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Frutz Nairobi Junior League gives youth platform to showcase talent

 Action in past Frutz Nairobi Junior Basketball League. [Courtesy]

The biweekly Frutz Nairobi Junior Basketball League returns at the weekend at 209 State House Road Grounds with thrilling matches on the card.

Boys U16 leaders Vikapu 'A', commanding the log on 18 points, lay in wait for marauding Umoja who are second on 16.

Fundamentor (14 points) will tackle Vikapu B (12) while Skills Academy (8) will slug it off with Runda Basketball Academy (10).

A mouthwatering clash awaits between Runda and Little Prince in the Girls U16 category.

Runda caused a massive upset in their last outing against Hoops 4 Kids from Korogocho, scoring a last-minute buzzer that send coaches, parents and players into delirium.

"Runda is one of the youngest girls team in the league, they could not believe it! The joy in those kids faces when they scored at the buzzer was quite amazing.

“It showed how they have grown in those three months the league has been played," League Coordinator Zedekia Otieno told Standard Sports.

Sponsors on board to support the inaugural junior league currently in its second leg are Aquamist Frutz (title sponsors), Afrolete (management partners), Holiday Inn (Hospitality partners providing foods to the players and technical bench), Vikapu Elite Basketball (in charge of running the league) and Rabai Harvest Bread.

The league is also affiliated to and sanctioned by the Kenya Basketball Federation.

The league gives youth a platform to express their basketball talents, exposing their skills in the long run. The contest has also kept them away from social vices like drug abuse.

“The league provides an opportunity for young talent to be scouted, identified, nurtured and tapped into the junior national team,” Otieno said.

“We also target continental programmes like the Fiba Youth Camp, Basketball Without Boarders and the Hoops Forum which Kenya tends to miss on due to untapped potential on the youth.

“We also give referrals and exposures as far as those continental programmes are concerned,” Otieno said.

The league is open to both school going children and those not in any learning institution for one reason or the other.

“We have not locked any kids out. Teams here represent different social backgrounds; this is the amazing bit of the league. On court, all the players are equal. They play, have fun and hi-five each other after the competition,” says Otieno.

The league has attracted players from various Nairobi estates including Runda, Kilimani, Langata, Mathare, Korogochoa, Kibra, Kayole and Umoja.

“Due to the success of the competition, we have also started the U14 boys league which we hope to expand to the girls category, we don’t want the young ones to feel like they’ve been left out, currently, there are ten teams in line waiting to join the league next season,” Otieno said.

Otieno believes the league can be made sustainable with proper funding. Their grand plan is to have ten teams each in boys and girls categories in the U12, 14, 16 and 18.

“We want to make the league annual and longer than the six months that it is currently played,” he said.

Due to limited funds, the league is run biweekly to cushion the young players from the high cost of transport.

“With proper funding, we will be able to upgrade the coaching unit, pay the referees well, educate and empower the teams and managers.

“We have also planned to implement mentorship programmes including self-grooming, sports and mental health in the second phase of the league next season,” Otieno said.

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