It is time that basketball be introduced at the primary school level in Barbados and across the Caribbean, says Trinidadian-born national player Jonathan Weekes.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY at Harrison College during a two week basketball camp being hosted by Zahir Motara, founder of Next Generation Athletics and Basketball Academy, Weekes who is on the island along with his colleague Mario Davis, Weekes said the sport was not given the type of exposure needed in the region especially where the younger generation was concerned and therefore the goal was to improve basketball throughout the Caribbean starting with Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
“In terms of the Caribbean I don’t think so because at this young age they [the kids playing basketball] get neglected because they tend to focus more on academics. They need to get basketball into the primary schools because from that level the transition would be a lot easier, so we need to get coaches into the schools at that level. Also basketball needs to be a part of the curriculum so the kids have an option of playing the sport and that is the pathway that everyone should take,” said the former Bacone College division one player.
After conducting his first session with the group today, Weekes praised Motara saying: “I am impressed and coach Z has done a great job with these kids who have lots of talent and enthusiasm and that is the first thing that we look at as coaches –– the enthusiasm for the sport and the love for it and many of them have it.”
Both Weekes and Davis who played basketball at different colleges in Oklahoma are also coaches of a basketball programme in Trinidad called the Lab Skillz Elite which is derived from another programme geared towards regional players known as the Caribbean Hoops.
Davis, who was born in the United States but moved to Trinidad where he now resides, explained that through Skillz brand, the providers of Skillz equipment in Barbados, they were brought in to collaborate with the Next Generation basketball camp and for him so far the experience had been wonderful.
“It is a nice experience. The kids here are enthusiastic about the sport and they are just wonderful to be around. Our Lab Skillz Elite programme caters to children ages fifteen and upwards but it is actually good to come here and see what coach Z is doing with these kids starting them off at a younger age. I think it is good for the kids to start at this age because it gives them more of an advantage as they get older and they can give themselves a platform where they have a lot more skill sets and the growth and development is that much greater starting at a younger age,” the shooting guard said.
He said that going forward they would seek to attract players from around the region to participate in the Caribbean Hoop programme that was a non-profitable organization based in Trinidad and allowed talented basketball players to be recognized by United States scouts.
“The biggest thing we have now is Caribbean Hoop, a college exposure camp, and what we do is invite kids who are interested in playing for scholarships to the island [Trinidad] and we have a camp where college scouts come to see those kids play and take the information back to their colleges in the United States. We are trying to extend that opportunity to other countries around the Caribbean.”
A total of 28 children took part in the camp and Motara said he was pleased with the turn-out which he hoped would grow from strength to strength. He also added that having the sport introduced at the primary schools in Barbados would take some time because some sort of groundwork would need to take place before that happened. He said it was not a guarantee that many schools would come on board.
“We started out small with the under-eleven camp and now we continue to grow in numbers and that is the whole aim, to attract kids to the sport and build from there,” explained Motara, a former national player.