Toronto East Basketball Association welcomes community support for empowerment program helping local youngsters

Ayola Matti is a member of the Toronto East Basketball Association's executive team. Photo: Submitted.

By JESSICA SHACKLETON

As summer approaches, youth basketball training program Empowerment Basketball Club is looking for community support to expand its program. The organization wants to connect with local businesses who see the value in elevating youth through participation in sports.

The program is part of  the Toronto East Basketball Association (TEBA), a non-profit organization for marginalized youth in Toronto’s east end that focuses on developing success on and off the court. They help participants refine their sports skills while also guiding them in seeking their interests and passions.

It’s the kind of program Ayola Matti realized he would love to be a part of once he finished high school and went on to play university basketball on a scholarship in the United States.

“After you remove yourself you see the landscape and want to make a change,” he said.

The program’s original location was at Crescent Town Community Centre, and the program is now looking to expand. The club also rented from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) but space is limited in schools during the summer. Last year, from April to August, the TEBA had around 50 kids participating.

The east end of the Toronto produces a lot of great athletes, said Matti, but bigger programs get more attention.

“People depend on free programs,but for it to be free it has to be funded,” said Matti, who is part of the TEBA’s executive team.

Matti grew up around Greenwood and Danforth avenues and played basketball at the Beaches Recreation Centre as a youngster.

He played his high school basketball at Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute on Phin Avenue and went on to play National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball in the United States at Lamar University in Texas and Canisius University in Buffalo.

When Matti returned to Toronto in 2010, he visited his old stomping grounds and saw that the school gym was in the same condition as it was when he left, still with wooden backboards.

“It was sad,” he said. “This school produced NCAA quality players and it was the same as it was left.”

He was able to raise money and donate glass backboards hoping the school would be able to upgrade its gym. Eastern Commerce closed its doors as a community high school in 2015, and is now home to a number of TDSB programs as well as being the site of the Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School.

Matti’s favourite part about being involved with the TEBA and the empowerment program is seeing the personal development of the young participants.

“That’s what it’s about, a helping hand,” said Matti.

Sports and everything that goes along with it are a passion that Matti always comes back to. Whenever he meets an athlete, he emphasizes the importance of sacrifice, passion, time, and dedication.

Organizations like the TEBA are vital in creating space for everyone to play, and Matti welcomes support from community members for the empowerment program.

To learn more about the TEBA, please visit https://tebabasketball.com/


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