Former National Basketball Association (NBA) star, Kelenna Azubuike has said Nigeria could attain more successes in basketball if the talents of the younger generation are well harnessed.
The former Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks forward made this assertion while speaking with Daily Trust at the final day of the 3rd edition of Power Forward Basketball program at the Abuja National Stadium on Thursday.
Nigeria’s D’Tigers were ranked 25th in the world before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and are now 16th after their outing at the Games but the basketball star believes Nigeria could even do better in the future.
“Nigerian basketball is coming up because I saw some talents that they have here at the Power Forward [program] and it’s just about these kids staying disciplined and continuing working on their craft.
“In the US, people start a lot sooner playing basketball. Most of the best athletes play basketball in the US but here, most of the best athletes are in football or other games.
“If the NBA and Power Forward can get kids to fall in love with basketball at young age and keep playing, keep working on their game and Power Forward keep coming up with programs like this, then the future of Nigerian basketball is bright,” he noted.
He charged the government to continue encouraging basketball by supporting all programs targeted towards improving the game in Nigeria.
Azubuike who had a great career in the NBA but didn’t represent Nigeria at any level told Daily Trust circumstances beyond him kept him out of D’Tigers.
“I don’t have a Nigerian passport, my parents were born here and it just didn’t work out with the passport situation because I would have loved to play for Nigeria,” he said. “I tried to play for the national team but it never worked out but I’m glad to have another reason for coming back to Nigeria.”
Speaking at an earlier Press Conference, the Technical Director of Basketball Operations NBA Africa, Frank Traore said basketball was the easiest way to pass live skills to the young ones.
While commending the organizers of the Power Forward project for their initiative, he said the kids were already testifying to its impacts in their lives.
Power Forward, a partnership between ExxonMobil, the NBA and Africare, uses the game of basketball to teach and mentor students from secondary schools in Abuja about health literacy and life skills such as leadership, respect and personal responsibility.
The event which involved ten schools in the FCT, feature boys and girls championship games, performances from the Philadelphia 76ers Flight Squad as well as various youth competitions.