No fewer than 300 students from 10 secondary schools in the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday participated in a basketball clinic organised in Abuja.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the clinic structured by Power Forward is a youth development project designed to enhance the skills of the students and also give them a sense of direction in their chosen career.
Dr Patrick Adah, Officer In-charge, Africare Nigeria, an NGO and promoters of the project, said the programme was designed to ensure that the youth engage in useful ventures while pursuing a career in basketball or other professions.
“Today we organised basketball clinic and a career talk in preparation for the bigger event on Friday and we are working with Exxon Mobil and the National Basketball Association (NBA) to achieve success.
“We have done a basketball league with the schools, they are about 10 project schools and 20 supporting schools and they have run a basketball league.
“Third place match took place today, while the final match comes up on Friday.
“Exxon Mobil staff members are also here to give career guidance to the students so that after school they will know how to get a job in the oil industry.
“National Basketball Association (NBA) people are here to talk to the students about basketball and what it can take them to play it in case they choose to play.
“We as Africare will educate them that after school they can make a career in NGO or become a social worker.
“However, the main objective is to educate the mind of these youth to let them know that they can become whatever they want to become after school and to train their mind to be responsible citizens.
”We want to make them understand that beyond working in any paid employment, they can stand on their own,” Adah said.
According to him, the youth indulge in crime when their minds are not educated and trained to respect people.
“Basketball teaches respect for one another, so, if you have respect for others, you are not likely to take the gun and shoot somebody; you will respect the opinion of others and become a better Nigerian.”
The representative of the NBA in Nigeria, Mr Tunde Adekola, said that sports could change lives hence the use of basketball to spread the message of the group.
Adekola said: “For example, here we partner Exxon Mobil and Africare to talk about malaria and lives skills.
“So, the most important thing is to use sports to get the attention and once you grab the attention, you spread the message you want.
“Basketball is engaging and that is why we are using it. In Nigeria, basketball is second to football and as you know we have been doing well consistently for the past two years.
“Our national male and female teams qualified for the Olympics; this achievement will help to create awareness for the youth that plays basketball and ‘Power Forward’ is raising the awareness for the youth to choose basketball.
“Basketball is a fun game and players move all parts of their body to play and there is also high coordination in the sport.”
Adekola assured of good working relationship with the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and maintained that the game had a great future in the country.
Festus Ezeli, Nigerian basketball player based in the U.S. told NAN that he was in the country to impact positively in the lives of the students and also to give back to the country.
Ezeli who is a resource person for the “2019 Power Forward” project urged the students never to give up in their chosen career.
“I started playing basketball when I was 16 years; here we are with kids between 14 and 17 years and we want to use basketball to grab their attention to things that are very important.
“Basketball gave me a lot of skills; leadership skills and education, and I want to be able to give these things to these kids as well.
“My biggest takeaway in life is that nothing is impossible; my name is Ifeanyi, and it means nothing is impossible with God.
“That is my life part actually because I went to America not knowing anything about basketball.
“I was 15 years old when I left the country, and then picked up a basketball at 16.
“People told me that I was terrible and that I can’t play basketball, but within six years I was in the NBA, how? Nothing is impossible with God.
“That is the message I want to pass to these kids, whether they want to play basketball or be a doctor.”
Maureen Ameh, the project’s Senior Head Coach said 900 students including the 300 from 10 project schools and the 600 from 20 supporting schools have been enlisted in the project.
She said: “Usually we start with the basketball clinic and it is an opportunity where the NBA which is one of the partners of the project have contact with the 300 children on the project – 150 male and 150 female, to enhance their skills.
“This activity is also supported by Power Forward coaches who are implementing the activities in schools.” (NAN)