Nnaji, NBA Africa partner to build facilities across country | The Guardian Nigeria News

Born in Enugu State, basketball star Ezekiel Tobechukwu Nnaji (aka Zeke Nnaji) has initiated a partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA-Africa) and the Players Association to build basketball facilities in parts of Nigeria.

Nnaji, who plays for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, said arrangements have been made to build five basketball facilities across the country.

Unveiling the first basketball facility in Enugu, Nnaji said the idea was to give back to society and create opportunities for basketball development among young people.

The NBA star said he was moved after first visiting the country at a young age to “discover the glaring depravity that young children go through every day.”

He said: “We believe that sporting and academic engagement is a powerful tool in shaping children to be productive members of our society.

“We partnered with NBA Africa and the NBA Players Association to build the basketball facility. This is the first of the five locations. There is a technology lab that we will be working on next month where children will learn how to use equipment such as 3D printers, construction software and a music studio.

“Organized basketball teaches children life skills like determination, perseverance, cooperation and learning how to deal with failure. Everything we do and provide for the families and their children is free. Our hope is that someone from one of the institutions who makes it to the US, or becomes successful, can give back to the community that nurtured their talents.”

Nnaji Foundation communications director Ugochukwu Nnaji, who shared more details about the project, said it is a way for young people to learn how to play basketball, adding that they also have a junior sports league, a secondary school sports league, founding and giving will pay cash prizes to winning schools.

“We’re really going to innovate the game of basketball in Nigeria. Now that we’re able to hold inter-school competitions and set up millions of dollars in prizes for the winning schools, we’re going to take the best players from those school competitions and see how we’ll get them to play internationally. There are so many international basketball leagues looking for hardworking and talented young Nigerian boys and girls to join their league. So that’s really the goal. This is the first of many basketball courts in Nigeria. Our plan is to conquer the southeast. So we’re going to build a basketball court like we have here in every southeastern state of Nigeria. From there we will visit all states in Nigeria. Then we also travel across Africa to ensure that most African children have access to quality basketball.

“We work with NBA and NBA Africa. So the NBA will bring invaluable coaches and mentoring, scouts and also mentoring from international players. There will also be a world of good for the children. One thing about all of these is that they are all free. Nobody is paying anyone to be part of it.

“Right now it’s a basketball academy. But it is a small part of a greater whole. There will be a skills acquisition center; We’re going to have a lab, we’re going to have a place where you code and make computer programs, learn about programs and other things like that,” he added.

Unveiling the facility, Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency Member Nnolim Nnaji praised the initiative, emphasizing, “In a few years, this part of the constituency that I represent will have a lot of people interested in the game of the game Basketballs, which for me is also part of empowering people.”

However, he asked for government support to allow the game of basketball to take its proper place in the Southeast region.

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