Deola D’Brown Folarin is a professional Basketball player who started his game in Lagos before travelling to play in multiple countries around the world. He played two FIBA championships in Lome and Ghana before moving to South Easter Asia; Singapore, Thailand and later Australia. In this interview with Okey Obiozo, he expressly talked about his pet project that is set to change the face of basketball in Nigeria. Excerpt.
In all these, share your experience
D’Brown: One very important thing I have taken out of Basketball is that it is more than just a game. It is a whole lot of things; lifestyle, business, education, a learning process that teaches a lot of things. It teaches how to become a better man because by being a professional athlete, you have to be focused and take things more seriously.
Also, it teaches how to relate with people, especially bonding, management of different characters and attitudes from people you come across. You come together in short time and become a family.
How long have you been playing?
D’Brown: I have been playing professionally for six years. I started off playing in Lagos before moving to Lome to play two seasons. Afterward, I moved abroad to play for five years. I am still playing.
Why are you in Nigeria?
D’Brown: I have done lots of Basketball events around the world; NBA legends, I’ve organized championships and leagues. I have done sports jamborees that still run internationally. So one day I asked myself that if I have done all these internationally, why can’t I transfer them to my home soil where I am from, which is Nigeria.
That made me decide to take a big step and bring the quality of all these events that I have done around the world to Nigeria and improve the face of the game. Basketball in Nigeria now is at an all-time low. I really feel it isn’t the best way because we have gifted athletes but there is no encouragement, support and motivation for them.
That is what drove me to come back home to lift the spirit of the game of sports generally in Nigeria and Africa.
What has been the response since you started?
D’Brown: It’s been mixed responses, but I will tell you that it has been favourable. I have met great people who have been really wonderful to me. At the same time, there are people who for no reason want to set you back but I’m a determined young man and a professional. When I set my mind to do something, I make sure I achieve it at all cost. I have taken this like a basketball game that I have to win.
Let’s focus on the project at hand. Who are your targets, how do you want to achieve it?
D’Brown: This is a long-term project that we are launching with 3×3 event as a launch pad. It is called Megaptera 3×3 African Tour, endorsed by FIBA. The long-term strategy is to actually convert the game of basketball to a more attractive game in Africa and the only way we can do it is to convert it into a business that is profitable to all involved. Players will be happy to play the game and get paid, coaches will be happy to coach and get paid and referees will be happy to umpire and get paid.
Assistance can get involved and get benefits. Don’t forget that this game is huge. It is the biggest sport in the world next to football and there is a lot of money in it. The reason the Nigerian basketball is not doing well is because money does not get to all the stakeholders involved.
Maybe there is money coming in but it is not getting to the people who drive the game. For us at Megaptera is to give rewards to players who are the most important component because if there are no players there will be no basketball.
Our target for the first event is really the players who have been playing the game or who just started and have not really been rewarded in any way. They did not have enough rewards to increase their motivation. So we are coming up with a plan where every single event that we organize will have cash price for the winners.
This will increase the level of competition mixed with lots of fun. Players can come out and play in as many events as they want and go ahead to win a cash prize of N100,000. This we intend to use to increase people’s motivation through their practicing and hard work to compete better in the next edition with better and stronger team while having an eye on the prize.
A team of three or four will compete to win a cash prize of N100,000. The winner will move to play in Lome at a satellite final while the overall winning team will go to Asia to compete with the world best-drawn players for a prize of $30,000 at the FIBA World Challenger Final.
Apart from that, we will be giving a lot of merchandise. We want athletes who play basketball here to also look good like their counterparts in other countries. We will be kitting every participant with high-tech jersey. So for everyone, there will be a lot of side attractions like free dunk competition, free completions with cash prizes attached.
We want to increase participation through the people that watch the game. Therefore we want to attract people through giving a lot of merchandise and cash prizes to even the people who come to watch the event. We intend to have games at half time so that people who have come to watch the games can have a lot of avenues to win prizes.
However, the long-term plan is that we are trying to start the growth of basketball from infancy. We are trying to get them start playing from 3-5 years because we start learning sports very late in Nigeria, unlike other countries. The disadvantage is that by the time we start learning other countries’ players would have matured. We are trying to bridge that gap. A coach once told me that where we are at 18 in Africa is where they were at eight in America and Europe. They actually start playing the game at three and five.
To achieve this, what we are trying to do with authorities involved is to employ coaches at Megaptera and fully subsidize the cost for schools; primary, secondary and higher institution, so that we will have minimal cost to pay to coaches who will be designated to all the schools to coach them.
We will also have a community development that will actually bring all these schools together to play community leagues. Winners will be assembled yearly to play state finals while the winners will be further assembled to play national final where the best schools will be picked in the country. That way we will have an all year round progress plan for the game of basketball.
Also, as soon as we get supports we will drive down the registration cost and increase the Prize cash as a motivational factor for people to get involved in the game.
How do you get funding for this project?
D’Brown: Right now all the funding is coming from Megaptera. We are just coming in to invest in the system without looking at the immediate profit, though we know that it will be profitable along the line.
We are not looking at the quick growth but we know that there will be a lot of investments and lot of resources in terms of power, energy and time that will have to be put in. That huge initial investment is what we are doing right now from the fund in-house. We know that the future is bright and that is why we are investing this much into this kind of project because in the future we will reap as we have seen it work all over the world. Basketball is big business.
How do you intend to co-ordinate the youngsters from primary to university, what is your resource base?
D’Brown: We are taking it one step at a time and that is why we don’t want to go too fast. We coordinate through working with several stakeholders by getting involved with the people who are willing to work with us and who share our vision.
The truth being that no matter whatever resources we have, we cannot do it alone. The project being a national project is huge. We are encouraging stakeholders, partners and affiliates who are willing to work with us to come aboard because it is a herculean task but we will take it one step at a time.
Any special message to the youths?
D’Brown: I want the youths, in particular, to believe that there is a life in basketball. They should stay true to their dreams but they should go to school. A guy walked up to me and told me he is interested in playing basketball but do not want to go to school and for that his parents are not supporting him. I told him that his parents are right.
Even if he wants to play basketball he still has to go to school because if you don’t make a living from basketball, it can give you education, scholarship and ability to travel around the world. If you want to be serious with the game, you have to put in a lot of hard work.