This year's edition of the annual Mark D Ball basketball tournament dunked off in Otukpo, Benue State yesterday, with no less than four foreign coaches on ground for the basketball fiesta.
Leading the pack is Coach Alex Nwora, head coach of Erie Community College, Buffalo, New York and head coach Cape Verde, Shantelle Turner, an assistant coach with Virginia Tech, USA, Joseph Toumo, USA and Funke Oshodi from the United Kingdown.
The arrival of the coaches as well as that of some international players like Ejike Ugboaja, Osita Nwachukwu, Sam Oguche, Victor Odomu, Ekwo Odaudu, coach Andrew Isokpehi, Ogoh Odaudu of Royal Hoopers, Chris Acha of First Bank Elephant girls of Lagos have turned turned the atmosphere here in Otukpo into a frenzy of activities with youths jostling around to be a part of the fun.
Already, a total of 19 teams are on ground to battle for honours. The male teams include
ASPAC (Cotonou), Blame It On Experience (Otukpo), ESPN (Otukpo), Apa Flames (Otukpo), Otukpo United (Otukpo), Bethlehem (Otukpo), Repete Shooters (Lafia),SUBA Sharp Shooters (Suleija), Braves (Makurdi), Mountainers (Jos), Hard Rockers (Abuja) and Veterans of Abuja (Abuja).
In the female category, top Zenith women's basketball league teams, Dolphins of Lagos and Delta Force of Asaba would have their hands full when they confront the Apa Oueens of Otukpo, Beloved Sweeties of Makurdi, the Pearls of Makurdi, Rockers of Jos and SAPCLN Queens of Abuja.
The event which is the 13th edition has metamorphosed from Save The Game Project, initiated by basketballers desirous of lifting the game, to its present status of Mark D Ball Tournament designed to helping young people become better citizens through the medium of basketball with emphasis placed on fundamental skill development, teamwork, sportsmanship and positive participation.
Aside these, it is meant to providing fun and rewarding basketball experience where a bond can be created with the game while also learning what it takes to be successful away from the court.
The week long tournament will also hold a camp for players that would teach fundamentals and shall feature an approach that builds confidence, discipline and self-esteem in a fun filled and pleasant learning environment. Target group are kids between the ages of 10 and 18years old with over 200 kids registered so far. Other side attractions include the Veterans Reunion game, All Star Game, 3 Point Shootout competition and Slam Dunk Competition.
Speaking on the event, tournament facilitator, Igoche Mark stated that this year's event is going to be one full of excitement stressing that the event which is purely an invitational is meant to help make a difference for players.