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NASSA and the Metropolitan Police
United on the Basketball Court

RIVALRY on the basketball court mixed with friendship and collaboration off it as Newham All Star Sports Academy celebrated 15 years of partnership work with the Metropolitan Police in a special basketball game at the University of East London’s SportsDock facility.

The NASSA v Met Police game was held in front of over 100 invited guests. It was preceded by a minute’s silence and the shooting of basketball hoops to remember each of the young people who have died in the London Borough of Newham as a direct result of knife crime in the past two years.

Together, NASSA and the Metropolitan Police have educated over 100,000 young people across east London on the dangers of knife crime and gang activity through NASSA’s award-winning Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative.

Newham Borough Commander Simon Crick led a team of serving officers against a team of NASSA young people, all of whose lives have been affected by knife crime and all of whom have been guided by CABNAB talks.

The NASSA team was led by Anthony Okereafor, who established CABNAB through NASSA after two of his closest friends died in stabbing incidents within weeks of each other in 2008.

While the NASSA team ran out 77-22 winners, the scoreline was secondary to the spirit of friendship and respect shown by both teams.

NASSA Chief Executive, Natasha Hart MBE, said:

“NASSA is grateful to the Met Police for the 15 years of support they have given us in our CABNAB campaign.

“We thank Newham Borough Commander Simon Crick for bringing along a Met Police to participate in this game and for making it such a memorable and momentous occasion.

“Knife crime is such a terrible scourge on London life. It affects everyone, not just the victims, but their families and friends. It also affects the lives of the perpetrators, too.

“Every member of the NASSA team in this special game has been directly affected by knife crime and felt its consequences.

“CABNAB has always been about educating young people, making them aware of the consequences, not just of using a knife, but of simply carrying one, too.”

New NASSA Award From The Local Business Community

NASSA has received further recognition for our work within the local communities of east London.

We were named as winner in the Civic & Community Engagement category at the Newham Business Awards 2023 for our work in supporting young people and for helping them to gain qualifications to set them on the path to employment.

The Civic & Community Engagement category was open to businesses, voluntary and community organisations who were measured on their social impact.

The category was sponsored by Stratford Original BID whose manager Gianluca Rizzo said:

“Through sports and basketball, NASSA is helping young people to support them in achieving their potential, assisting them to become responsible, confident and ambitious.

“NASSA is tackling real life issues like street knife and gang culture in East London and Newham. Almost 3,000 local children (each year) go through the programme that includes mentoring and opportunities through the use of basketball. When sports betters communities.”

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE collected the award on behalf of NASSA. Natasha said:

“It is really gratifying to receive an award from the local business community. It shows that NASSA is being recognised for the excellence of our work. Not just what we do, but how we do it.”

NASSA Recognised By The Community In Which We Work

NASSA has been recognised for its Outstanding Contribution in Sports Development at the East London Community Heroes Awards 2023.

The awards, which are run by the Rotary Club Stratford, are in their fifth year. They honour individuals and organisations for their extraordinary contributions to the east London community.

NASSA was chosen to receive its award for its unique ethos in combining basketball skills training, mentoring young people to support them with their mental health and educating them on the dangers of knife crime, county lines activity and gang memberships through our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative.

The judging panel praised NASSA and its Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE with this statement:

“Under Natasha Hart’s visionary leadership, NASSA transformed a modest £20 investment into a beacon of hope and resilience within East London.

By intertwining basketball with life skills and community values, NASSA has championed the CABNAB campaign, empowering over 650 youths weekly to choose sport over street violence.

Their impressive track record boasts national league titles and profound community engagement, with the CABNAB workshops educating thousands on the perils of knife crime.

This award is a testament to NASSA’s unwavering commitment to nurturing young minds, fostering safe spaces and creating a positive trajectory for countless lives.

Their achievements extend beyond the court, crafting a legacy where sportsmanship, education and community unite to drive change.

Let’s celebrate NASSA’s pivotal role in developing the champions of tomorrow and their monumental contribution to sports and social development.

Congratulations, NASSA, for scoring a true slam dunk in community transformation.”

The awards ceremony was attended by many local dignitaries, including Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham and Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham.

