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’s Day of Days

THURSDAY, November 25, 2021 represents a unique day in the history of Newham All Star Sports Academy with four events coinciding for us to celebrate how far NASSA has come.

As a finalist in two different awards competitions, NASSA will gain local and national recognition for its role in helping to change the lives of young people in east London.

The work of our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime, county lines activity and gang membership will also feature at the premiere of a new documentary.

Above all of that, former NASSA player Teddy Okereafor will make history as the player to have made more consecutive appearances for the Great Britain men’s basketball team when he steps out on court to represent his country in Newcastle.

The 29-year-old will complete a remarkable 16-year journey from Balaam Park in Plaistow to play his 50th consecutive game for Team GB in a World Cup qualifier against Greece.

That day in Balaam Park in 2005 saw the first-ever NASSA session when NASSA founder Natasha Hart took her two sons for an impromptu basketball lesson.

NASSA was founded the following year and as the charity grew, so did Teddy, eventually heading to the USA to embark on a college basketball career and then a professional career that has taken in stops in Latvia, Greece, Italy and now back in the UK with Cheshire Phoenix.

Teddy equalled the consecutive game record of Bill McInnes, who played in his 49th consecutive game for GB in 1976, when he faced France in February.

He will make it 50 in a row in Newcastle and has played in every GB game since his debut against New Zealand in 2015.
When Teddy is not playing basketball, he is helping to coach and mentor NASSA young people at every opportunity, serving as an inspiration and a guide to them.

Some of the current NASSA generation are featured in a new ‘Ignite Your Potential’ documentary which has been made to celebrate the work and impact of the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund in tackling knife crime in the capital.

The documentary, to which two groups of NASSA young people contributed in filming, editing and marketing, will be premiered at the Rich Mix cinema in Shoreditch on Thursday evening.

Around the same time, NASSA’s work in supporting and mentoring young people in east London through the Covid-19 pandemic will be celebrated in the Children & Young People Now Awards 2021. NASSA is a finalist in the Mental Health and Wellbeing category.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Natasha Hart is a finalist in the Community Hero of the Year category at the East London Community Heroes awards, another wonderful piece of recognition.

It promises to be quite a day!

Some of the current NASSA generation are featured in a new ‘Ignite Your Potential’ documentary which has been made to celebrate the work and impact of the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund in tackling knife crime in the capital.

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.”

NASSA named as finalist…

NASSA was last named as a finalist in the prestigious Directory for Social Change Awards 2020 at a ceremony held in the Houses of Parliament.

Our work was recognised in the Everybody Benefits — Long Term Enterprise Award category. It is the second time that NASSA has been recognised by the Directory of Social Change, having done so in 2013.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “It is so gratifying to know that NASSA’s work is being recognised nationally. As with every award NASSA receives, this is for our wonderful coaches and volunteers, and especially our young people.”

NASSA and Mayfield School Basketball Academy

After partnering with Mayfield School in Ilford in September 2019 to launch our first basketball academy, the NASSA Academy team has just completed a highly successful first season competing in the Academy Basketball League.

The academy draws young people aged 16-18 from across east London to combine their studies with specific work on the basketball court.

Sessions run by NASSA Head Coach Donnie Cabrera allow the young people to schedule between 8-12 hours of training time as court time under the auspices of the ABL (Academy Basketball League), run by Basketball England.

In addition, the NASSA Academy enjoyed an extraordinary run of success in its first ABL season, finishing 5th out of 10 teams despite the players being thrown together in September from an initial intake of just 12-15 players.

ABL games are played on Wednesday afternoons. The hastily formed NASSA team narrowly missed out on the end-of-season play-offs and aims to build on that remarkable platform in coming years.

Each basketball session is now attended by 20-25 participants with another 30 local young people on a waiting list to join the NASSA Academy.

The current participants include young people from Newham, Leyton and Redbridge, as well as Ilford, while students from the Boroughs of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets are on the list to join in coming years.

For more information how to join please contact our Head Coach Donnie Cabrera by email.

NASSA Men’s Team are Division 3 Runners-Up!

The East London All Stars team, made up of players from NASSA and the University of East London (UEL), have exceeded all expectations by finishing as runners-up in National Basketball League Division 3 South.

Following a tense wait after their final game of the season, a 97-68 victory over Oxford Brookes University on March 17, the All Stars have been confirmed as runners-up with 13 wins from their 18 games.

The men’s team, which is a unique partnership squad reflecting NASSA’s long-standing collaboration with UEL, also made it to the quarter-finals of the Patrons Cup earlier this season.

It has been a remarkable turn-around from a disappointing 2016-17 season in which the All Stars lost every game and were relegated from Division 2.

The success can be largely attributed to new coach Joshua Tackey, who instilled belief in place of last season’s losing mentality. In addition, he has drawn huge contributions from every player in his squad.

