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Basketball Can Excel Given The Right Environment

Published by Guardian on Sun, 16 Sep 2012

Being a stickler for perfection has helped Coach Alex Nwora record successes in his career. He is currently the head coach of Erie Community College in Buffalo, United States, and the Cape Verde men's national team. The former Harlem Globetrotters player, who was in Nigeria for the Dodan Warriors Prospect Camp, told ADEYINKA ADEDIPE that his life revolves around basketball and that he is ready to continue to contribute to the development of the game in Nigeria.ALEX Nwora's passion for the slam and dunk game knows no bound. As a player, he did his best all at times before ending his career with the Harlem Globetrotters. Now, a coach at Erie Community College in the U.S, he surprises many with his recruiting style, which has drawn the ire of some of his contemporaries. He has also qualified Cape Verde for the African Championship, which holds next year in Cote d'Ivoire.Despite these feats, Nwora says he is just happy to do his job. 'I am just happy to get on with my job the best way I can with the desire to achieve my aim. What I have achieved with Erie and Cape Verde is borne out of hardwork.'The Global Sports Advantage boss has not forgotten his roots. He is involved with a lot of developmental programmes in Africa, especially, in Nigeria and Cape Verde. At the second edition of the Dodan Warriors Prospect Camp, which took place before the Olympic Games, Nwora played a major role with his outfit, telling the kids the need to be serious in their calling.Of the camp, he says, 'I am very impressed with what Col. Sam Ahmedu is doing, that is why I have teamed up with him to ensure that it is successful. His coaches did a very good job to select the talents they brought to the camp. But the most important thing is that he a vision of seeing other states model their camps this way.'Speaking on his mission with his group, Nwora, who disclosed that he has been working with Ahmedu since they met 10 years ago, says: 'Every year, I come down with my Global Sports Advantage from the United States with a mission to teach the proper techniques of the game and give the kids the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of coaches from United States.'We also teach them a lot of life learning skills as an avenue to better their lives, stay out of trouble and use basketball as a means to getting quality education. This year was different because we had talents and coaches from all over Nigeria to the camp and we had couples of kids that just came back from the FIBA Africa Under 18 championship in Cote d'Ivoire.'We had kids from Benin Republic and every part of Nigeria. We tried to select the best players and the local coaches already did a screening before the main camp. They knew the kind of players we were looking for and this is how the kids start their careers by camps like this.'On what it takes to be part of the camp, he says, 'This camp is free and we operate with what we get from sponsorship. I can assure you that the more sponsorship we get, the more kids we can accommodate, but unfortunately we did not get a lot of sponsorship this year except for IGI, but we need more money to run more of this camps every year. It is tough when you run one camp a year.'Nwora says the coaches also benefit from the camp because 'we run clinics during the camp to acquaint the coaches of modern techniques and what we are trying to do so that when we leave, they can continue from where we stopped.'One of my colleagues, Josh Bland, also came from the United States. He believes in what we are doing just like other local coaches.'Nwora believes that basketball techniques are the same everywhere with the only difference being the players that will carry out the coach's instruction.He adds: 'I went to America, studied and played basketball there. The last club I played for was Harlem Globetrotters, I went back to school, after that I got engaged, got my masters and got married before I started coaching over 16 years ago. I was fortunate to be the head coach for 13 years,'I run camp to give back to the society and also because that is what I love doing. This is my calling. I started running camps in Nigeria with Ahmedu 10 years ago and I was fortunate to have the national team coach of Cameroun as my assistant in the U.S. He went to the Olympic qualifiers just like Nigeria did but lost by the whiskers.'I am able to combine both jobs because most of the championships are done in the summer when the schools are on vacation.'As part of his social service, Nwora has a non-for-profit foundation, which holds three camps per year with each kid expected to pay $250. He said: 'The kids pay for the camps in the U.S but we do it for free in Nigeria. We want to start empowering the Nigerian coaches by bringing them to United States through sponsorship to allow them spend two or more months with my foundation and I will place them in schools where they can train with coaches. They can use that experience to better the kids they are working with in Nigeria.'I have my programme well scheduled and it allows me to do so many things. I have been blessed to touch many lives and I am very fortunate to have good people I work with here. They have been available for all the camps I have done here. I want to keep doing this as long as it takes.'Nwora says he is satisfied with the result and quality of the camp they have been running, 'We have been to Zaria, Abuja, Calabar, Benue, Lagos and many other places just trying to reach out to the kids and give them the best.'He describes the camp as being as good as the ones in the U.S, because of the quality of coaches available for the programme. He adds, 'we have foreign coaches in attendance. We are