Collecting the award on behalf of NASSA, Natasha Hart said:

“As ever, any recognition that NASSA receives is shared recognition. Our work is a team effort, from our amazing coaches, our passionate volunteers and the young people whose progression and development under NASSA’s guidance is why we do what we do.

It is wonderful to receive this award from the community in which NASSA works.”

NASSA celebrates 15 years of its award-winning Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) work

CABNAB Founder Anthony Okereafor

OVER 100 guests were in attendance at London’s City Hall as NASSA celebrated the 15th anniversary of its award-winning CABNAB knife crime awareness initiative.

The ‘Carry A Basketball Not A Blade 15th Anniversary — The Next 100,000’ event showcased talks from some of the young people who have been educated by NASSA on the dangers of knife crime, county lines activity and gang culture since CABNAB was set up in 2008.

The initiative was established by NASSA player Anthony Okereafor after two of his friends were stabbed to death in east London parks within weeks of each other.

Anthony had been playing basketball with NASSA when each incident occurred and realised it could have been him.

CABNAB talks and workshops were developed in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and are now delivered in all NASSA’s club and schools programmes, passing the 100,000 attendances milestone this year.

The need for them was reinforced by Anthony in an impassioned speech about the realities that knife crime continues to present in east London.

Anthony said: “Three young people have died in the past week alone. The number of knife crime incidents went down, but the problem hasn’t gone away as we have seen this week. The need for CABNAB is as strong as ever.”

The City Hall event was attended by local dignitaries, including NASSA Patron Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, and Jeremy Rees, CEO of ExCeL London.

Members of the east London business community, included several from Canary Wharf, heard speeches from Sir Stephen, London Assembly Committee Member Unmesh Desai, and Darwin Bernardo of the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

NASSA Patron Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham

Former NASSA players Calvin Kintu, Sahara Wilson, Sidney Ekio, Naomi Hart and Ilyas Dar all made speeches acknowledging the role that NASSA played in their development as players, citizens and role models for others.

Jennifer Lauren-Smart, whose son Myles was a NASSA participant for 10 years, also made a heartfelt speech about the force for good that NASSA represents in east London.

Former NASSA player Sahara-Wilson

NASSA volunteer and parent Jennifer Lauren-Smart

Former NASSA player Calvin Kintu

Speaking at the event, NASSA founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “It really is amazing to see so many people here from all walks of life who have supported and who continue to support NASSA.

“While we are celebrating 15 years of CABNAB, the help and advice it has given so many young people, we must never forget those young people in east London who have lost their lives as a result of knife crime in that time.

“We have to continue our work to reach as many local young people as possible and educate them on the dangers of carrying a knife.”

ROYAL DUTY FOR ANTHONY

NASSA’s very own Anthony Okereafor stood proud and tall as a Batonbearer in the Queen’s Baton Relay over Jubilee weekend.

In recognition of his work fighting knife crime and the impact it has made on the lives of young people across east London for the past 14 years, Anthony was invited to carry the Baton on one of the most prestigious legs of its journey around the UK.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is helping to celebrate the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Anthony carried it across the Thames on Saturday, June 4 aboard a Metropolitan Police boat.

Picking up the Baton at London Eye before boarding the Police boat, he was joined by members of the Metropolitan Police, passing in front of the Houses of Parliament and travelling across the Thames to Blackfriars Pier.

Anthony said: “It was a huge honour to carry the Queen’s Baton and very humbling, too. I felt I was holding it aloft for all those young people who have lost their lives as a result of knife crime in the past 14 years since we founded CABNAB.”

Anthony founded NASSA’s Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative which educates young people about the dangers of knife crime, county lines and gang activity. CABNAB now educates over 2,000 local schoolchildren every year on the dangers of knife crime in partnership with the Metropolitan Police.

NNASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “This is a hugely symbolic and proud moment for Anthony and for NASSA. He really deserves this opportunity.”

NASSA team creates new video with the Films For All company

Check out this new video on NASSA which was put together by two groups of our young people in partnership with the Films For All company. The video is featured in a new London-wide film called ‘Ignite Your Potential’ that was specially commissioned to feature five projects funded by the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund.

