Basketball enthusiast Anthony Okereafor has been recognised with a Jack Petchey Achievement Award for his dedication to fighting crime, saving lives, and improving the prospects of young people in Newham.
Five years ago, Anthony set up the ‘Carry a Basketball Not a Blade’ initiative at Newham All Stars Sports Academy (NASSA) after one of his closest friends was stabbed to death. The innovative scheme encourages young people to say no to knife crime and the gang lifestyle that accompanies it, and to take up a basketball instead – and what an impact it has had.
From an original 37 members in 2006, NASSA now has over 500 regular attendees and an outreach of nearly 2,000 young people. It has the support of Newham MP Stephen Timms, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Prime Minister David Cameron and recently received £10,000 from the Ladbrokes Community Fund.
Anthony, a Division 1 basketball player for NASSA, organised a five year anniversary event of the project in September 2013. The event was hosted in partnership with the London Borough of Newham Council, Metropolitan Police, local business partners and was attended by young people from the Rokeby, Cumberland, Eastlea, Lister, St. Bonaventure's, Royal Docks, Kingsford and Stratford communities.
Anthony, 23, said, “I believe in the power of sport to improve the lives of individuals, and bring communities together. The initiative is about breaking down divisions between young people from different post codes, and young people and the police.”
NASSA were recently nominated for the DSC Everyday Impact Award, which recognises individuals and groups who have a clear vision for change.
Anthony wants to continue to play and coach basketball at a high level, and aims to roll out the ‘Carry a Basketball Not a Blade’ project across the whole of London and eventually in other inner cities within the UK.
He also boasts being a part of the team at NASSA to have broken the world record for the most basketball layups in an hour. In 2012, the team completed 3,140 layups, smashing the old record by over 500 and raised over £5,000 for the academy.
Find out more about NASSA here!
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