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Belmopan rising star to play in Long Island, New York

Photo: Belize selection practicing against Benny’s Belize Hurricanes

Jayden Lopez, son of basketball star, Aubrey Lopez, has been selected to play with the Ahmadiyya basketball team in New York after his outstanding performance in the Ahmadiyya Basketball League in Belize City.

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 24, 2023

As the 8th season of the Ahmadiyya Basketball League (ABL) came to an end a few weeks ago, a journey began for the selection of 10 of its outstanding male players under 25 years of age who are scheduled to depart the country over the weekend to participate in the 9th Masroor International Sports Tournament in Long Island, New York, held from May 26 to 29, 2023.

While financing is primarily being provided by the National Sports Council and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize, the players were also encouraged to seek out sponsors as part of an effort to foster public exposure for these young athletes.

Among the selected ten outstanding players, 21-year-old Jayden Lopez of Belmopan has been recognized by the national media due to his recent sponsorship by the Belmopan City Mayor, Sharon Palacio.

“Mr. Arslan had asked us to reach out to sponsors for the trip, so throughout social media I’ve been asking people for sponsorship, and I guess I caught the eye of the Belmopan City Council and Mayor Sharon Palacio,” Lopez briefly told AMANDALA on Tuesday.

Arslan Warraich, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize, commented, “… We encourage all the players to fundraise. That way — and we feel this is a very important part of it – [as] you see Jayden is a perfect example of that, when these guys are going out and are trying their level best to get sponsors and help, then they’re getting that respect. So that exposure, he doesn’t really get that anywhere else.”

Lopez has shown an unwavering passion for basketball from the tender age of three, and has been following in the footsteps of his late father, basketball star Aubrey Lopez. He has played for numerous teams across the country, including the Aubrey Eagles, the Belmopan Trojans, Venom in Benque, and most recently, he completed his first semi-pro season with the Belmopan Red Taigaz in this current BEBL season.

In addition to being a player, Lopez is actively involved in mentoring younger teams, including the “Pee-wees” in Belmopan. His coach, Aldo Manzanero, greatly admires Lopez’s leadership role and has seen remarkable growth and development in his basketball career.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize, the organization that spearheaded the ABL this year and is responsible for escorting the team to the international tournament, views this opportunity as a redemption season, following their narrow defeat by a buzzer-beater in 2019, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With such a short time for preparation, however, the team has been investing a substantial number of hours in their pre-tournament training regimen.

“We haven’t had much practice time, and we have a lot of things to put in place before we travel. Of course, synergy is a very hard thing to get with basketball, to get the guys to “gel” and play together and trust each other takes a little bit of time. So, right now we are working against the clock, but we’ve had some success and we’ll see more success to come,” explained head coach Manzanero.

Lopez, for his part, looks forward to the games, crediting his preparation for his lack of nervousness. He shared, “When you’re nervous it is because you failed to prepare, so I don’t feel nervous.”

Lopez plans to continue honing his skills and aspires to secure a professional basketball contract outside of Belize.

The team is scheduled to play four games on their first day, with their success determining the sequence of their following games.

A live stream of the tournament can be accessed through the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize Facebook page or their Instagram page under the handle “ahmadiyyabelize.”