NASSA Honoured With Plaque on DLR Train

Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has been recognised for its outstanding work in supporting young people through the Covid-19 pandemic with a plaque on one of London’s Docklands Light Railway trains.

The plaque is a tribute to NASSA’s mentoring team for its dedication to the mental wellbeing of around 500 vulnerable local young people during the Covid lockdowns and beyond.

NASSA was named as the outstanding team in the Covid Heroes Awards organised by Keolis Amey Docklands, the company which runs the DLR network.

“This is such an honour to see NASSA’s name on a DLR train. I couldn’t be more proud,” said NASSA Founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE.

“Many of the young people NASSA supports have troubled home lives. Because of Covid, they couldn’t attend their regular NASSA sessions and many of them lost focus, the motivation to do schoolwork or to look after their personal hygiene and ambition for the future.

“Most tragically of all, in the first wave of the virus, six NASSA participants lost a parent to Covid-19. Five of the parents were in their 40s, the other was in his 50s. All were from the BAME community.

“These deaths impacted not only on teenagers who, without warning, suddenly had to contemplate life without one of their parents, but also on their friends and fellow NASSA participants.

“The young people asked for help with their mental health. The coaches mentored them on an individual basis either via Facetime or a phone call. Each young person was given as much time as he or she wanted. Some spoke to a coach every day for as much as an hour. Others, a few times per week for 10 or 20 minutes.

“Each NASSA coach was spending 20-30 hours of their week mentoring young people remotely. They weren’t getting paid for it because with basketball sessions stopped, much of NASSA’s income was suspended, yet they carried on talking to the young people anyway because they knew how much they were needed.”

No subject was off limits in the confidential conversations — boredom, anger, hopelessness, drugs, alcohol, smoking, gang activity, even suicide. The work was carried out with the aid of funding from a number of sources including the People’s Postcode Lottery through its Postcode Neighbourhood Trust.

Natasha Hart added: “We are so grateful to organisations like the People’s Postcode Lottery for investing in NASSA’s commitment to local young people. It is impossible to overstate the positive impact this impact has made, not just for now but for the long term.”

The NASSA mentoring team consisted of NASSA coaches and staff members, Great Britain international and former NASSA player Teddy Okereafor and even four NASSA participants who began mentoring their friends.

The full team recognised in the Covid Heroes Awards is comprised of:

Donnie Cabrera — NASSA Head Coach / Mentor
Framaz Dar — NASSA coach / Mentor
Stephanie Facey — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Hamza Nadeem — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Joe Norster — NASSA coach / Mentor
Anthony Okereafor — NASSA coach / CABNAB creator / Mentor
Teddy Okereafor — Team GB international / Former NASSA player / Mentor
Reece Quinland — NASSA participant / Peer mentor
Luis Sanchez — NASSA coach / Mentor
Dan Sharp — NASSA participant / Peer mentor.

As well as offering mental health support, the NASSA mentors spent their time sourcing free short Open University learning courses to encourage extra learning within the young people.

Natasha Hart added: “I am always proud of the NASSA family, but I have never witnessed the depth of connection between the NASSA team and the young people we help as I have during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This plaque is a tribute to all of them and a fitting reminder whenever they take the DLR to attend NASSA sessions.”

Teddy Okereafor — NASSA’s very own history maker!

SIXTEEN years ago, Teddy Okereafor was taken to Balaam Park in Plaistow and handed a basketball. The sport ran in his family. His mother and grandmother had both represented Russia, but 12-year-old Teddy had never played before.

That first game changed his life, just as it did the lives of thousands of young people who have followed him onto the NASSA basketball court.

As if college basketball in the United States and a professional career that has taken in stops in Italy, Greece and now back in the UK with Bristol Flyers wasn’t enough, Teddy, now 28, will make history for his country this weekend.

If he appears against both Germany on Saturday and France on Saturday, the prize on offer will not just be for the point guard to help Great Britain’s men qualify for EuroBasket 2022.

Sunday will represent Teddy’s 49th consecutive game for Team GB, matching an all-time record set by Bill McInnes in 1976.

“It is something that I will always take a lot of pride in,” Teddy said in a week when he has been courting national headlines because of his achievement.

