Bello Azeez, Secretary, Kwara State Basketball Association, has expressed optimism ahead of the zonal elimination round for the next month’s National Youths Festival, saying that the recently concluded Ex-Pro Kwara State Basketball League has thrown up surprising talents for the state’s team.
The league ended Friday with Unilorin Secondary School, USS, emerging overall winner among three schools who played in the maiden league.
Coach Azeez expressed joy that talents with genuine age pegged at under 15 were discovered.
“These are NIN certified players,” the coach said, referring to the country’s social security identification, National Identification Number, NIN.
“We know the National Youth Sports Festival is coming and we have learnt that Ilorin will, tentatively host the North Central conference,” explained Azeez.
But he admitted that the state has lots of work to do ahead of the fiesta given the struggles by the state’s basketball to return to reckoning.
“We are finding it difficult to make it to even the finals of basketball conferences,” he said, even though he said that things are not so bad for Kwara.
“We are not doing badly as such, the last Milo Championship the school that represented Kwara State at the championship in Ibadan, both male and female team came Fourth.
“They lost narrowly at the semi finals to the team that actually played in the finals.
” I was surprised that we could even get to that stage given the levels that we were before we went for the completion. That used to be our pride.
“When we play Milo, we look forward to getting to national finals before. We have gotten to second place male category and second place female category before, we have never won it, though,” he said.
Still on the recently concluded basketball league, Coach Azeez said that it was put together by ex basketballers who played on the outdoor court at the stadium before turning professionals abroad.
” All of them have retired and felt there is need to develop the game.
“The thing is, they know that Kwara Falcons have reached the top and they can’t do much for them.
“But they are hoping to develop the game from grassroots,” he said.
He also stated that competitions like the ExPro Kwara league could go a long way to shape up the game in the state.
” I was at the Milo Conferences at Kano, I was in Abuja, I was also in Ibadan and I was at the national finals at Lagos and I saw the level at which that competition is being played now.
“If we don’t expose our own students early with them, we may not catch up with them.
“The level is now so high, so much so that we need to keep engaging our players, they have to play, play and play to better understand the technicalities of the game.
“Only then can we start talking about competing at the national finals of the competition,” he said.