General Manager, Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri,
Co- founder of Giants of Africa (GOA) basketball programme, Masai Ujiri has called on the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and corporate bodies to organise more championships for youths aspiring to become stars in the dunking game, saying lack of competitions has stunted the country’s growth in the game.
Addressing journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos at the weekend before departing for Senegal where he would round off the GOA programme, the Toronto Raptors president said Nigeria and other African countries have abundant talent in basketball that can take the world by storm if adequate mentorship and developmental programmes were put in place to nurture children in their formative stage.
Ujiri, who assured that he would continue to contribute his quota in taking Nigerian basketball to an enviable height, said he decided to visit Maiduguri with the Giants of Africa basketball clinic to promote the game in the North East, stressing that there were many talents in the region waiting to be discovered.He pleaded with government at the state and federal levels and also well meaning Nigerians to help in building standard basketball courts in the country, saying it would go a long way in hasting the development of the players.
“This year’s Giants of Africa camp was exciting because we ensured the boys and girls received the best training to become future stars. I am happy to be part of this project. I was born in Nigeria and played the game here.“I am happy when I see these kids display their passion while in camp. I strongly believe that talents would emerge from this bunch of kids in future.
“My mission to Maiduguri was to further spread basketball in that region. I believe despite some of the challenges going on in the region, there is still hope for stars to come out from there. I played basketball in the North and noticed that they have good players. I was happy to met my former coaches and team mates while in Maiduguri,” he said.
Reminiscing on the good days of the game in Nigeria, Ujiri said, “in my days we used to have many tournaments to bring out the best in the players. This is why I think the rate of stars emerging from the country has reduced over time.
“Our objective in the Giants of Africa is to also teach children the basic social side of life. The organisation works with children and their families to develop sustainable social economic structure that would promote financial independence.”