Ben Uzoh runs a smooth and calculated offense whenever he handles the ball on the basketball court. The former Toronto Raptors guard also picks his words in the same manner and it was no surprise when he expressed his observations regarding the growth of basketball in Nigeria recently.
Born in the United States, Uzoh, whose parents were both born in Nigeria, is just as familiar with the Nigerian environment as anyone resident in the country to understand that the game of basketball is becoming a cultural phenomenon with broadening interests. There is no question regarding his observation as he has been a vital contributor to the growth of the game in Nigeria through his international appearances.
The 30-year-old guard who helped Nigeria to a historic African Championship at the 2015 FIBA Afrobasket in Tunisia said coming home to see the level of acceptance during the last 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers hosted in Lagos was a great feeling which was indescribable.
Uzoh who presently plays in CB Caballero De Culican, Mexico said the turnout of fans during their practice sessions and games, coupled with the media awareness, has given him high hopes of a better future for the game.
“The culture is growing; obviously football has been around for years. For ages, we have been angling to have the game of basketball come up and carve out its own niche.”
Uzoh has become a regular and significant feature on the national team since making his debut in 2013. He noted that the support right now is incomparable and quite impressive in comparison to previous years.
“It’s great to see the support from the youths, the federation and hopefully in future, the government. It’s good to have events like this, a platform that can be emulated for years to come”.
He emphasized that playing on the national team has had a great impact on his career because it has been a journey that has involved a lot of growth and transition.
Since making his debut in 2013, Uzoh has gone on to represent Nigeria in three FIBA Africa Men’s Championships and also participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“Initially, when I joined the team I did not know the kind of coach involved or the tradition that was involved. I knew I could make an impact because I believed in myself. Over the years, I met brothers. I have gained brothers and family members.”
In 2015, Uzoh helped propel Nigeria to the African title and returned in the next edition to help the team under Coach Alex Nwora to a silver medal.