Home News Lagos Driving Youth Passion in Basketball,

Lagos Driving Youth Passion in Basketball,


By Babatunde Ogunrinde
The popular saying in the U.S. — “Basketball, I love this Game’’ — may soon become common parlance in Nigeria with the kind of passion some states are developing for the game. In the fore front of driving this passion is Lagos State.
It is now common knowledge that several youth basketball tournaments and clinics that occurred in 2014 and in the past held in Lagos State. The development has helped to enkindle the passion for the sport in the youth and ultimately propelled the sport to find a footing across the nation with the increasing number of participants in it.
Retrospectively, 2014 can be considered as one that witnessed high number of age grade basketball competitions from academies, especially in Lagos. These schools of basketball no doubt do not exist only in Lagos State but nationwide.
Added to this fact are individuals and ex-internationals that have instituted annual competitions and clinics in Lagos State.
Such academies and competitions include the 15-year-old Olumide Oyedeji’s Basketball Clinic for Youths, organised by the Olumide Oyedeji Foundation; The Ejike Ugboaja Foundation Clinic and the Massai Ujiri’s Top 50 Camp.
But in all of these, Lagos State has its “Youth Alive Basketball League’’ which is the only youth league in the country apart from club clinics and camps. The competition, organised by the Lagos State Basketball Association for youths aged 12 to 18, is now in its 5th edition.
It is pertinent to note that the finals of the annual Nestle Milo Secondary School Basketball Championships, sponsored by the Nestle Nigeria Plc and now in its 16th edition holds in Lagos.
Also, the Lagos State Sports Council organised the first edition of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Games in which basketball was a prominent sport for the secondary school students. Lagos State won the basketball event of that fiesta.
No fewer than 20 schools in the state took part in the competition that was held in May before the 2014 Lagos State Sports Festival, tagged “Ibile Games’’ in April where several communities from all the local government areas of the state participated in.
The Youth Alive league had over 400 youths who participated in it with most of them having their first time experience in learning, appreciating the fundamentals of the game and competing for honours.
It is also noteworthy that no fewer than 7,500 participants nationwide took part in the Nestle Milo Secondary School Basketball Championships where Jesus College, Otukpo emerged champions in the boys category, while Government Girls Secondary, Gboko won the girls’.
That the two schools from Benue clinched the titles in both categories showed that the game is being promoted all over the country, especially at the grassroots.
One is now constrained to believe that Lagos State though its schools did not win the Nestle Milo competition, has shown by commission that it is the home of the game with the above and many more competitions.
The development has helped in arousing the interest of young persons in the game. This fact is attested to by the large turnout of spectators at the various events.
However, the Nestle Milo Secondary Schools competition was initially threatened by the outbreak of Ebola Disease in August but the championships were later postponed and held in December when the country was cleared of the scourge.
Nigeria’s U.S.-based, Toronto Raptor’s Basketball Franchise General Manager, Masai Ujiri’s, and the initiator of the Top 50, in assessing the game said that Lagos was showing leadership in promoting the sport.
Ujiri said that the number of programmes hosted in the state had the best young players drawn from academies across the country and from the Nestle Milo Championships.
On his the Top 50 Camp, he says young players have the opportunity to be tutored by the U.S.-based coaches alongside their Nigerian counterparts and were under the watchful eyes of foreign-based scouts.
He, however, notes that with the growing number of academies and tournaments, Nigeria is currently not enjoying the privilege of going for international championships.
Ujiri told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the various camps and youth participation in the international level had reached the stage where Nigeria should be a force to reckon with in global basketball.
“’So much is being done in all parts of the country, especially Lagos as regards harnessing the talents, however, there needs to be a synergy between the academies and the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF).
“In my capacity, I am prepared to work for this purpose, but it is a gradual process that requires a lot of team work with the federation.
“Overall, what we try to impart to these kids is life after basketball, hence basketball is basically the platform we use to ensure that they carry on with their education which is what can guarantee their future,” Ujiri said.
The NBBF President, Tijani Umar, tells NAN that the growing number of academies and tournaments are indeed a welcomed development.
“The remarkable result in the year is praise worthy’’, Umar said, acknowledging that the activities were yielding good fruits by producing young talents and molding responsible individuals for the nation.
He said that transforming the players discovered into national athletes required great caution where the right ages of the players were not altered.
“’It’s a great development, having so many academies and clinics running in all parts of the country because it makes our job in the federation a lot easier.
“However, we need to be able to monitor each camp and know what they are really imparting to the youths.
“We have heard cases of youths turning away from schools to pursue greener pastures abroad organised by make shifts camps which promises them trials in overseas clubs.
“The kids end up duped and frustrated. Sincerely, we are working tirelessly through schools and various state associations to keep a track on these kinds of camps.
“Our vision is to make youths understand the value of education while they pursue a career in basketball, hence, we shall work tirelessly to participate in international competitions in 2015.
He said the federation would aspire to ensure that Nigerian youths take part in age grade international competitions.
He also urged the Lagos State Government to ensure the sustenance of its Youth Alive Basketball League to keep hopes alive for young people.
The Director of Raptors Basketball Academy, Charles Ibeziako, says the nation could only rate the level of their youths in basketball when they play in international championships.
“We have been training and discovering young players for the senior national leagues and many others overseas, but without participating in international youth championships. This makes it difficult to know our strength.
“’In Nigeria, football has always taken the lion share when it comes to youths representing the nation in age grade championships, hence it is time to consider basketball at that level too,” he said.
Stakeholders, however, believe that basketball has contributed immensely to the development of youths and the nation and urged government at all levels to invest more in its development.


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