Ontario Basketball and Dairy Farmers of Ontario team up to recognize outstanding athletes with the OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award

The Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) and Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) have come together to shine a light on some incredibly deserving young basketball athletes in the province and their contributions on and off the court. The revised partnership allows us to highlight the personalities and achievements of eight young basketball players, and provide opportunities to help them succeed as they work to achieve their hoop dreams.

Funding from our DFO partner enabled OBA to create the OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award, in recognition of the impact the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer has had in representing the diversity and passion of the basketball community in this province.

“DFO is happy to partner with the Ontario Basketball Association as part of our MilkUp program, which was created with youth success in mind. Under the MilkUP brand, we commit to providing a meaningful, measurable and enduring effect on youth sports and highlight the benefits of milk in a healthy, active lifestyle at all ages and skill levels,” said Cheryl Smith, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Ontario. “The creation of the OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award reflects the value we share in supporting youth to achieve their full potential. Partnering with the OBA allows us to recognize these outstanding athletes and their contributions to their communities. Every dollar that goes into this program represents direct investment from a real person – a dairy farmer – and we are very proud of the support we provide to youth activity and opportunity, where they live and work.”

In May 2021 Nav Bhatia became the first-ever fan inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The most recognizable superfan on the sidelines, Nav has attended every Raptors game since the inception of the franchise in 1995, becoming an icon in his courtside seats and taking pride in his team while celebrating the culture and the people involved in the game he loves.

“We would like to thank DFO for their continued support to the basketball community in these unprecedented times when our young athletes need it the most in order to reach their full potential,” said Claude Nembhard, Executive Director of Ontario Basketball. “Our shared values in promoting a healthy, active lifestyle will help us highlight some of the amazing young people who participate in Ontario Basketball’s programs and help them achieve their post-secondary goals and inspire lifelong success both on and off the court.”

The OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award will be presented to two male and two female student athletes who have participated in OBA programs and have committed to a Canadian post-secondary basketball program. Selection will be made based on their commitment on the court, in the classroom and in their communities. Each winner will receive a bursary of $5,000 on behalf of Nav Bhatia from DFO.

“Basketball has changed my life. My love for this game has given me an opportunity to bring people together,” said Nav Bhatia. “Embracing diversity is our strength and thanks to OBA and DFO, we will be able to honour and support four courageous ballers who are committed not only on the court but off the court as well. Much like some of our great players, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, what you do in your community can inspire others for generations. This is what the essence of this award is.”

Submissions for the OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award open on Aug. 18, 2021, and the applicant or nominator must complete the application form and submit it to Ontario Basketball by 5 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2021. Each application will be reviewed by a panel, including Nav, and recipients will be notified on Sept. 13.

Judging will be made on five criteria: commitment on the court, achievement in the classroom, impact on their community, demonstration of sportsmanship and of experience with Ontario Basketball programs. Further information and criteria will be available when the applications launch.

Ontario Basketball’s Team Ontario provincial team program has gone virtual this summer season with sessions already underway for the top female and male athletes. At the end of each season, the coaches vote for the Hazel Miner female and James Rose male award winners at both the U15 and U17 level “who uphold the finest qualities of sport in their pursuit of excellence.”

Past recipients of the Team Ontario awards have included basketball stars Kia Nurse, Cory Joseph, Laeticia Amihere, Andrew Nembhard, and Bridget Carleton. View past winners of OBA’s James Rose and Hazel Miner awards.

Each of the four last winners will receive a profile video filmed on their homecourt that will debut in August. Congratulations to Isaline Alexander, Darius DeAveiro, Lemyah Hylton and Bronson Chambers.

As part of the Team Ontario Awards, and to encourage the next rising stars playing at the nationals level, DFO is contributing $20,000 to the Team Ontario fund to help players offset travel and accommodations costs when they travel to national championships to show the country that Ontario’s got game.

Together, OBA and DFO are investing in the fundamentals that will leave a lasting impact on the success of youth in Ontario.