to help raise money and awareness, and then we all contribute ourselves as well.”

According to the Hoops2O website, Harris has raised $77,246, second only to Brogdon. Temple has raised more than $26,000 and Anderson $13,000. To see the product of his organizing and fund-raising, Harris flew to Tanzania with Anderson and Brogdon.

“We had a day or so of safari while we were out there, but the rest of the time we were visiting project sites,” said Harris. “We want to the first well that we had funded and we saw the impact that it had on the community. It helped provide clean drinking water for 15,000 people.”

“It was away from basketball, away from social media,” said Anderson. “We just got the opportunity to go out there and bond and being able to take in Tanzania and some of its sights, Kilimanjaro. It was an unbelievable opportunity for me personally.”

Temple didn’t have the UVA connection but is No. 2 in the National Basketball Players Association, the players’ union. Brogdon knew he wanted the highly respected Temple on his “starting five” and Temple who knows Africa agreed.

“I’ve been to Africa three times now, when I was young twice and then again to South Africa two summers ago,” Temple told Dowd. “I wasn’t surprised when I heard about the issue. I know clean water is an issue in Africa, but that specific area, not aware of how bad it was. And I didn’t know how much a well cost. What Chris started is really amazing. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”