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I am fully committed to reviving domestic basketball – Igoche

A leading contender for the position of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) President, Igoche Mark, has said he is bankrolling the 2022 edition of Mark D’Ball…

A leading contender for the position of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) President, Igoche Mark, has said he is bankrolling the 2022 edition of Mark D’Ball Championship because of his commitment to reviving the game of basketball in Nigeria. The proprietor of Mark Mentors and Apa Flames said the women’s version of the Mark D Ball tournament which ends today at the Indoor Sports Hall of the MKO Abiola national stadium Abuja has greatly satisfied the hunger of female basketball players who have been starved for so long.

What would you say is responsible for your passion for the game of basketball?

I am Igoche Mark, the founder and Chairman of Mark Mentors basketball club of Abuja and Apa Flames of Otukpo in Benue State. I am also the founder of Mark D’Ball tournament and former board member of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF). It may also interest you to know that most of my friends are in basketball. My passion for the game started when I wanted to represent Nigeria. I also wanted to play abroad. However, I was not destined to reach that level because I tried several times but it didn’t work out. Still, I didn’t give up on the game. It is against this background that I decided to go into basketball development. I feel that the opportunities I never had, I can make it happen for the younger talents. This is what keeps driving me. I want to give them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams in basketball. This was what pushed me into setting up the Mark D’ Ball tournament which started 10 years ago. I started it and it has continued to grow all through the years. It is the same passion for basketball development that pushed me to set up Mark Mentors basketball club.

How disappointed are you with the state of Nigerian basketball? For several years now, there has been no domestic league.

Looking at where we were, I am not too pleased with the state of basketball in Nigeria. I feel that we can still turn things around. With tournaments like Mark D’Ball which is ongoing in Abuja, I believe we would be able to reverse the downward trend. As soon as the female edition ends on Saturday, January 22, the male version will commence the following day. The tournaments in Abuja are pilot championships for both male and female players.

You are one of the leading contenders for the plum job of NBBF president. How confident are you of victory?

I am glad to say that Nigerian basketball stakeholders are solidly behind me. They are with me on this redemption journey. They have seen my passion for the game and feel I am qualified and good enough to do the job. So after so much pressure from them, I decided to run for the NBBF presidency but first I have to qualify to represent the north central on the NBBF board and then vie for the position of president.

If you eventually emerge as the next NBBF president, what would be your priorities?

First and foremost, the division in the NBBF is so much. The division in the NBBF is now worse than that of Nigerian political parties and it shouldn’t be so. We should see ourselves as members of the same family. One of the first things I will do is to unite all stakeholders, try to close the existing gaps. We don’t need divisions. Our strength is in our numbers. Secondly, I am going to focus on developing basketball. There are lots of grassroots programmes but one of the critical things to do for development of the game is provision of infrastructure. Basketball is not like football where you can put two posts and start playing. Basketball needs equipment and infrastructure. It is a pity that right now in Nigeria, we can’t host an international tournament. It is because we do not have a gym to do that. A country that is big and highly rated, with players in the NBA shouldn’t be so backward in terms of facilities. Smaller countries have gyms and are hosting international tournaments. There is also the need to revive the domestic league. This is very important. It is sad to note that our players are now hungry. Private organisations are doing tournaments and if you go there, you see the hunger in the players. They want to play regularly. We want to satisfy the hunger of our players for basketball. We want to give them a standard league that they would play and benefit from. Our players can improve only if they have access to a league that is regular and can offer them a minimum of 50 matches per season. This is what is obtainable in the NBA.

Most basketball stakeholders are unhappy that the senior national teams of Nigeria are dominated by foreign based players. What is your take on this?

It is indeed a worrisome development. This is happening because there is no basketball development in Nigeria. It is for this reason that we have continued to do 100% foreign based players. We do not have a league or championships where budding players can be discovered and developed. By this, we are not developing the game.

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