Basketball has been touted as the number two sought after sport in Ghana and the imminent season-two of the famous Junior Ball Competition gives credence to the tag as the next game to put the West African Country onto the international stage.
Undeniably football has been at the forefront of the country’s sporting fraternity for years and that could answer why successive governments have pumped in funds to promote and put the game on top of the agenda for decades.
Angola can best be described as the powerhouse of African basketball – chalking an increible ninth successive win at the FIBA (International Federation of Basketball) championship despite being a force to reckon with as far as the ladder game is concerned. Libya and Nigeria have also performed creditably on the African continent and it is no surreptitious that perrenial West African rivals Ghana has been non-existent inspite of the abundance of talents.
The lack basic infrastructrual facilities (like first-rate court) seem to have plunged the country’s sport into the doldrums despite the huge interest that has been shown by the youth in the country. Lack of non-governmental support and administrative lapses has also culminated in the inability of the country to build a formidable squad to represent the country at the international level.
For well over decades the country has wallowed in sheer wonderland hoping for a revolution that will hit the country. Thousands of crazy basketball fans have been left to rue the lost opportunity for years and they are now certain to realise their long cherished dream.
The growth of Basketball in even the most renowed nations like the US started with an intrepid decision by Canadian clergyman, educator, and physician James Naismith in 1891.
The game’s augmentation went through teething troubles but gained prominence in 1934. In the year under review the first college games were staged in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and college basketball began to attract heightened interest. By the 1950s basketball had become a major college sport, thus paving the way for a growth of interest in professional basketball.
Despite the finely tuned interest in the game in the 1950s, the most popular league in the world, the NBA, suffered a drop in popularity during the late 1970s, but was resuscitated, principally through the growing popularity of its most prominent players. Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, and Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers are credited with injecting excitement into the league in the 1980s through their superior skills and decade-long rivalry.
During the late 1980s Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls rose to stardom and helped the Bulls dominate the NBA during the early 1990s. A new generation of basketball stars, including Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic, Larry Johnson of the Charlotte Hornets and Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers have sustained the NBA’s growth in popularity.
Maybe one of the reasons basketball has become so popular in America and parts of is a player can work on his/her skills and practice his/her game with no one else. I don’t know this for a fact, but maybe in parts of Europe, such as Slovakia which is suffering so much civil turmoil; it is difficult to find other people to engage in leisure activities. It’s hard to play a game of soccer with just a handful of people. Basketball is game where a player can learn the sport with just another person. One -on – one.
Therefore it comes as refreshing that for the past four years, a private owned event company, Rite Multimedia, with specialisation in the promotion and development of basketball has taken an audacious initiate to develop the game and sky rocket the interest of the game among the youth in the country.
The company has organised series of basketball competitions from the junior high schools through to the universities as the awareness continue to escalate at an appreciable level.
The famous Sprite Ball competition among the senior high schools, Junior Ball for junior high schools and the Legon Dunks for the various halls of the country’s premier univeristy – the univerity of Ghana speak volumes of the desire of the players to exhibit and expose their talents to the plundering world.
I have had the opportunity of travelling to the length and breadth, hook and cranny of this country to witness various basketball tournaments and the kind of talents that the West African nation is endowed with can best be described as ones made for the future.
But I think that if we want to continue to help develop better basketball players, we have to help develop better coaches. A one-week camp may impact 100-150 kids, but if we can work with 10-20 coaches, and those coaches each coach 10-20 kids each year on a weekly basis, the program will have a more far-reaching effect.
Hoping to identify players in their late teens and plucking them out of Ghana and by stretch of imagination Africa to play in the United States is not a development program. It probably is a good experience and opportunity for the lucky few players, but there is no sustainability. It is pure chance. To create a development program, there is the need to have a better infrastructure (balls, shoes, courts, leagues) with greater organization between teams, leagues, camps, clinics and coaches and greater emphasis on training local coaches to enhance the local players’ development.
The government especially has a huge role to play in injecting capital into the running of the sport in the country by providing the infrastructure and the technical know-how needed to develop and promote the game.
I sincerely believe that if the government put in just a quarter of monies they spend on football into baskeball, the country stand a great chance of forming a formidable squad that would compete for laurels at the international level in no time.
Corporate organisations like the Coca-Cola Company Limited (Sprite brand specifically), Indoomie, Latex Foam, Efpac, Loya and Tigo should be commended for the immense and continous support to the game and probably needs the star of the Volta award for their unflinching contribution to the sport in the country.
In the midst of the rapidly changing geographical regions, basketball is a creative outlet that can be worked on and honed in solitude. And, as the game’s popularity increases, we can expect a foreign influence to emerge in a particularly American pastime.