By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
Nigeria must invest in the youths and encourage grassroots development for the country’s basketball to grow to its desired level, factional president of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Igoche Mark, has said.
Mark, who said building the game from the grassroots is his main priority, added that the country has the talents to challenge the best teams in the world, adding, however, that the country must invest in its talents to reach the desired height.
Speaking in Lagos at the weekend, the proprietor of Mark Mentors Basketball Club said: ‘The decay in Nigerian basketball has been alarming in the last four years, that’s why I joined the race for the election and January 31 I was elected NBBF president in Abuja. It’s a heavy task, but it’s doable.
‘We want to focus on grassroots basketball development, we have the talents but we don’t harness them. If we had eight NBA Drafts last time, it means we have the talents.
Then why is it not impacting on the local scene? That’s the problem and reason we want to focus on the grassroots.
‘What’s killing the game here is lack of facilities. Playing on hard surfaces isn’t good, it shortens the careers of the players. We want to bring back age-grade events and the local leagues; without the local leagues, we can’t progress.
‘Ejike Ugboaja was drafted from the local league to the NBA. If we had a sustainable league, only God knows how many players would have made it like Ejike.’
He regretted that some players have been forced to retire from the game because of inactivity in the last five years.
‘We have very good players who left to become labourers and casual workers, but they could have gone farther in the game if they were given the opportunity.
‘That’s what politics does, so I think it’s time we stopped this. My dream was to play in the NBA but I couldn’t, but I’m here to help the players achieve that. And with that, I’ll be much fulfilled.”
He denounced insinuations that he was planted by some godfathers to further destabilise the sector, adding that he came on board to help revive and reposition the sport.
‘For anybody to think that I was planted by some people in the 21st century is wrong. Nobody pushed me when I started, why is it now.’
On the legitimacy of his board, after world body FIBA reportedly endorsed Ahmadu-Kida’s board, Igoche replied, “There was only one election that took place and that’s the one that followed the ministry’s guidelines. I don’t know where another (election) came from.
‘FIBA is foreign, they don’t dictate what happens in Nigeria. The ministry is the custodian of sports in Nigeria and basketball isn’t an exception. What ministry says is what we will hold in Nigeria. For the past years, we didn’t see FIBA in Nigeria. The new face of basketball is like a moving train. Soon, you’ll see our efforts in moving Nigerian basketball forward.
‘I refuse to be distracted by a group who call themselves faction. I want to leave them to what they think or believe. Our goal is grassroots development; we don’t have anything against anybody.’