A new program at the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson, is helping get girls involved in basketball on and off the court.

I want to build something really special, and this vision is helping women and making a difference and Im so excited,” Arizona Women’s Basketball Coach, Adia Barnes said.

Barnes knew she wanted to give young girls someone to look up to.

I didnt have any female role models, because there werent any,” Barnes admitted. “We didnt have the WNBA, there wasnt any avenue to do anything later, so we didnt aspire to do these things. I just think about all the opportunities I didnt have. I didnt have a ‘Lisa Leslie’ to look up to, there wasnt any ‘Asia Wilson.'”

During a Nike Think-Tank, Barnes came up with the idea to work with the Boys and Girls Club to create the “Adia Barnes Sports and Leadership Academy.”

“So, I wanted to create something where we didnt have to play on the boys’ team, and we could have a program of our own,” Barnes said.

Barnes, like many of her players, grew up going to recreation centers, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs.

We are all about creating opportunities,” Boys and Girls Club of Tucson Club House Director Nigel Bigbee shared. “We are giving ladies the ages of 7 to 17 an opportunity to go play basketball or get interested, and its not just about basketball right now.”

Bigbee has plans to further this program off the court as well. They plan on having opportunities for girls to practice team photography, social media expertise and so much more.

Itll be female led, leading young females, reffed by females, all the master classes and mentorships will be led by females,” Bigbee said.

Leagues are set to start in 2024, but the Academy will launch towards the end of this year with a special event highlighting the first cohort girls.