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The Rebirth: A Fresh Start for Grassroots Basketball in Nigeria

June, 6 2022.

As the proverbial maxim posits, the future of any sports 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 fulcrum of its success.

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

Grassroot 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 grassroot level. Unmitigated in-house fightings amongst stakeholders in the country crashed the entire grassroot 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 total destruction of a whole sporting value chain, which spells doom for the future. Basketball should have a 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.

The rebirth has started. After the Federal Government's approval of 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 in to 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 have been charged in very strong terms, amongst other things to catalyze grassroot development of basketball.

Quoting the Honourable Minister, Sunday Dare during the inauguration of Nigeria Basketball IMC, he mandated them thus "draw up programmes 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 shows that the responsibilities of the IMC is explicitly defined; develop youth and grassroots basketball and organize the domestic league.

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 is the product of other county's system. 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 favourably 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 competion 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 have hit the ground running, announcing that a new Nation Secondary Basketball championship is on the cards. Just as we saw the National Principal's Cup, this looks 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 fits the bill. Here's to a new dispensation. Here is to the rebirth of grassroot basketball. Here is to success. Cheers Naija. The rebirth has started!!

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