By Neto Baptiste

Teams competing in the Antigua & Barbuda Basketball Association’s (ABBA) Division 1 for the 2017 domestic season, will play for more than twice the prize monies received by last year’s winners, F&G Cutie Ovals Ojays.

This is according to the ABBA President, Daryl Matthew, who revealed on Monday that the YiDa International Investment Group has pumped $10,000 into this year’s competition, which will go towards the winning team.

“We struggled initially to get some corporate partners on board, but as we have progressed over the past three years going into four years, that support has been very forthcoming and I think there is a lot of confidence now in basketball,” he said.

“Basketball left from a position where, for four consecutive years, you never produced even interim financials. You had four different treasurers because they were resigning every year, to where we now have very regular scheduled audits; there is a lot of confidence in the sport. That manifested itself last week when I was approached by a company who indicated that they, for 2017, will offer prize monies of $10,000 to the Division 1 champions,” he added.

The new injection of funds increases the prize monies by 150 per cent. Last year’s winners received $4,000.

Matthew is optimistic that the added incentive will motivate teams to raise the standard even higher than that of last year.

“I hope that teams see this as a huge incentive. I know that there are some teams earnestly preparing but $10,000 in prize money is unprecedented in basketball here in Antigua, and I really expect teams to put their best foot forward. I want to thank YiDa and Johann Hesse [government liaison] for this initiative,” the basketball boss said

Not forgetting those who have contributed continuously to the growth of the competition, Matthew said their support has helped to make the league what it is.

“The Cool & Smooth group with Amir Hourani and his team down there are one of the retailers of uniforms, so I encourage teams who have not yet purchased their uniforms to do that. We have Digicel, our title sponsors who are once again on board in a huge way and without these

, basketball really would not be possible in Antigua & Barbuda to the extent that it is,” he said.

The 2017 national basketball programme is slated to shoot off on Sunday at the JSC basketball complex.