The Jr. NBA clinic recently held for the first time ever in Calabar, Southern Nigeria was a huge success. The Jr. NBA programme is been a global success story and on the African continent it keeps going from strength to strength. The NBA partnered with the organizers of the biggest carnival in Africa in Calabar to bring the game of basketball to the youth in the area and Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA VP and Managing Director for the NBA in Africa was on hand to see the event roll out.
The Calabar Carnival is an annual end of year festival in the Cross River State of Nigeria; tagged ‘Africa’s Biggest Street Party’, the festival is a week-long extravaganza showcasing the best of Nigerian culture and tradition. It brings together people from across the world, and the NBA has leveraged on that focus, to bring together youngsters and instil in them the discipline of basketball.
“Nigeria remains our top priority to grow the sport on the continent. As you see we have a long history here; we have some activities and programmes in Abuja, in doing (the programme), we have a partnership with Exxon Mobil. Here in Calabar it’s our first time here, trying to expand our footprints and it’s unbelievable to see the passion of these young people”, Fall said as youngsters from across the state and beyond, showed up for the Clinic.
“I’ve heard about (the carnival)… I have been dying to attend also for many, many years. And we are fortunate enough to work with the government to integrate the Jr. NBA Clinic in the carnival. We are looking forward to building on it, but I am encouraged by what I’m seeing now”.
FAll, who was born in Senegal, recently returned home to further consolidate the work that has been done in the country, by launching an NBA programme there, he related the experience to the one in Calabar, and he both expressed joy at the growth, and confidence of expansion:
“We launched the Jr NBA League there (in Senegal) and obviously just like in Nigeria, we also have a long history there. We launched a NBA Academy Africa that’s based in Saly just about an hour and half from Dakar, where young people from across the continent have been identified, housed there and they’re being trained by NBA coaches in a world class environment.
“The Jnr NBA Leagues in Africa are growing; right now we have 12 Leagues in 11 countries and I think before the end of 2018 we should be close to 20. So, Nigeria, again is a very important piece of our puzzle. We have a league in Abuja, and we are looking at opportunities, maybe, to do the same thing here in a place like Calabar.”
And as it is everywhere the Jr NBA league is planted, the focus remains to tap into the amazing young talent abound on the continent, at the rudimentary level:
“We are focusing still at grassroots level to really offer playing participation opportunities for young people, boys and girls who have a passion for our sport and as you can judge by these young men and women, this is from age 7 to 18 and they are here bright and early in the morning just talking to us and their coaches. You see a passion and you want to make sure that we support them.
“We are very committed in growing the sport, growing the game of basketball globally, it is the number two sport globally, and it is the number two sport in Africa. Young people have a passion for it, and our number one priority remains to just make the game accessible by forming partnerships with local governments, like what we are exploring to do here in Cross River State”.
Fall is quick to emphasise that it is not all just about basketball, but ensuring long-term life success for the youngsters fortunate enough to get a chance to participate in the programme.
“Again we keep reminding these young people that the game, for us, is a conduit for positive social change. We have a passion for the continent, its youth, and we think that the continent’s development is going to rest on the shoulders of these boys and girls. So what better way than sport to really lift them up, than the values of the game of basketball which teaches self-reliance, the notions of respect, team work and communications”.
By Akinbode Oguntuyi
@booday10 on Twitter
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