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Basketball - 22. May 2011.

GBR - Team GB players score maximum points with students

LONDON (2012 London Olympics) - Team GB's women players have played a starring role in London’s Olympic borough just over a year before they take to the court for the 2012 Games.

Ros Mason, Yemi Oyefuwa, Julie Page and Natalie Stafford last week put youngsters aged 11-19 through their paces with two two-hour training sessions and shared their hopes for next year.

Mason and Oyefuwa visited Newvic College in Plaistow which is signed up to the Carry A Basketball Not A Blade campaign, an initiative aimed at diverting youngsters away from anti-social behaviour, gang activity and knife crime and on to the basketball court.

In the meantime, Page and Stafford visited Rokeby School in nearby Canning Town.

Taking time

The players took time out from their preparations for next month's EuroBasket Women in Surrey to run training drills, officiate games and answer questions from their young charges.

They emphasised dedication and discipline as the main keys to succeed not only on the court but off it too.

“Basketball is a wonderful sport to get into and has given me opportunities to travel all over the world,” said Oyefuwa, who plays in the American collegiate ranks at the University of Maryland. “It teaches self-discipline, organisation, time management, multi-tasking and the importance of hard work and of being a team player.

“If you want to make it in a basketball, you have to put in the effort and practice, practice, practice….even when you are Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James). But it’s the same in any line of work. You’ll improve your chances of getting a job and being good at it if you put in the effort.”

Impressed

The youngsters were left visibly impressed by their idols.

“It was really inspirational having two of the Team GB women players coming in to see us because it showed what can be done if you work hard,” said 19-year-old student Venetia Stuart.

“It would be great to follow in their footsteps. I’ve just got my Level 1 coaching certificate and am now going for Level 2 and I’d love to be a full-time player or coach.”

Another student, Jazzino Hylton, 19, stressed the importance of Team GB doing well next year to help grow the sport.

“It’s important that Team GB does well next year at the Olympics because they will get a lot of publicity and more people will want to play the game.”

Newvic College sport academy coach Osman Awad believes the players’ appearance will go a long way to help the cause.

“It was great to have the Team GB players here because it enhances what we are trying to do with Carry A Basketball, Put Down A Blade,” he enthused.

“If the students talk about how much they are enjoying the sport, they will feed it back to their peers and the word will spread about what a great game basketball is.

“We have some good young players here who are anxious to learn how to improve their games and they were paying really close attention to what they were being told.”

For more information on the Carry A Basketball Not A Blade initiative, click here.

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