About 40 young basketballers are about to get the opportunity of a lifetime through the initiative of Digicel in collaboration with Berger Paints, RMJ Agencies and the Ministry of Sport.
At a media briefing today at the official launch of the Digicel/NBA Grassroots Basketball Jumpstart Clinic at Digicel Barbados’ office at the Williams Industries Complex, Digicel chief executive officer Johnny Ingle said that five youngsters would be chosen from the three-day training camp to be conducted by NBA coaches. About 40 youngsters have already been selected from schools across the island to be part of the camp.
Ingle explained that the five would then go on to Trinidad and Tobago for a five-day clinic and would subsequently have the opportunity to go to a NBA facility in the United States to interact with some of the legends of the game. About 25 other youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 from other regional islands are getting the opportunity.
The Digicel top executive said he believed that “grassroots basketball” was vital to the development of the sport in Barbados. He referred to Jamaican sprint champion Usain Bolt as an example of a young man who had started from a humble background in his chosen sport and through commitment and seizing opportunities had risen to international stardom.
Ingle said the camp was a start and noted it was better to commence with a small programme, rather than to do nothing at all. He said it was important for young people to make the most of such opportunities and be committed to pursuing their dreams. Ingle said he came from a sporting background and appreciated how sports could impact positively on the lives of individuals and their families.
Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley, in praising the joint private sector initiative, noted that sports had to be seen as one of the planks on which to diversify the Barbadian economy. He said sports was a multi-billion dollar industry and it was important for Barbados to build key relationships and develop strategic synergies to enhance the opportunities available for young people in the island.
Lashley said that with some youngsters getting into deviant behaviour –– though in the minority –– sports had to be used in a positive way to channel their energies towards availing themselves of opportunities that existed on the international stage.
He said there was tremendous talent in Barbados and though there was already structured sporting programmes in place, initiatives such as Digicel’s served to propel the country’s youngsters to the next level.
Lashley took the opportunity to ask corporate Barbados to assist in realizing facilities for a number of sports, inclusive of basketball. He said with the improvements planned for the Wildey Gymnasium, he would like to market Barbados as a possible destination for NBA teams to hold exhibition games or stage pre-season matches.
Also present at the briefing were Berger Paints’ Renee Cobham and RMJ’s Agencies Ricky Nurse who both pledged their companies’ support for the initiative and encouraged the young participants to make the best of the opportunity.
Two NBA coaches, Chris Clunie and Becky Bonner, arrived in Barbados on Monday for the grassroots basketball clinic which included a first day of coaching coaches followed by two days of interacting with the juniors.