16 September 2012

Nigeria: Putting Smiles On the Faces of Children Motivates Me - Oyedeji

The 13th Olumide Oyedeji Basketball Camp ended in Lagos last weekend. The final bore a carnival-like atmosphere as the over 300 kids who attended the event jumped, dunked and slammed. "It is a day to remember," little Akinbobola Tayo told Saturday Sports Vanguard at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National stadium, Lagos, venue of the event. In the midst of his busy schedule, initiator of the camp and captain of the national team, D'Tigers, Olumide Oyedeji took time off to chat with Jacob Ajom. Excerpts:
The camp is drawing to a close today (September 8, 2012), how would you rate this year's edition?
This year's camp has really been special because before we came to Lagos, we had been to Oshogbo in Osun and Ibadan in Oyo States. The Lagos leg which began September 3rd - 8th has been like a bomb as so many kids turned out. At the end, we could only take 300 kids.
The week-long camp has witnessed celebrities come here and talk to the children on different aspects of life. Remember, the Olumide Oyedeji Basketball Camp is not only about basketball. Here, we realize that not everybody will end up playing basketball.
As a result, we also prepare them children for life outside basketball. This year we had celebrities like Kaffe who has made her mark in life through dance. She came here to tell them how you can achieve whatever you want through your God-given talent.
Apart from Kaffe, the national team coach, Ayo Bakare and the honourable Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Barrister Enitan Oshodi were also here to address the kids. Their presence here was quite rewarding.
How much do you think the children have gained from this week-long camp?
So far, it is difficult to put everything into their heads in one week. What we attempt to do here is give them the basics and try to give them an early direction on how basketball is played. It has been a very good exercise because some of them have shown a lot of improvement, far better than the way they came. For them it has been a worthwhile exercise.
In view of the ages of some of the participants, the parents must have played a role in the success of the camp. How would you assess their role?
They have just been wonderful. They have shown tremendous support as most of them were as regular here as their wards. They watch what we do with keen interest and encourage the children. I consider it a thing of honour to always have them around. I admire them all.
There are so many trophies and plaques and a lot more memorabilia on the table, you give awards?
I don't know whether to call them prizes. We give awards in various categories like the Most Valuable Player, the best shooter, the most disciplined, most dedicated, a lot of awards that cut across the entire gamut. I told you it is not only about basketball. We also look at discipline, leadership qualities and so on.
What gives you the motivation to continue this annual camp, despite the apparent lack of adequate sponsorship?
I am motivated by the fact that I put smiles on the faces of these children. I see them grow to become stars. I want to contribute to their lives the little way I can. It is a task I assigned to myself, with or without outside help. The Olumide Oyedeji Basketball Camp will continue for as long as I can go.
Looking back, this is the 13th edition of the camp, who are the stars you can point to have come out of the camp?
There are lots of them. I have played alongside four of them in the national team. Players like Ayodeji Akindele, Ibrahim Yusuf, Solomon Tat, Mike Oyero, among others. Charles Okwando plays in the United States of America. One of the products of this camp just got drafted to the NBA and they about 100 of them playing in the US.
Thank you.

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