Hoop Dreams — Ffriend building basketball’s popularity in Jamaica

Kimani Ffriend, former Jamaican National Basketball team player

Kimani Ffriend, former Jamaican National Basketball team player, hopes that his Hoops with Ffriend initiative will harness local talent into the sport after his recent basketball camp at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Bowl in St Andrew.

“As a former NBA and European basketball player I felt it was my duty to come back to Jamaica and expose the sport more to the Jamaica population because basketball is a very popular sport elsewhere.”

Ffriend hosted the annual Hoops with Ffriend two-day basketball camp on August 23rd and 24th to assist disadvantaged kids.

“As a former NBA and European basketball player I felt it was my duty to come back to Jamaica and expose the sport more”

— Kimani Ffriend, former Jamaican National Basketball team player

“The aim of Hoops with Ffriend outreach basketball camp is to bring awareness to basketball, but more so in the children’s homes because I believe it’s a community that has been lacking in support, especially from the standpoint of sports. A lot of these kids have never played basketball before.”

He noted the country’s success in track and field, football and cricket. However he put himself forward as an example that basketball, while not a common route, can do as much to elevate the quality of life of those who choose it as a profession.

Ffriend related his own story, playing the traditional Jamaican sports only to then go through a growth spurt that all but limited his participation.

“I grew up playing the more traditional sports. I didn’t like playing basketball at first. I hated it and that’s a very important point because a lot of kids out there are growing up only playing cricket, track and field and football, but no basketball because of the infrastructure needed to play it.”

At 15 he found basketball and never looked back.

“I grew to love playing basketball. It afforded me the opportunity to go and get a 100 per cent full scholarship to the University of Nebraska.”

Now six-foot eleven inches tall, he ended up playing for the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA along with numerous other European and South American basketball clubs. It’s this path of educational, financial, professional and personal growth he wishes to impart on the children taking part in Hoops with Ffriend.

The basketball camp saw around 100 children invited from the various children’s homes and from inner-city communities. With main sponsor Kingston Industrial Garage, Ffriend and several coaches spread the knowledge of basket while giving them a break from their normal summer routines.

“I grew to love playing basketball. It afforded me the opportunity to go and get a 100 per cent full scholarship”

— Kimani Ffriend, former Jamaican National Basketball team player

“It was mostly by invitation because of the size of the venue and we wanted to be able to have the appropriate number of coaching staff to give the children the attention they needed.”

Ffriend thinks that starting young will plant the seeds for future Jamaican basketball stars, and offer a path to success, beyond that of the standard local sporting options.