Born and raised in different parts of the country and long before they ended up in one court and tournament, basketball was the only thing Usman and Regina had in common.
But at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos on Thursday, May 10, the teenagers’ lives became parallel and after leading their respective schools to the Boys and Girls titles of the 2018 MILO Basketball Championship, basketball became of greater significance to both.
Usman (Boys Category) and Regina (Girls Category) were named MVPs of the 2018 MILO Basketball Championship.
Basketball wasn’t just a past time for them anymore, the game had now brought them to the limelight and changed their lives with purpose and invaluable life lessons.
Standing at a height of 5'11', Shooting Guard Usman was the standout player for Father O'Connell Science College, Minna, Niger State, the National defending champions who blazed through the Emirates Conference of the 2018 MILO Basketball Championship to the National Finals in Lagos.
In the final against General Murtala Mohammed College of Adamawa, Usman was a great defensive asset, pulling off five blocks as his team won the tight game 60-59 to win the title.
“I’m very happy to win, last year I was here, and I won the Championship, this year we won the Championship again and I won the MVP,” Usman told Pulse Sports after he received the trophy as the MVP Boys Category.
“To have the opportunity to be here again is an amazing feeling, I feel really great, I have made my team proud.”
Usman who grew up in Minna was only eight in 2013 when he started playing basketball.
“At first it was a hobby, but I started working really hard at it and now I’m here,” he added.
Just like Usman, Regina was also the stand-out player for her team, St. Jude's Girls Secondary School, Bayelsa who beat their counterparts from Yejide Girls Grammar School, Ibadan in the final to win the title (Girls Category).
She was amazing all through the tournament as St. Jude's Girls won their way through the Atlantic Conference, winning four games to reach the Nationals Finals.
They were dominant in the final against Yejide Girls Grammar School, winning 23-15 to win the Girls title, their fifth of the 20-year history of the MILO Basketball Championship.
Playing in this competition, considered the best grassroots basketball tournament in Nigeria has impacted Regina with some indispensable lessons.
“I learned that teamwork matters in this game,” she told Pulse Sports after she picked up the MVP of the Girls Category.
“We have five players on the court each time, if we didn't work together as a team, we won’t be able to win this.
“My teammates and I worked really hard and if not for that, we wouldn’t have won.
“I also learned about determination, we were very determined, we worked hard, we came to training and worked almost every day, we put our minds together, we were all together, so we were able to win this championship.”
After conquering Nigeria to become the best teenage basketball players in the country, both Usman and Regina want to conquer the world.
“I want to become one of the best players in the world, I know I can do it,” Usman said.
“I am looking forward to playing in the WNBA, I so much love the game and I have so much passion for it,” 15-year-old Regina also said.
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