Anyone in attendance for the 286th meeting between North Dakota’s and North Dakota State’s basketball teams in Fargo on Sunday probably noticed the lack of footwear on coaches Brian Jones (UND) and Saul Phillips (NDSU).
Jones and Phillips coached Sunday’s game barefoot in order to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet, an organization founded by Manny Ohonme — a onetime grad student at NDSU — whose goal is to provide shoes to the 300 million people around the world without them.
Ohonme’s organization first gained attention courtesy of then-IUPUI men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter, whose barefoot gesture during a 2008 game led to the donation of approximately 100,000 pairs.
“What started in my little garage in 2003 has now galvanized a global movement,” Ohonme told the Greenfield (IN) Daily Reporter prior to Sunday’s game. “It’s going to be exciting for me to come back to what we knew as home and see the people of North Dakota rally around this.”
North Dakota State prevailed on Sunday, 72–52. But all can agree that Ohonme’s organization and cause were the real winners of the day.