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From Mali, to De Smet to Mizzou | Yaya Keita is living his American dream

"It's more than just a basketball story. It's a kid that's come over here and changed his life"

ST. LOUIS — Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri Tigers landed one of the top high school basketball prospects in the St. Louis area last week. But that's just a small part of the bigger journey Yaya Keita is on.

From Africa, to De Smet to Mizzou, Keita is living out his American dream.

Keita, originally from Mali, stands an imposing 6 foot 9 and weighs 230 pounds. He pulls down rebounds and swats away shots like they're bodily functions.

He had a 26 rebound game this past season, and will finish near the top on De Smet's all-time leaderboard in both rebounds and blocks.

But his play isn't nearly the most impressive part of Yaya Keita's story.

"It's more than just a basketball story. It's a kid that's come over here and changed his life," De Smet head coach Kent Williams said. 

Keita ended up here in St. Louis after living the rest of his life more than 5,000 miles away in Mali, Africa. 

Now, he has a scholarship to the University of Missouri, and will be the first member of his family to be able to go to college.

"It's huge. Somebody like me coming from Mali," Keita said. "First of all coming not speaking English... And being able to go through this and work hard, work my tail off to get this scholarship from this big time school.... It's big."

"He speaks four languages... He's just an incredible young man with great character," Williams said. "No matter what he does on the court he's going to be successful in life because of the kind of person he is."

And even though he's going to get the chance to play for a major university and go to college, Keita knows he can't stop working. After all, hard work and determination is what has got him this far.

"Coming to the United States I thought that being here was a big opportunity," Keita said. "You work hard, 98% you get what you want if you work hard for it. So in that mind I just kind of think about if I work hard, I'm going to get a scholarship."

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