Oladipo, Ezeli hail foundation
Stakeholders and basketball enthusiasts at the weekend gathered in Abuja to celebrate the NBA Power Forward Huddle Youth Development Initiative, which has been growing the sport and impacting positively on the country’s youths since it was launched in 2013 by ExxonMobil Foundation, the NBA and Africare.
The Power forward Youth programme, which uses basketball to teach health literacy, including malaria prevention, personal hygiene and life skills such as leadership, respect and responsibility to students in 30 secondary schools in Abuja, had its first virtual press conference at the weekend with millions of people across the world in attendance.
The Power Forward Youth Programme Initiative, in its seventh year, also had two-time NBA all-star Victor Oladipo and 2015 NBA champion, Festus Ezeli, headlining the press conference livestreamed on NBA Africa YouTube.
The event, which was hosted by television and radio personality, Jimmie Akinsola, also also celebrated seven years of the Power Forward programme for youths under 14 years and coaches from 30 schools in Abuja.
The one-hour show also featured representatives of the programme partners – ExxonMobil Director of Community Investment and Strategy, Jim Jones; NBA Africa CEO, Victor Williams; and Africare President and CEO, Robert Mallett; as well as testimonials from Power Forward students.
The organisers also thanked FCT Abuja Secondary Education Board and Nigerian Basketball Federation for their support of the initiative.
Victor Oladipo and Festus Ezeli spoke about the role basketball played in their lives, the values of the game and credited their Nigerian upbringing for the successes on and off the court.
Ezeli in his remarks, recalled his visit to Nigeria last year, after a decade and a half abroad. The NBA basketball star said he took part in the sixth Power Forward Finals at the National Stadium in Abuja.
“I had been gone for 15 years. I left my home, I left my family, it was just me when I came to America. And coming back after all this time, a lot of inches taller, it was a very emotional time. You know it’s always going to be home. Nigeria is always home. Granted that America is my home now, but when I went back, it was this feeling like: man, I’m home. These are my people, and seeing my family and everybody, it kind of reminded me of my purpose.
“When I left Nigeria I said I was not going to come back unless I have something to contribute, until I accomplished something. And making it to the NBA was accomplishing something, but I wanted to do more and I wanted to do more for Nigeria myself. So I’m excited for the future,” he said .
Oladipo on his part credited his family and the way he was brought up in a responsible Nigerian household, for his academic and sports success.
“Coming from a Nigerian household and Nigerian parents, they are really big on academics. Originally, playing Basketball was kind of different in my household. My three years at Indiana, I was taking extra classes during summertime so I could graduate early. I still had a dream and the ability to go to the NBA Draft early, a year early. I credit definitely my culture, I credit definitely my parents and the way I was brought up, for my ability on and off the court. That’s just Nigerian way, it’s academics first and basketball later. That’s how it was growing up, so I had to make sure that I follow that plan,” he said.
To date, Power Forward has reached more than 80,000 youth in schools and communities in need, and nearly 30,000 people have attended past Power Forward community events.