Kids in Egan and Ejigbo communities exploded with joy at the sight of brand new basketball courts unveiled 11 October 2022 in Lagos by a non profit organisation, Giants Of Africa, GOA.
The unveiling is a continuation of GOA’s ‘Built Within’ initiative – a 100-court commitment to investing in sports infrastructure across Africa.
Former international and co-founder of GOA Godwin Owinjie explained that the idea of building basketball courts was strategic in the development of the game at the grassroots:
“Now that this facility is here, see all these kids that are here, they are curious, what is this, what’s basketball, let me go try my hands in it.
“That’s how we gonna find the next Hakeem Olajunwon, or the next Antetokoumpou.
“That’s how it starts.
“Building basketball courts is very important.”
Each court unveiling event included a basketball clinic for 50 boys and girls, conducted by local and NBA Giants of Africa coaches, a life skills session, as well as entertainment.
The unveiled courts are strategically located at Gaskiya College Ijora Badiya, Egan Grammar School in Igando, the Ejigbo Mini Stadium and Abesan Mini Stadium.
The four new sites are in addition to the five previously announced locations, totaling nine basketball courts across Nigeria.
With the opening of these new courts, Giants of Africa has built a total of 20 courts in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal since September 2021.
According to the Partnerships and Media Manager of GOA, Sharon Allela of Kenya the dearth of sports infrastructures like basketball courts has been a huge factor militating against grassroots development on the African continent.
The US based Allela pointed to how this factor limited the expansion of GOA’s programmes, hence the resolve by the organisation to bridge the gap:
“Deficit in basketball infrastructure, sports infrastructure in general is one of the biggest barriers to sports participation in Africa.
“We recognize there were places we wanted to go but we couldn’t because they didn’t have a basketball court.
“So we started this project during the pandemic because we almost had to pause the camps for that year but we had do something and we decided to build 10.
“And this is the incredible vision of Masai Ujiri, the co-founder of GOA and president of the NBA side Toronto Raptors, who grew up in Nigeria, he knows the value of infrastructure, he runs an incredible team that has incredible infrastructure and sees that vision for Africa.”
While admitting the importance of building courts in grassroots basketball development, Masai Ujiri highlighted the expansive scope of GOA’s vision:
“While basketball courts are the heart of the ‘Built Within’ initiative, it’s about providing valuable life skills to empower the youth, while creating stronger communities and job opportunities on and off the court.
“Our goal is to bring social transformation, education and enrichment to the lives of children across the continent and want Africa’s youth to dream big, believing that anything is possible.”