Empowerment: Foundation targets 15 Nigerian youth for foreign basketball scholarships


By Emmanuel Afonne

Abuja, Dec. 26, 2020 (NAN) No fewer than 15 Nigerian youth will benefit from the scholarships given by the Ejike Ugboaja foundation, meant for the less privileged, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

Ugboaja, initiator of the scholarships and founder of the foundation, told newsmen in Abuja that the 15 people would be selected from a basketball clinic to be organised in three states of Nasarawa, Anambra and Kaduna.

Ugboaja, an ex-international, noted that three people have already been selected from a two-day clinic organised in Nasarawa State, while the remaining 12 would be chosen in Anambra and Kaduna states in the next few days.

NAN reports that Ugboaja played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the U.S., and a former player of the Senior National Basketball team, D’Tigers.

He said the target was to have the 15 names for the scholarships emerge from the basketball clinics latest by Dec. 31 and possibly begin their visa processing in January 2021 when the current COVID-19 lockdown is lifted.

“We are trying to see how we can help the youth go to school instead of them being on the streets; we try to give them hope. We are scouting for those to sponsor on scholarship to the U.S.

“So, I am urging the youth to get involved in sports and we will assist them to go to school in the U.S., so they can realise their dreams.

“The foundation has just concluded a basketball clinic in Nasarawa State and we gave scholarship to three students there; we are going to Anambra and Kaduna before the end of this year,” Ugboaja said.

According to him, over 2,000 people have benefitted from the Ejike Ugboaja foundation since its inception in 2006. And they all have their degrees.

“We basically want to incorporate those that don’t do sports, so, you must not do sports to get the scholarship but we will teach you how to do sports because sports helps health wise,” he added.

Ugboaja explained that some of the youth who secured the scholarship and moved to U.S. as basketball players switched to playing American football and that they are doing well.

He added: “Along the line they decided to do some other sports in their various schools but right now three of them made it to the league; two in the National Football League (NFL).

“Some of them are Chidi Okeke and Prince Tega Nwanugo and Christian Makolu.

“We also have Tonye Jekiri, he plays for the national team and plies his trade in France. There is also Iyke Obiagu who is going to the NBA soon.

“There is also Achonwa that got number 20 first round pick in the NBA this year; there are so many of them that I cannot mention.”

He further explained that the players’ development in school and sports were still being monitored for further improvement.

One of the beneficiaries of the scholarship, Akerannan Achii, said he got the scholarship after attending one of its clinics in Zaria, Kaduna State, in 2007 with over 1,000 participants.

“I am not playing anymore because I had an injury on my knee; my doctor advised that I shouldn’t play anymore and I went into coaching.

“I eventually coached the school I graduated from, and when the national team, D’Tigers, arrived in the U.S. for camping before the World Cup, they were short of staff and I was invited to come and help.

“I ended up going with them to the World Cup in China and Canada.”

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