December 6, 2022

The Rebirth: A fresh start for grassroots basketball in Nigeria

June 6, 2022

As the proverbial maxim posits, the future of any sport is in the development of its grassroots. Across different generations of stellar sports teams in different events, the production talent bed is one of the fulcra of its success.

Grassroots not only catalyze sporting success, but also guarantees the long-term sustainability of such successes.

Grassroots Basketball in Nigeria in the last number of years has continued to wallow in rot due to the non-existent reality of the sport, at the grassroots level. Unmitigated in-house fighting amongst stakeholders in the country crashed the entire grassroots system. The local league has been crippled, sponsors and investors have all disappeared and local players are watching right before their eyes, their talents waste away.

The implication of this is the destruction of a whole sporting value chain, which spells doom for the future. Basketball should have an operational system where the top echelon depends on a feeder unit for its sustainability but this hasn’t been the case for Nigeria, as those saddled with the responsibility have all ended up departing from what is meant to be at the core of their job description.

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The rebirth has started. After the Federal Government approves Nigeria’s withdrawal from international basketball, the Honourable Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare announced that the country must use this opportunity to delve into the deep and rescue basketball in Nigeria through a holistic rebuilding process. While the country takes a step back during this period, so it can make a giant leap, the Interim Management Committee set up to steer the affairs of basketball in the country has been charged in very strong terms, amongst other things to catalyze grassroots development of basketball.

Quoting the Honourable Minister, Sunday Dare during the inauguration of Nigeria Basketball IMC, he mandated them thus “draw up programs that will revamp basketball from the grassroots”.

In his statement, Dare stated thus “Nigeria at this critical time is more interested in developing young basketball talents and the domestic league…for years the basketball value chain has been truncated such that home-based players, coaches, physical trainers, and sponsors were left empty”.

These words from the Honourable Minister show that the responsibilities of the IMC are explicitly defined; develop youth and grassroots basketball and organize the domestic league.

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The hope for the future is that the ambitions are clear, in that there is a reflection to understand that Nigeria’s successes in the last couple of years are the product of other county’s systems. This is not a problem at all, because the national team should be about the best of the best competing for places. But how can the local players compete favorably without a running domestic league or efficient grassroots? What if the U.S.A abandoned their local system like Nigeria? What would be of our national teams? The successes recorded have only papered the cracks but haven’t addressed the deeper issues of development. If the home front is solid, the foreign players are playing well abroad, it makes for a decent balance of healthy competition for places; but in a case where the domestic scene is dormant, it’s simply glossing the surface to think the game is thriving.

Already, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports has hit the ground running, announcing that a new Nation Secondary Basketball championship is on the cards. Just as we saw in the National Principal’s Cup, this looks like an achievable project for the FMYSD.

Kudos must go to Honourable Sunday Dare for this vision at a time like this. The onus is now on the IMC to deliver on this mandate. They cannot afford to fail. the country at a time like this. This National assignment has been entrusted into their hands and failure is not an excuse. Well, one would be confident by the fact that the profiles of the IMC members fit the bill. Here’s to a new dispensation. Here is to the rebirth of grassroots basketball. Here is to success. Cheers Naija. The rebirth has started!!

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