The proprietor of Mo Heat basketball club Abuja, Mohammed Shehu, has said he will continue to support any stakeholder who can provide tournaments for his players to compete and develop themselves. In this interview with Trust Sports, the product of ABU basketball team spoke on why he established Mo Heat basketball club, future plans and the crisis in the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF).
W.has informed your decision to set up Mo Heat basketball club?
The Mo Heat basketball club is part of the Mo Foundation. I have a family foundation that helps the needy in terms of education, health and so on. I floated the basketball club as a result of my love and passion for the game. I played the game for a long time so it is my own way of giving something back to society. I always dreamed of having a basketball club. Unfortunately, the domestic league has been dormant for so many years. So, there was no way I could do anything until the Mark D Ball basketball championship came on board and gave us the platform to play.
When exactly did you establish the Mo Heat basketball club?
It was established in January 2022. It is a new set up because of the vision I saw in Mark D Ball. The championship started with the women’s version. When I met with Igoche Mark, he said he had plans for the men. So, I said if that is the case, I can use his platform to raise a basketball club. And that was exactly what happened.
You said you played basketball. To what level did you play the game?
I played basketball for my university, the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. I also played for the junior national teams. So, my interest in basketball didn’t start today. It has always been there.
How did you recruit the players that are competing in the Mark D Ball Championship?
We had an open camp where we invited all interested players to come for screening. There is a selection process. Once you are good, we select you to play for the club. As we are talking, Mo Heat has three well experienced national team players in its fold.
Apart from competing in Mark D Ball champions, do you have other plans for Mo Heat?
We started with Mark D Ball but I am beginning to have other plans. Right now, I am thinking of expanding our horizon to playing international basketball. It is not going to be easy but we are focused on our objectives.
What makes Mo Heat different from other basketball clubs in Nigeria?
We are different in the way and manner the club was established. Mo Heat is fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). I ensured that was done. We also pay priority attention to payment of players’ salaries. For you to get the best out of them, you have to pay attractive salaries. Once you make them happy, they will give you their best. Apart from salaries, we do what other corporate bodies do for their employees. As a matter of fact, we have a player who has been awarded a university scholarship. He got admission while playing for Mo Heat so we are sponsoring his education. This is in line with the aims and objectives of the Mo Foundation. These are the types of things we want to keep doing.
What are you doing to attract corporate sponsorship for Mo Heat?
Mo Heat is not a one man show because it is affiliated to a foundation. Mo Foundation funds the club and the foundation is run by partnership. There is no sole ownership of any foundation. You are not supposed to use your personal money to run a foundation. It is done by corporate partnership. So to answer your question, Mo Heat basketball club is not a one man show.
What are the major challenges you have faced so far in managing the club?
We are yet to face challenges but we are beginning to see some challenges coming because we do our projections and analysis to see what is likely to happen. That is why we have attached ourselves to the current NBBF president, Igoche Mark. We have seen his vision for Nigerian basketball. We have seen what he has to offer. And for us to continue to exist, we also have to partner with him. It is not enough to set up a basketball club, recruit players and pay salaries without achieving anything. No, you want to move forward and develop the game. For now, we have seen some of the programs the president has lined up so we feel strongly that it is the right place for us to pitch our tent. Ours is to develop the game of basketball and that is his objective.
So Mo Heat will gladly pitch tent with anyone who is able to provide tournaments?
Yes, because that is where the future lies. Anywhere there is a basketball competition, we go there. We shall follow anybody who is able to give us the platform. We need tournaments. If tomorrow another group comes with tournaments, we would be there. We are not so much interested in leadership and administration of the game. We are interested in playing basketball. When you play, you can develop your players. You can know if you can carry on or not. When you play, you know if your investment in the game is making any positive impact. It makes no sense to set up a club without playing tournaments.
What is your take on the lingering crisis in the NBBF?
Personally, this is not a serious issue. It is worrisome but it shouldn’t take too much of our time and energy. In January, I contacted FIBA and I discovered to my surprise that FIBA is an open body and anyone can discuss with them concerning basketball. FIBA told me they can deal with me directly once I am credible. I realized that even without federations, they can deal directly with individuals. We can operate without the NBBF. We should think less about the NBBF and find ways to improve the game. It is people who have been there that are blocking all the chances. If FIBA discovers that you are credible, they will deal directly with you. So that is where I am heading to. If the crisis does not end, we have to deal directly with FIBA. It appears the crisis in the NBBF does not want to end.
Where do you want to see Mo Heat basketball club in the next five years?
We have short term and long term vision. The short term is for us to test run our capabilities by using the Mark D Ball championship. And the long term vision is to play international basketball. As it is, we have quality players in our team who deserve to play internationally. Some of them are national team players. So we want to go beyond Nigeria to the rest of the world.