Retired national basketballer Zahir Motara is giving back to the sport he loves with the launch of the Next Generation Athletics and Basketball Academy (NGABA).
The inaugural Under-12 basketball competition began yesterday at the Springer Memorial School in Government Hill, St Michael with a total of 24 players.
Motara told Barbados TODAY the main objective behind the initiative was to get other communities and clubs to develop young talents in an effort to expand the competition for children of that age range.
“The whole idea is to get other clubs and schools to get on board and develop young players. Basketball is a sport you should start to play from five, six-years-old, and I want to start kids young and even expand this tournament to Under-14 and Under-16’s, so they can see that progression from one age group to the next when they leave and go on to a much senior level,” said Motara a product of Wesley Hall Boys School.
A former player for Premier League outfits Lumber Company Lakers and Warrens Sports Club, and one of the finest shooting guards Barbados has ever produced, Motara explained that travelling with the Barbados Under-17 team to Puerto Rico opened his eyes to what young basketballers of this current generation are now exposed to.
“Playing against other teams at the junior championships [in Puerto Rico], I could see the various levels [of basketball] from players on other teams, and from what I saw they were playing basketball for over ten years while some of our players [had only] now started and that is a real big difference.
“So we need to get our players practicing at a young age, so that 10 years from now when these same kids are 16 and 19-years-old, they can actually say they have played basketball for over ten years,” said Motara, who also encouraged parents to get more involved in their children’s lives.
NGABA was launched in September of this year and Motara made it clear he was extremely impressed with what he had seen so far.
He also maintained that the academy was here to stay.
“These kids are really good and it is sad [that] years ago they did not have these kinds of competition and as a result of that, so many people have been lost because they did not get the opportunity to show their talent at this age in basketball,” he lamented.
“They probably would have done it in other sports and went on to be successful, but we have so much talent in Basketball and it is just a matter of harnessing it,” said the 34 year old who represented Barbados at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne Australia.
The academy is open to anyone, but specifically caters to children between ages six to 12 at a cost of BDS $30 per month, and is held on Fridays at the Young Men’s Christan Association [YMCA].
They are four teams in the competition and on the second day, team LK finished the preliminary round unbeaten with a 6-0 record ahead of NexGen who ended on 4-2. Those two will contest the finals on Thursday while in the third place playoff, team Awesome will take on NexGen B.