One former men’s national basketball team member is looking to develop the student-athletes within his community with his new initiative.
Abel Joseph’s “Bringing Ball In the Inner Community” looks to increase its exposure during the summer months and extend into a year-round programme.
Hosted every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and every other Saturday at Mason’s Addition Park, Joseph was joined by fellow national team members and current pro players in France - Jaraun “Kino” Burrows and Dominick Bridgewater - to tutor the dozens of aspiring players.
“My programme’s main goal is to get the youth in the inner community to keep them out of gang violence and ideally I want it to be an ongoing programme for a year,” Joseph said. “It is a non-profit organisation that I want to keep going and if anyone is willing to assist we would certainly welcome the help. It’s all about keeping the youth out of problems.”
Joseph said the game has afforded him a number of opportunities and looks to give back by guiding others down the proper path.
“Basketball means a lot to me. Through the game I had an opportunity to play with the Bahamas national team, travel all around the world, had opportunities to play in college and get an education, so it played a big part in my life,” he said.
“My goal is to make sure these kids are good in school, out of violence and give them an opportunity to pursue their goals as well.”
Burrows just completed an injury-plagued season with the Fos-Sue-Mur Provence Basketball Byers in the LNB French Pro League. The veteran forward said his time away from the game gave him an opportunity to focus on ways to give back to the local basketball community.
“I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to come home and do for the summer,” Burrows said. “Abel is like a brother to me, fellow national team player and I’ve been seeing through social media what he was doing and I just wanted to come back and help him. I feel like it’s up to us to continue to develop talent on the islands so I want to partner with these programmes, find these elite kids and continue to get them off to school and create opportunities for themselves through basketball.” One such player who took advantage of those opportunities was Bridgewater, who made Bahamian basketball history by becoming the first player to make the jump straight from high school to the professional ranks.
Bridgewater, 18, signed a junior pro contract with the FOS Provence Basketball Byers Club.
Locally, he completed an accomplished tenure on the court for the Anatol Rodgers Timberwolves following a brief stint at Carol City High School in Miami, Florida. After being denied a student visa to join a programme in the United States, Burrows facilitated his move to France.
“We have the green light as far as inner city development is concerned,” Burrows said. “Dominick is an example of one of these kids in tough situations in the inner city. He was denied visa entry into the US but through hard work and perseverance he was still able to use the game to create opportunities to display his talents. There are more like him, but we have to do our part to put our talent and resources into these kids as far as motivating and helping them to accomplish their dreams.”
Mario Bowleg, president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation, said community outreach is one of the pillars of his administration.
“I am pleased to see a guy like Abel, who grew up and lives in Mason’s Addtion, bringing his programme right here on the park. It’s even better that coming to assist him after a long season abroad, guys like Jaraun ‘Kino’ Burrows and Dominick Bridgewater, it’s a part of what the federation wants to do, bring basketball back to the community. It’s great to see them lead the charge with an initiative like this because I know they want to see these young people grow, mold their character and create productive citizens in this country,” Bowleg said.
“For the federation it’s one of our pillars to work within the inner city and this is something we want to continue to do. There are other parks we want to go around too and have them work with the kids. All summer long we want to ensure those idle hands are used for positive things and we want basketball to be a vehicle to bring about positive change in the community.”