Trump’s travel ban caused uncertainty for Canadian high school basketball player

Devin Gray
Canadian high school standout Abu Kigab faced uncertainty over whether he would be allowed to play in a showcase game in Toronto due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (Devin Gray/Yahoo Canada Sports)

He’s sheepish about it now, but mostly glad it’s all over.

Earlier in the season, highly-ranked Canadian basketball prospect Abu Kigab and his Prolific Prep Academy teammates from northern California were getting ready to play in a cross-border showcase in Vancouver when a certain executive order shook up the plans.

Kigab, an unassuming high schooler — born in Sudan before moving to St. Catharines, Ontario, at the age of nine — never expected to be sidelined before the big game.

“At first, I was scared with the British Columbia game. I didn’t want to go and not be able to go back to Oregon,” said Kigab, who has a scholarship lined up to play at the University of Oregon next season.

“I was risking being able to come back into the U.S.”

President Donald Trump’s infamous travel ban had sparked immediate outrage and Kigab quickly found himself wrapped up in the uncertainty. In a show of solidarity, Abu’s team voted not to travel to Canada and put their teammate at risk, even though Kigab has dual citizenship with Sudan and Canada.

“You have somebody who’s taken away a freedom that you had before, to travel between countries and none of us were very happy about that, but it is what it is so you go with it,” Prolific Prep coach Billy McKnight told Yahoo Canada Sports. “The way the whole thing was rolled out there wasn’t a lot of clarity to it so just to be sure we didn’t risk it.

“We’re here in the U.S and elections have repercussions. I think policy hits home closer to some people than others, and for us the policy that Trump put in place affected us and we weren’t going to risk putting Abu in a tough position. So, as a team we decided we weren’t going to go up there and moved to California instead.”

Abu Kigab (right) pokes the ball away from Corey Johnson at the BioSteel All Canadian basketball game. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The game, featuring arguably the top two high school teams from their respective countries, was relocated to Sacramento, where it was renamed the Cali vs. Canada Showdown. Prolific Prep (29-3 this season with the losses coming by a combined six points) took down Ontario’s Orangeville Prep (provincial Champions) 123-99.

At the time, Prolific Prep cited “uncertainties of our new and current administration in Washington as it pertains to foreign policy” for the decision not to travel to Canada. The Trump order was later revised to a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations, including Sudan.

Several months after the Cali vs. Canada Showdown, Kigab was given another opportunity to showcase his talents north of the border in the third annual BioSteel All Canadian high school basketball showcase in Toronto on April 10. At this time, the travel ban posed less of a threat to Kigab’s re-entry into the U.S., but the uncertainty remained. Traveling to Toronto for the game still had the potential to throw a wrench into his plans with Oregon University.

Three days before the BioSteel game was set to tip off, there were whispers that Kigab wasn’t going to play. With little information available, it was widely assumed that Kigab’s travel fears would preclude him from making the trip to Canada. Fortunately, Kigab’s participation in the game was eventually confirmed.

Fielding the inevitable questions about the travel ban, Kigab was noticeably uncomfortable during his media availability. In the end, the young man came back to Canada to play basketball, and he was just happy to do so.

“It’s complicated with the whole Donald Trump situation,” Kigab said in the understatement of the year. “After amendments were made to the act it was fine. I was very happy, coaches did a hell of a job and I appreciated that from them and I was really happy to play the game.”