Before his untimely death earlier this year, former basketball star Manute Bol had become a legacy in Southern Sudan for more than just playing the hoops.
Most recently, the famous athlete built the first of what he hoped would be 41 schools. "My dream is to build schools everywhere in Southern Sudan," he once told BBC.
It all began with a 2008 visit to his hometown of Turelei, Warrap State, where Mr. Bol pledged to build a school for 300 children then studying under trees. The project became reality through a partnership with Sudan Sunrise, an American non-profit organization raising funds to build schools in the country.
Before falling seriously ill in May, Mr. Bol was in Turalei to inaugurate the first building of Manute Bol Primary School, which was completed in January 2010. The second building is still under construction.
Born in 1963, the basketball player's parents named him Manute, or "blessing from God". As a young boy, Mr. Bol never attended school, as his parents sent him instead to tend cattle. Nevertheless, he acquired a belief in the power of education.
"Bol was a tremendous advocate for education for the people and children of Sudan," commented Sudan Sunrise Operations Manager Janis Ricker.
From cattle herder to NBA
Mr. Bol's entry into world basketball began with a visit to local chiefs in Turelei by Abel Alier, first President of the High Executive Council of Southern Sudan, in 1975. Encountering the teenager, Mr. Alier was stuck by his impressive height.
"Wow! This boy is too tall," the council president exclaimed. "It is a miracle for me to see ... such a giant height." He then persuaded Mr. Bol to go with him to Wau, Western Bahr El Ghazal State, where he introduced him to a local basketball coach, Martin Apokich.
After learning basketball fundamentals from Mr. Apokich, young Bol was in no time dribbling and shooting into hoops all over Western Bahr El Ghazal State. "It was like a miracle to see him quickly adapt from herding cattle to playing basketball," said his cousin, Nicola Nyuol Bol.
Mr. Bol travelled in 1979 to Khartoum, where his popularity continued to soar. But he got his big break in 1982 when Don Feeley, then a basketball coach at Farleigh Dickinson University in the United States, took notice and persuaded him to move to the US.
A year later, with all preparations complete, Mr. Bol left Sudan for the United States to become a basketball star.
Two years later, the Washington Bullets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) signed up the Sudanese giant, whose height then reached 7 feet, 7 inches. During his decade-long career, Mr. Bol went on to play for the Golden State Warriors (California), Philadelphia 76ers (Pennsylvania), and Miami Heat (Florida).
After he left the NBA, Mr. Bol played for Italy and Qatar before rheumatism forced him to retire permanently in the mid-1990s.
Celebrity turned philanthropist
Meanwhile, the basketball star had already begun pouring some of his celebrity earnings back into Sudan.
"It was 1991. This was the first time I had seen Sudan on TV ... the Sudan government were killing my people," Mr. Bol said in an interview the magazine Sports Illustrated. "I say no, this cannot be right. I have to do something, you know? ... I feel I made a lot of money. I should give it back to my people."
The same year, Mr. Bol began visiting Sudanese refugee camps and mobilizing humanitarian organizations to assist those under dire conditions. He also assisted many "Lost Boys" by flying aid to refugee camps as well as those immigrating to the US to settle there.
"Manute's (philanthropic) contribution was great to the Southern Sudan," said Ms. Bol, who practices law in Upper Nile State.
In 2001, Mr. Bol set up the Ring True Foundation to fundraise for Sudanese displaced by war, contributing an estimated $3.5 million of his own money to this cause.
He took part in April 2006 in the Sudan Freedom Walk, a three-week march from UN headquarters in New York to Washington, D.C., which aimed to raise awareness of alleged human rights abuses in Sudan.
Mr. Bol at one point ran a basketball camp in Cairo, Egypt. Loul Deng, one of his former pupils in Cairoand today an NBA player, described Mr. Bol as a visionary person who struggled to end oppression and create equal opportunities for all.
"It is because of Bol that I am playing basketball right now," Mr. Deng said. "Manute Bol had such a big heart and helped a lot of people."
A life cut short
Despite his failing health, Mr. Bol responded in April to a call by then Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) presidential candidate Salva Kirr Maryardit to join voices calling for zero corruption during the country's historic elections.
When Mr. Bol finally returned to the US in May, he was immediately rushed to the University of Virginia Medical Centre in Charlottesville.
On 19 June, surrounded by family and friends, 47-year-old Manute Bol succumbed to kidney failure and complications from Stevens--Johnson syndrome, a rare skin disorder, at the centre. He is survived by three wives and 10 children.
During a catholic requiem mass in Juba on 3 July, President Kiir acknowledged the support Mr. Bol had given southern region during its civil war with the north. "He was with us during the time of our difficulties," the president said.
Mr. Bol's body was laid to rest on 5 July in his ancestral village of Turalei beside his grandfather's grave.
"He was a symbol of devotion and determination to us, who contributed countless things during and after the war between the north and south," Warrap State Governor Nyandeng Malek said during the funeral. "It is devastating and a huge loss to all of us."
The governor noted that Mr. Bol's first vision was peace for Sudan in general and Southern Sudan in particular. "He spent most of his wealth and energy for the cause of the country."
Akec Akhoc, Ambassador of Sudan to the United States described Mr. Bol as a "person with a great heart for his country and people".
"He did everything to support anybody in need of shoes, health service, (gave) food to people who were struggling and encouraged them to continue their struggle for rights and freedom," the ambassador said.
Tom Prichard, Executive Director of Sudan Sunrise, called Mr. Bol an extraordinary person who gave his life to the people.
"Sudan and the world have lost a hero and an example for all of us," Mr. Prichard said. "He is beloved in Sudan and will be missed."
Manute Bol may go down in history as the first African player to be drafted by the US- based NBA and one of its tallest members. But he leaves a far greater legacy back here in Southern Sudan.