Nigeria legend Nwankwo Kanu has revealed scholarships to study in the United States of America will be awarded to the best talents at the first-ever Nwankwo Kanu basketball Clinic, which began at the Kanu Sports Center in Owerri Tuesday.
The 10-day clinic tagged “giving back to the society” coincided with Kanu’s birthday celebrations on Tuesday,when he clocked 41.
The clinic is being conducted by Mathew McCollister, an American basketball coach who also doubles as Tanzania basketball national team coach.
“We’ve been talking about basketball, how to develop it here in Nigeria and raise it the global standard such as it is in the United States,” Kanu told SCORENigeria
“So, I had to bring in an American basketball expert in the person of coach Mathew McCollister from Missisippi, USA to conduct the exercise.
“He will not only teach them and imbibe in them the best rudiments of basketball, but will as well give them experience in basketball.
“Of course, if we discover a good talent, he will be awarded a full scholarship to the United States of America to study and as well as play basketball.”
Kanu disclosed that he met McCollister when he traveled to Tanzania.
“He came to me when I went to Tanzania and said to me that he knows me. And I asked him if he had ever been to Nigeria and he said no,” he further opened up.
“And I said to him, don’t you know that Nigeria is the giant of Africa and that whatever positive that has to start in the continent must begin in Nigeria.
“There and then I convinced him to come down to Nigeria and if he does, he would never like to be in any other country than Nigeria and I’m happy it is happening today in Nigeria at the Kanu Sports Center”.
‘Papilo’ stressed that it is always good to give back to the society as well as get the talents young through the grassroots.
“It is said that the youths are leaders of tomorrow. So, all of us must have to lend a hand and equip them in order to attain that role,” he urged.
“We must have to support, give them good platform to discover themselves by providing the right root to attain that height.
“Of course, it’s not going to be only Kanu. We’ve a lot of people who can invest in this regard, we also have the government as well coming up with different programmes.
“Perhaps we will be willing to help out if they (government) call upon us.
“Of course, like you recalled my (late) mother’s saying that she knows that one day I’m going to make them proud. This is a part of it, not only making my mother and family proud, but Nigeria as well”.
The former Arsenal striker revealed reasons he delved into basketball, a sport that is not as prominent in Nigeria compared to football that gave him fame, fun and funds.
“That is a good one. As we talk, I’m also running a 5-A-Side football competition for tertiary institutions in the Imo State,” he added.
“The competition is already in its semi-final stage.
“Yes I played football but I always love and follow NBA basketball. I see a whole lot of young ones who love and follow basketball but they don’t have the platform.
“So, I said to myself, the more I’m prominently engaged in football, I have to divert a bit into basketball so that these other young ones can have a platform to be involved and make a career in basketball.
“These basketballers always come, they call me asking what I can do for them and this is what really pushed me into this”.
Kanu admitted the road to floating the basketball clinic was never decorated in flavoured financial garments.
“It was very difficult when it comes to costs. You know it is only government that can have all the financial resources to do this,” he reasoned.
“I’m an individual, so you know what I’m talking about. Basketball is not kicking the way it is supposed to.
“For me, it is not easy because I had to spend a lot to get things done as we are all seeing today. But that is not to say one cannot do what he loves doing for the good of the youth and society.”
Kanu promised to make the clinic an annual event.
By Sab Osuji