NBBF presidential candidate, Igoche Mark, promises to unite stakeholders
• Speaks On Mark D’Ball Basketball Championship
One of the candidates eying the Presidency of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Igoche Mark, says he will unite Nigeria’s basketball family if given the opportunity.
“The division in the basketball family right now is much. The basketball family now is even worse than a political party, which shouldn’t be. We are all here because we love this game, and that is enough to unite us. One of the first things I will try to do is to unite the family. We don’t need division. Our strength is in numbers,” Mark told journalists during the week.
Mark, an entrepreneur and chairman of Mark Mentors Basketball Club of Abuja, spoke after the unveiling ceremony of the Mark D’Ball Basketball Championship. He stated that he would focus on development of basketball in the country.
“When it comes to developing basketball, there are a lot of programmes that we would run at the grassroots. One of the critical aspects of developing basketball is infrastructure. Unlike football where you can put two sticks or two stones and you have goalposts and start playing, basketball needs equipment.
So, infrastructural development of basketball is very important if you really want to develop the game, and by the grace of God, if I am given the opportunity with the collaboration of stakeholders, is one of the things I will do.
“It is a pity that right now Nigeria cannot host any international tournament because we don’t have the gymnasium to do so. A country that is so big with all our rating in FIBA, exposure and has players in the NBA, it shouldn’t be so. Other smaller countries that are not up a state in Nigeria have gymnasiums, and they are hosting international tournaments. We should be able to host international tournaments.
“The leagues, local tournaments and championships are very vital in developing the game. It is something that is making people to say that if I am given an opportunity, I will be able to fix it.”
He continued: “We want to satisfy that hunger by our home-based players by giving them leagues, tournaments and championships so that they can play enough games. It is not okay to just come and run a championship for one week and say you have played league. In the NBA, they play about 82 games in the regular season. Nothing stops us from doing 52 matches per season. The more games the players play gives them the opportunity to improve,” he stated.
On the national teams, Mark said he will ensure home based players are given the opportunity to challenge their foreign counterparts for a place in the national teams.
“The problem with our national teams and the reason why we are now depending on foreign players 100 percent is because nothing is happening at home. No basketball development going on here, no league, no championship. How will you see home- based players playing for national teams or see them improves.
“Before now, I remember very well that one of the things we used to look up to as players is to play for Nigeria whether at the junior and senior level. When you are working out, playing, your ultimate goal is to be invited to the national camp, and when the players are in camp, we see them playing, training and it motivates us to work harder to make the team.
“But at the moment, there is no hope and that is the reason we are now relying 100 percent on our foreign-based players because they are playing regularly somewhere for their clubs, and it was easy for us to just call them and assemble the team to and play. We don’t even bother to bring them to Nigeria for training camp. We just assemble them there and go to play for Nigeria and Nigerians don’t know the players. We can’t develop basketball if we continue that way. We have to focus on home and develop our league. National teams’ camps must start from Nigeria. Anybody wanting to play for Nigeria must come and start camp from here. Even the home-based players will have the opportunity to train, play and interact with the team. Seeing the national players training or watching them alone will encourage home-based players, and they would look forward to be like them. That was what we were used to before, and we have to bring back that culture,” he stated.
The Mark D’Ball Basketball Championship, which is scheduled to hold in Abuja next year, will give home-based players, who have been deprived of playing time in the last four years of infighting in NBBF, opportunity to express themselves competitively, will feature both male and female basketball teams drawn from across the nation.
Mark D’Ball Championship is making its debut in Abuja 11 years after it debuted in Otukpo, Benue State, in 2021.
The championship will run for three months at the Indoor Basketball Hall of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
Mark, whose basketball-playing career spanned over 24 years, stated the intervention of Mark D’Ball Championship is to reawaken the consciousness of Nigerian home-based players, coaches, referees, statisticians and other stakeholders toward the game of basketball in the country.
The former board member of the NBBF said his passion for the development of basketball in Nigeria started years back when he could not fulfill his dream of playing basketball up to the international level.
“My passion for basketball started years back when I actually wanted to play the game to the international level, but couldn’t work out for me. I believe that it wasn’t my destiny to play professional basketball abroad. But then, I didn’t give up on basketball.
“That I didn’t get the opportunity to go abroad to play basketball pushed me to start developing basketball locally. I feel that the opportunity that I never had, I can make it happen for the younger generations, and that is what keeps pushing me on in trying to provide opportunities for younger players to fulfill their dream in basketball.
“That was what pushed me to start the Mark D’Ball Basketball Tournament 11 years ago. Again, my passion for basketball and desire to develop the game also propelled me to start the Mark Mentor Basketball Club, which became the pinnacle of basketball in Nigeria because we came in with a different standard. Then, when there was a basketball league in Nigeria, we were the envy of all the teams and everybody wanted to watch Mark Mentor play. We were the only one of the few teams that had foreign coaches and foreign players. We had two foreign coaches and players who were playing for us. We committed so much money to it, time and otherwise to make that happen, and we were Nigerian champions,” Mark stated.