We will take Giants of Africa beyond basketball court, says Ujiri

General Manager, Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri,

Former Nigeria international, Masai Ujiri, who has been running the Giant of Africa Camp since 2003, believes the programme would create opportunities for participants even beyond the basketball court.

The Toronto Raptors’ manager in the famous NBA has been running the camp with some of his friends, including his former coach in Kaduna, an American, Oliver Johnson, who is better known in basketball circles as OBJ.

Speaking during the camp in Lagos last week, Ujiri said, “the run has been great for us. The whole idea as I have always said is that I am giving back as much as I can to the society. The idea to expand the programme started from the first time I spent doing the Basketball Without Borders in South Africa. That was good I thought it would be nice to take the game down to all corners.

“It was a bit challenging at the beginning, but now easier moving around because of the relationships we have built around over time. I am really proud of those who have been of tremendous help to the programme. We are so proud of how we have used basketball to develop the youth in different spheres of life.”

Masai left the country as a young man when Nigerians were still proud of the Lagos National Stadium. This year he couldn’t go near that venue. Indeed for the past three years, the Giants of Africa programme has used alternative halls rather than the Sports Hall of the Federal facility where the national teams had won so many games in the good old years. They used the Teslim Balogun Stadium just down the way because the national venue had degenerated.

“We are grateful to the Lagos State government for the use of this facility. We cannot also forget the National Stadium that we started with but we must also say it as it is now. I do hope that those in charge can hear us. They need to shut down the National Stadium and completely rework the place. It is in a very bad shape now that’s not the right message to pass to the young ones that we cannot maintain our facilities. It is been like this for ages and nobody seems to care anymore.”

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