Basketball icons urge BBA to focus on grassroots

Watching closely: Riley monitors local basketball players at Monday's coaching clinic. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Watching closely: Riley monitors local basketball players at Monday's coaching clinic. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

Women National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend, Ruth Riley has urged the Botswana Basketball Association (BAA) to channel more energy towards grassroots development.

The retired American professional basketball player is in the country to conduct coaching clinics with a view to offering talented players scholarships in the US. Riley is accompanied by another former American basketball star, Ebony Hoffman.

Riley told Mmegi Sport that the association should focus more on players at a tender age, as well as provide them with proper facilities and technical expertise.  She also said the BBA should join the Junior NBA Africa programme, to be launched soon. She said the youth should believe in themselves in order to fulfill their potential, adding that they should not consider basketball as a hobby, but as a way of life.

Speaking at a reception hosted in their honour by the American Embassy on Monday night, Hoffman said basketball players could make a good living out of playing the sport.

“Basketball comes with many opportunities. When I grew up, many people told me I could not make it in the sport. I proved them wrong because I believed in myself. The same can happen to you,” she said.

Meanwhile, BBA technical director, Mothusi Thipe welcomed the coaching clinic, which was organised in conjunction with the WNBA, American Embassy and the International Working Group on Women and Sport.

The clinic, which was held at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) courts, saw players between the ages of five and 13 years kick-start the programme on Monday morning. The afternoon session was reserved for players 16 years and older and included national team players.  The clinic was open to female basketball players.  The technical director described the sessions as successful with 72 players under the age of 13 attending in the morning while 30 graced the afternoon session. Thipe said their main objective was to share skills.

“The main objective was to share skills with professional athletes from the US and motivate basketball talent. They want to identify talent and see if players can get scholarships in the US,” he said. Thipe said their challenge with female players is retention.

“We have a challenge of retaining female players in basketball. Our aim is to improve that. We have about 13 local coaches attending the clinic, and they work with these players from school level. They will learn a lot,” he said.

Yesterday, focus was on a roundtable discussion, where basketball players were expected to share their challenges.

The American duo also conducted a similar clinic in Mozambique and donated equipment to both countries.

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