Basketball: Rwandan youngsters have opportunity to win on and off the court

Thanks to his initiative, Giants of Africa, the Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri is a regular visitor to Rwanda. His organisation connects youth with top-level basketball coaching and facilities. Courtesy.

Basketball development programmes are designed to prepare young players for professional basketball career and life after basketball, and it also applies to those that are by Rwanda Basketball Federation (Ferwaba) and its partners.

Young basketball players are ambitious. Their goal is to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). They are beneficiaries of projects rolled out to facilitate their journeys. If they take advantage of the given exposure to showcase their talents and use it as stepping stones required to reach new heights, hardworking young players in Rwanda will go places.

The NBA is expanding its scouting network in Africa and stepping up its efforts to grow the game across the continent. The most popular basketball league in the world is establishing its presence in Africa and opening doors for the continent’s top prospects. 

The number of Africans in the NBA is expected to drastically increase and so is the percentage of African young players dreaming of making it to basketball’s biggest stage. Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo paved the way. By shining brilliantly in this year’s NBA finals, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka inspired the next generation of African stars.

Today’s professional aspirants are encouraged to dream big while developing skills needed to succeed in other areas. As they chase their basketball dreams, they are constantly reminded to put into consideration the fact that unforeseen circumstances may keep the NBA and other professional leagues out of their reach.

A back up plan is highly recommended. It is also worth noting that those who eventually sign lucrative basketball contracts retire before their 40th birthday.

Sports careers are short but the application of their empowerment aspect is a lifetime advantage. Trainers in various camps and clinics preach the importance of education. In most cases, players take advantage of their basketball skills to secure academic scholarships. The game is also used to foster communication, teamwork and leadership among others. 

Giants of Africa uses basketball as a tool to educate and enrich lives. The nonprofit organization, founded by Toronto Raptors’ General Manager Masai Ujiri, places emphasis on hard work, accountability, honesty and positivity.

Speaking to Rwandan campers last year, the architect of the Raptors’ championship run urged them: “Believe in yourselves, work hard, embrace honesty and respect women.”

Since 2015, Giants of Africa has staged 4 camps in Rwanda, each edition bringing together top 50 players in the country aged between 15 and 18. In addition, the organisation has provided facilities, merchandises and expertise.

The launch of the proposed Basketball Africa League (BAL) will create more opportunities for Africa-based players, coaches, managers and media personnels to name but a few. This development goes beyond what happens on the court.

Through its different community outreach programmes, the NBA appeals to the youth to lead a healthy lifestyle and engage in constructive hobbies for a better future. NBA FIT, for example, is a comprehensive health programme that advocates for physical activities and healthy living.

Read to Achieve, on the other hand, is a campaign designed to help young people develop a life-long passion for reading and online literacy. In addition, the said campaign encourages parents to cultivate a reading culture within their households.

The NBA Rookie Transition Programme is tailored to prepare newcomers for the future through a series of presentations, panel discussions and interactive workshops. It brings on board current and retired players as well as experts in various fields.

The discussions focus on a variety of topics including financial security, career development, diversity, inclusion, nutrition, communication skills and stress management. Although this programme targets players in transition from college to the NBA, it is also credited for putting them in a better position to prepare for life after basketball.

Through different youth basketball programmes in and outside the country, Rwandan youngsters are prepared to win on and off the court. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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