By Becky Olorunpomi
Whether in the morning, afternoon or evening, people can always be seen inside the Ilupeju basketball court either lounging or training. Commuters who ply the Oshodi to Onipanu route have even designated a bus stop to the centre. But many do not know the name of that recreation/training centre. A close interaction between Thursday Showers Team and the people in the court revealed the history of the place.
Coach Peter Amedu, Director of the Warriors Basketball Programme, Ilupeju and founder of the training court said that the idea of making the centre a training ground began in 2002 when necessity beckoned on him. In his words, “There was a German man that used to take care of this place, and when he was leaving, he called me to come and handle this place since I was coaching a German school where his son belonged. We went to the Local Government in Mushin and signed a treaty. When the former Lagos state Governor, Raji Fashola, came and checked the place, he officially made it a part of the recreation centers for Lagos state.”
Amedu, who is also the head coach for First Bank Female Basketball Club and a coach of the Nigerian Female National Team, further said that the pet project would not have been possible without the help of individuals; especially The Fountain of Life Church. According to him, “When I started in 2002, by the grace of God, I had the help of individuals and my brother Col. Sanni Amedu, and also The Fountain of Life Church. Before then, this place used to be a place where touts where always staying to smoke and commit a lot of atrocities. But now, even some of these boys have been encouraged and picked off the streets. Some have furthered their education abroad.”
He further noted that the court is a major training center in Lagos state.
“This is one of the best training centers in Lagos. The Nigeria Basketball Association knows the place and it is known internationally too. When we were opening this place, we had even the American Basketball Association representative from the embassy (present). From this place, we have produced over 200 people who have travelled abroad. From this place I got the First Bank coaching job and even though I’m really busy with it, anytime I’m in Lagos, I am always here. A big thank you to the late Pastor Bimbo who was of great help and also Pastor Taiwo Odukoya,” he said.
To Coach Amedu, establishing the Warriors Basketball court is a way of giving back to his society even as he acknowledged that there is still work to be done to make the center better.
“This is a way I can give back to the society. This place is a conducive environment for everyone within and outside Lagos and it’s open 24hours. Although Nestle Milo has helped out by branding the place often and making it conducive for the kids, there is still work to be done. Fountain was ready to help at a time but we didn’t follow up and it was our fault. We are running round to see who could come to our aid because it is a private enterprise. Nestle Milo has been helping, but we need more help,” he enthused.
Okafor Chinonso Harrison, who has been training at the court for three years said that the place is a lovely place to train.
“This place is lovely and the coaches are helping us improve our games and learn more about the fundamentals,” he noted.
For Chinedu, also known as MTN by his team mates, the court is another major training center after the National Stadium at Surulere where you can easily be coached on the fundamentals of basketball – the reason he’s also been training there for two years.
Nkechi Akachi who has been playing basketball for 12 years confessed that Ilupeju basketball court is more of an outdoor court than any other center.
“Ilupeju is an outdoor court and Surulere is an indoor court,” she said.
Bashiru Quadri who started coming to the place four months ago said that he uses the court because of its proximity to his residence which is in Mushin. “If you don’t come to Ilupeju, you have to go to Surulere,” he added.
In Badmus Abiola’s words, “I have been training here for the past one and a half years and the coach that introduced me to basketball trains here. I train in other places, but I love this place more. There are some seniors here that put me through when I make mistakes and I am inspired.”
Deji Folabi told our team that training on the court for the past seven years has added to his knowledge of the rudiments of basketball which is rare to come by at other training centres.
“I attended Ilupeju Grammar School and a particular coach from the academy came to our school to introduce us to basketball and since then I have been playing. Even when I graduated I still come here to play for the academy. Here we are taught the fundamentals of the game. Other courts do, but (they do) not go into details like this place.”