NewsMaking It In San Diego


From a refugee camp in Uganda to Malibu: The power of sports and perseverance

The high school basketball star on his way to Pepperdine
Posted at 7:09 PM, Sep 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-27 22:09:05-04

KGTV — SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Any high school senior looking to go to college next year on a full-ride scholarship is a story of dreams come true.

But for one San Diego student making it in San Diego... just how far those dreams have come... is a journey of courage and the caring of others.

Rancho Christian high school senior Martin Gumwel, the varsity boys’ basketball ... 6-10" starting center... already committed to Pepperdine University next year on a full-ride sports scholarship.

Gumwel picked up a basketball for the first time four years ago in Kampala Uganda. His family settled in a refugee camp there after fleeing war-torn South Sudan. He was spotted by the Dankind basketball academy, a humanitarian project which mentors and trains young athletes.

It was there that he met San Diegans Kyler and Claire Kennedy. Claire plays for the national women's basketball team in Uganda and the couple was running a clinic at the academy.

Kyler says they saw what was possible in the tall, lanky 15-year-old.

With the blessing of Gumwel’s family, arrangements were made and Gumwel arrived in the US with the Kennedys in August of 2019 to start high school at Calvin Christian school.

Gumwel acknowledges he was nervous leaving his family and arriving in a new country...but he says the Kennedy’s became family to him. His basketball coach Eric Miedema was always there on and off the court, and checking on him in the classroom, as well as thoughtfulness from his teachers and teammates who all made him feel at home

“I’ve really had an opportunity to meet a lot of great people in my life, so it's a blessing,” Martin Gumwel said.

He credits what he calls a village for his success, but Kennedy says it’s because of Gumwel’s determination… showing up every morning before school to get shots up and working with tutors 7 days a week.

Gumwel says now his mother is comfortable with him on his own pursuing his dreams and his family is happy for him.

His plan is to finish his senior year strong and head to Malibu to continue his education and basketball at Pepperdine.

But for now, what he plans to do is work hard and do the most he can with the opportunity he's been given.