branching out to other countries. We had a camp in Cape Verde, we are also moving to Cameroun, Cote d'Ivoire and we have many programmes we hope to do through FIBA Africa. God willing it will be a model for other countries to follow.'Nwora knows that the journey would be tough and so he has partnered with Samaritan Feet to push through his ideals.According to him, 'Samaritan Feet was started by Manny Ihanme, who grew up here in Nigeria and got a scholarship to go to the United States. His outfit is also a non-for-profit multimillion dollars outfit. He goes all over the world donating shoes to the less privileged.'After reading about him and I met him in New Jersey, we talked about it and I told him I appreciated what he was doing for the under privileged.'I remember how I grew up and some of my friends, who couldn't afford shoes. I was privileged enough and my father was able to buy me a pair of sneakers, which I repaired whenever it went bad by putting tyres under it. No wonder Manny is reaching out to so many people through his outfit. I went to WNCAA final four and made shoes donation.'Since then, I have been an ambassador for him, carrying his goodwill message and touching so many lives. Whenever I run camps, I wash peoples' feet (part of the Samaritan Feet activities) and donate shoes to participants.'Last year was the first time we did it here with Dodan Warriors and then also donated 300 pairs of sneakers in a church in the Niger Delta. I also gave out almost 300 sneakers in Cape Verde in three different islands. The beneficiaries are happy. The gesture has nothing to do with basketball. It is more of giving back to the society. Washing feet shows humility. If we can wash their feet, it shows them that they can be something in life,' he added.Happy that the Nigerian men's team participated at the London 2012 Olympics for the first time, Nwora stated that it was time the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) built on the feat and ensured that the game went on the upward swing.He stated: 'Sometimes you pray that we get this type of opportunity in life. Playing at the Olympics with the best in the world is no mean feat. This is the time to build on this achievement. It is up to the NBBF, if they are really serious about this game, not just to be content about going to the Olympics, they have to use this to develop the game.'Basketball was one of the top games in this country when I was growing up. When Olajuwon was playing, I was hoping to be like him. I am a believer in hard work. We must use the qualification to put basketball in the forefront because there are opportunities if this is done.'We have great players in the team with seven of them who played for Nigeria for the first time in the qualifiers in Caracas, Venezuela. The three who started their careers in Nigeria went through Ahmedu's camp. That shows that the talents we have is unbelievable. I know so many kids that have never set foot in any camp but the kids you see here are talented.'On what Nigeria should do to further popularize the game in the country, Nwora advocates the Angolan model. 'Angola keeps all its players at home because the companies and government help out. That is why they have one of the best-organised teams in Africa. We have more than 160 million people and we have to make sure we capitalise on this.'There is no way we cannot be the powerhouse of African basketball if we did the right. Nigeria is surely a tough place to run anything because of the uncertainty, the culture and the politics. But there should be no politics in this game because the people that will suffer are the kids. But if you drop politics, you give the kids the opportunity to go to school, play basketball and make little money to take care of their family and friends.'He advises that the players in the local league should be given something to look forward to after retirement.According to Nwora, 'The kids in Angola don't want to travel anywhere because they are well taken care off. They enjoy playing the game and the good companies and citizens support them to achieve their aims. In life, what you do is what you will be remembered for.'Another way of ensuring the even development of the game, according to Nwora, is to make the rules guiding the conduct of camps in the country strict so that kids would get the right tutelage from such programmes.'Some of the camps that are run here are not top-notch and are not teaching the right things. We must also let the kids know that the essence of these camps are not to take the kids abroad but teach them life skills through quality education, which the camps can provide.'Speaking on his sojourn in the United States and his family, Nwora says, 'Well, you live where life takes you. I met my wife in my first year in college and we've been together since 1989. She has been my best friend since then, so you can say that I married my best friend. My dad has always told me that if you find a good wife just hold it tight, if you let go you might never get another one.'We have got four kids and I love her so much. It has been long since I left Nigeria and it would have been difficult to come get a wife here.'My 13-year-old son plays with guys older than him, he is almost six feet tall, he is eight grader playing with varsity students, which is very rare. The last game he played before I left, he led them in scoring hitting five three pointers.'He is one of those kids that can end up in the NBA. I am a junky for basketball, and my family loves what I do. They are also happy when I bring my players to the house.'They have been around basketball all their lives and they also know if you have to be around me, you must love basketball. So, they appreciate what I do and like hanging around my team.
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