FUTURE is bright for Tanzanian basketball if the current efforts to groom grassroots level players are effectively maintained, reveals the former Los Angeles Lakers star, Didier Mbenga, during his tour in the country.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of Junior NBA League at JMK Youth in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, the two-time NBA champion, called on the youth in Tanzania to aim higher and have passion for basketball in order to realise their dreams excel and succeed in life through basketball.
Mbenga, the DRC-Belgian dual citizen, who made such admirable achievement while playing for Los Angeles Lakers between 2008 and 2010, was addressing players and officials at the event's finals urged the young players to work hard, learn from their instructors and have visionary target in their endeavour to achieve their goals.
The closing ceremony witnessed Aga Khan Mzizima outplaying St Augustine 18-8 in the boys category while Juhudi thumped Lord Baden 13-7 in the girls final. Brian Rwehumbiza from Aga Khan was voted the overall best player of the tournament. Mbenga exhorted the aspiring basketball teens to observe a number of factors as they lay down a strong foundation for their achievements.
"These include discipline, hard work, winning spirit and team work", noted the celebrated basketball star.
The Jr. NBA League is the NBA's global youth basketball participation programme for boys and girls, and teaches them fundamental basketball skills as well as the core values of the game at a grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents.
Speaking at the same occasion, NBA Vice-President and Managing Director for Africa Amadou Gallo Fall, said: "We are working with governments and other stakeholders to promote the game in Africa where we are supporting Jr. NBA basketball leagues with the aim of scouting talents".
He said NBA was looking forward to having strong basketball teams in Tanzania that will produce best players to compete in major leagues in the world. He praised Symbion for supporting the league.
The weekend event marked the end of the second season of the Jr. NBA League for boys and for the first time the finals featured girls. Both leagues featured 30 local schools each, with each team representing one of the 30 NBA teams.