WILSON JUMA has thanked Hoops Aid for putting his name on the map and helping his basketball career take off.
Now he hopes similar exposure at Hoops Aid 2015 at the O2 Arena will help earn him a pro contract in the British Basketball League.
Juma, who was born in Zimbabwe but raised in the UK, said: “Hoops Aid set the stage for me. It got my name out there. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that exposure.“I’m really excited about the plans for the 2015 event and to participate in it would be beautiful.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in the US but I want to come home and play pro basketball in the BBL now, so I’m hoping to impress some BBL coaches this time!”
Zuma came through the LEAP Academy in Walton-on-Thames before flying to the US to try and earn a place in the US college system.But a summer of try-outs led to disappointment until he went for a workout at the IMPACT Academy in Florida in 2011.
Zuma said: “The college coaches told me I didn’t have the skills yet for them but put me in touch with IMPACT. I went for a workout against their kids and they said: ‘Take his bags. He’s staying.’”
A big hit in Florida, he averaged 16 points and 6 assists for IMPACT. But a broken ankle threw his career into doubt.
Zuma said: “That’s when Hoops Aid came along. I was just coming back from my injury and I needed to prove I could still play at an elite level.
“That’s what Hoops Aid did for me. I knew there were really important people watching the game. One of the coaches from Maine saw the footage and that’s how I ended up there.“I’ve enjoyed it so much there. But I have the skills now and the basketball IQ to play professionally and I want to do that here. Basketball is growing now in the UK
“I’m over here training now. I go to scrimmages everywhere from Surrey to Brighton and people see me and say: ‘We remember you from Hoops Aid.’“Some of the kids training with me now want to go to the US too and I’m just trying to help them. I only wish they could all play at Hoops Aid!”
Hoops Aid 2015 is taking place on May 10 at London's O2 Arena before the BBL final. Buy your tickets at http://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/bbl-play-off-finals-2015
For more information follow @HoopsAid, @pbsportswriter and @LanceHaggith