Here’s to more success next season!

2016 Charity Times Awards!

Our Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) initiative has been recognised for its impact at the 2016 Charity Times Awards.

CABNAB was given a Highly Commended award in the Community category at a glittering ceremony at London’s Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel.

The accolade is due recognition for CABNAB’s role in helping to save lives in east London by educating young people on the dangers of knife crime and gang culture.

It was set up by NASSA after one of our players, Anthony Okereafor, lost two of his friends in separate knife-related incidents in 2008.

Anthony wanted to do something positive in memory of his two friends to try and ensure that similar tragedies would not affect other communities in the London Borough of Newham and beyond.

Anthony was present at the Charity Times Awards evening. He said: “It is amazing that CABNAB has been recognised in this way. The message that CABNAB gets across is a powerful one but we need to keep reaching and educating more and more young people.

“Being highly commended in these awards is great. It means we are doing something right, but we need to keep going.”

CABNAB mentoring talks are included in the school basketball sessions that NASSA lays on in schools across east London, which means that over 2,000 local schoolchildren are educated on the subject of knife crime every week.

The programme is working. Metropolitan Police figures show that no young person lost his or her life as a direct result of knife crime in the 12 months to August 2015 — down from 11 and six in the previous two years.

NASSA Chief Executive Natasha Hart MBE said: “There were so many amazing charities at the Charity Times Awards all doing such wonderful work, so for NASSA to be singled out in the Community category speaks volumes for the work done by Anthony and all of the NASSA coaches and supporters.”

NASSA receives minibus from Dennis and a visit from the Russian Ambassador

In the tenth anniversary year of its first informal basketball session in an east London park, Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) has received its first minibus, from former Chelsea and England footballer Dennis Wise on behalf of the Dennis Wise and Frankham Consultancy Group Trust.

The 17-seater vehicle will be used to transport NASSA’s seven age group teams to away Basketball England National League fixtures. It will also be used to help support disabled young people who attend NASSA’s inclusive wheelchair basketball sessions.

With many of NASSA’s 100 club members in attendance, as well as NASSA founder and Chief Executive Natasha Hart and Head Coach Chris Facey, the presentation of the minibus was made at the University of East London’s SportsDock building. The ribbon was cut by a special invitee to the event, the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Mr Alexander Yakovenko.

Dennis Wise said the choice of NASSA as recipients of a minibus marked a departure from the Trust’s usual policy, but added that the east London welcome he and his fellow trustees Steve Frankham and Becky Bosman had received from the NASSA coaches, parents and players confirmed to them that they had made the right decision.

He said: “Everything we do is for kids, so that was an important factor. We normally donate minibuses to special needs kids and Down’s Syndrome kids, but we know that Natasha has been trying for a long, long time to help the situation at NASSA.

“As a group, we looked at it and we felt it was a good cause. Coming here today, seeing the bus and all of the kids, as well as seeing Chris the coach, who’s fantastic, you can see it’s going to be a worthy cause. We’re really pleased that we have done this today. Good luck to them all.

“It’s lovely to be part of the NASSA family now. Natasha’s invited us to come back in September for their 10-year anniversary event. If I’m around, I’d love to pop back to say ‘Hi’ and make sure that there are no dents in the bus!”

Natasha Hart added: “We cannot say thank you enough to Dennis, Steve and everyone at the Frankham Group Charitable Trust. This minibus will make a huge difference to NASSA and to all of the players’ parents who have spent so much money over the years helping us take the teams to games.

“It is a really special feeling that they thought of us as worthy of receiving one of their minibuses and we will always have a smile on our faces when we see their name on it.”

Mr Yakovenko said: “It’s a great pleasure for me to be a guest at this very special event today. Team sports are all about uniting people regardless of their religion and race and the Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) is a perfect example of a charity that does just that.

“Having won all the existing awards in this sport, the Newham All Star Sports Academy has been hugely successful, and most importantly, it has played a transformational role in the lives of local young people, providing high-quality community service in East London.

“NASSA’s trainees not only achieve athletic excellence but what is equally important, practice teamwork and understanding. They learn how to surpass themselves and how to win, how to think big and put their dreams into reality. These invaluable lessons in life will surely secure a better future for every young person involved. As a diplomat, I can fully appreciate the importance of this charity’s truly inspirational activity and I am especially proud to know that Ms Natasha Hart its founder and leader, is my compatriot.”

NASSA plays its home games at SportsDock as part of its community partnership with the University of East London (UEL). David Cosford, Director of Sport at UEL, said: “Today has been another milestone event. NASSA has been a great supporter of our institution and without NASSA’s commitment, our SportsDock home would not be the facility it is today. I hope that we can enjoy another 10 years of sporting success together.”