The pride is NASSA’s, too. That first game in Balaam Park ultimately led to the foundation of NASSA and an opportunity for young people across east London to dream big with Teddy’s career lighting the way as a symbol of what is possible.

The measure of Teddy’s continued devotion to NASSA was seen this summer when the first Covid-19 national lockdown was lifted and outdoor sports sessions were permitted again.

While participation numbers were restricted to just six per session, Teddy turned up at local parks across east London to help NASSA Head Coach Donnie Cabrera inspire the young people who are following in his NASSA footsteps.

This weekend, they will be following his actions on court from afar.

“GB is my favourite team to play for,” Teddy added in an online interview with The Mirror. “The pride you have playing for your country is something you can’t compare to anything else.”

The pride is ours, Teddy.

Read the full Mirror article on Teddy here
Read the full Morning Star article on Teddy here

“GB is my favourite team to play for. The pride you have playing for your country is something you can’t compare to anything else.”

— Teddy Okereafor

New Award For NASSA!

NASSA coaches and staff were last night praised for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic at the East London Community Heroes Awards 2020.

We were announced as winners in the Health and Wellbeing category for the mentoring work we have carried out during the coronavirus lockdown and beyond.

NASSA basketball sessions were suspended in March 2020 and were not permitted again until June when six participants at a time were allowed back on outdoor courts.

The remote mentoring work carried out by NASSA coaches and staff was vital to the mental health of over 150 vulnerable young people.

Through individual Facetime sessions and phone calls, each young person was given as much support as or she needed or wanted to talk through the issues affecting them.

NASSA also streamed live fitness classes and basketball skills sessions for the young people to join in daily.
The awards were staged remotely by the Rotary Club of Stratford which commended NASSA for “transforming their position to provide effective mental health and wellbeing to young people in response to the COVID crisis.

“The challenge of supporting people with mental health issues shows initiative and energy.

“Fear, isolation and loneliness are major issues, so to grapple with them so swiftly is commendable.

“NASSA is a well-known and well-liked organisation who do amazing things. They showed focus and awareness to support young people when so many services were struggling.”

Accepting the award, NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE praised the work of everyone within the NASSA family during the pandemic.

She said: “It is great news and so well deserved for all the NASSA volunteers, coaches and parents who made time to help young people during this really difficult period. This is an award for everybody at NASSA.

“It has been an immense challenge for myself and all the NASSA coaches, so this award will give everyone connected with the charity a boost to know that what we are doing is being valued.

“There is so much more to do and the young people need our help more than ever at the moment.”

“It has been an immense challenge for myself and all the NASSA coaches, so this award will give everyone connected with the charity a boost to know that what we are doing is being valued. There is so much more to do and the young people need our help more than ever at the moment.”

FROM NASSA TO OXFORD!

NASSA player Ilyas Dar will be swapping his basketball vest for a college gown this autumn after being accepted into Oxford University.

The 18-year-old from Leyton will study Medicine at Oriel College after passing the prestigious Oxford Entrance Exam.

Ilyas will become the first young person to represent NASSA at Oxford. His journey with NASSA began over six years ago, along with twin brother Kyan.

Born in London of Spanish parentage, when the boys first attended NASSA sessions they were very shy and not particularly physically active.

They have shone ever since, not as basketball players, but as young men dedicated to basketball as a sport in which they can pursue their ambitions. The twins have progressed through the NASSA age group teams and gained valuable sports qualifications in basketball refereeing, officiating and coaching along the way.

In December 2018, Ilyas was named alongside Kyan as the Young Person of the Year at the L&Q Foundation Awards to celebrate their commitment to the NASSA L&Q Junior Coaches Programme.
The twins’ father, Framaz Dar, became a NASSA volunteer and is now an assistant basketball coach having qualified through NASSA.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart said: “I have seen Ilyas grow into an extremely well-mannered and confident young man. To get into Oxford University is an amazing feat and everyone at NASSA is so proud of him.

“Ilyas has always looked up to older NASSA members and tried to copy their good habits. Now he will serve as an inspiration to the younger NASSA members and show them what is possible in life.”