BYU basketball’s Gideon George and his family look to serve with new foundation

Two pairs of old, worn down shoes — something that most people keep stuffed away in the back of a closet — is all it took to open the door for Gideon and Samson George to play Division-I basketball and allow them to help change the world.

BYU forward Gideon and his brother Samson grew up in Minna, Nigeria, where the cost of a pair of shoes was equivalent to roughly one month’s salary for their parents. Even though the brothers needed shoes, the thought couldn’t be entertained for long as it didn’t outweigh the need to keep the family fed. 

Fortunately, a local coach helped the boys obtain shoes, but with a catch: the brothers would receive a pair of free shoes — donated by the nonprofit organization Timeout 4 Africa — in exchange for Gideon playing basketball.

This deal would be life changing. 

“It’s something that he’s super passionate about,” said Gideon’s girlfriend Jess Perry. “It flipped his life.. by seeing where a basketball can take him.”

The George brothers each found their way to America through their determination and love of the game. Gideon went to New Mexico Junior College and then transferred to BYU prior to the 2020-21 season, while Samson went to Pitt in 2017 before transferring to Central Arkansas in 2020. Changing continents came with the usual cultural shock, but what was unique about the Georges is the way they acted on the adjustment.

“Coming here, you get a lot of shoes. In America, it’s nothing, but it is for us coming from a different world,” Samson said. “It really is just two different worlds. I started collecting shoes and sending them back home when I was in college and Gideon took it to a whole new level.” 

Gideon arrived at BYU and wasted no time collecting shoes. He worked with Timeout 4 Africa and hosted a shoe drive in December 2021, collecting roughly 6,000 pairs. This was the turning point for the Georges, allowing the brothers to see how much of an impact they could make and possibly make an even greater difference.

“My brother and I sat down and wanted to do something different,” Gideon said. “We wanted to impact the world in our own way, so we started our own foundation.”

The problem with trying to start a foundation was a number of rules in place that limited collegiate athletes in such endeavors, but once the NCAA began allowing athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness in June 2021, the Georges had the green light, and the George Helping Hands Foundation was born. 

“With Gideon and Samson, it was through someone’s generosity that they are where they are now, and we all want to be able to open doors for other people,” said Samson’s wife Zainab George, who helps with the foundation.

The Georges are currently making their impact through shoes, but as the foundation continues to grow, their goal is to provide scholarships, water wells and whatever else they can to help underprivileged communities throughout America and Africa. The future plan is much bigger. This ‘change the world mentality’ is something they have completely leapt into.

“Gideon is doing way more for his community than he is doing for himself, and that’s pretty great. All our guys see that and they can’t help but feel it,” BYU men’s basketball head coach Mark Pope said. “As athletes, we are trained to have tunnel vision, 100% of our focus is on our game and getting better, and you can get lost in that. What Gideon is showing our guys is that actually when you look outside yourself it helps with your focus and helps you grow as a player.”

Both Gideon and Samson have experienced both sides of the “different worlds” and understand how much of an impact can be made simply by donating one pair of shoes underprivileged communities. The George Helping Hands Foundation will hold its next shoe drive December 12-17 at the Marriott Center for those wanting to help make a difference and donate. 

“(Gideon’s) one goal is to help kids because he knows exactly what it’s like because he’s been there,” Perry said.

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