September 22, 2016

NBA planning to open youth basketball academies globally - including in India!


The global NBA basketball network is about to get a lot larger.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical broke the story yesterday about NBA's ambitious global programme, where they will be targeting the development of 14 to 18 years old basketball prospects in a huge grassroots project in Africa (specific countries not mentioned yet), China, Australia and, yes, India! According to The Vertical, the NBA will make a formal announcement about this programme soon.

If successful, a programme like this should help the NBA pinpoint the best young players in India from the age of 14, and then spend their resources and expertise on each of those players for the next four years to help develop their game. The end-point ambition for every young athlete will be, of course, to play in the NBA. But the programme will seek to have an educational and charitable angle, too: the NBA will save resources for the athletes higher education and other career options, beyond just the league itself.

More via The Vertical:

Photo via: Ekalavyas
The NBA’s mission is ambitious: Find the best young athletes on the planet – deliver them high-end training with a focus on fundamentals and education – and ultimately strengthen the league’s pool of potential players.

The NBA is still finalizing locations and contracts, and a formal announcement is expected in the near future.
The academy program will seek to serve players in the 14-to-18-year-old range, partnering with and upgrading existing facilities and educational institutions. Prospects will be scouted and identified throughout the regions and offered the chance to join a regional academy.
The program plans to work closely with players’ families and mentors to help them understand the academic component of the program and how that’ll assist them in achieving higher educational goals – regardless of how their basketball careers play out.
The NBA will provide coaching, strength and conditioning specialists, scouting, video and technical specialists, and will partner with local infrastructures to create what the NBA calls a “360 degree” development experience for the prospective players.
Elite prospects from other regions and countries with underdeveloped basketball infrastructures could be invited to Australia, where the NBA’s initiative will be headquartered. Australia will be considered a “catch-all” for high-level international talent, including players from beyond the initial scope of Africa, China and India.
The NBA wants to create a destination for young players that’ll give them an option beyond playing professionally at a young age overseas.

The NBA also is working to educate and train scouts and coaches in these regions to create ecosystems that’ll allow them to better administer the programs and develop the players in the long run.
The NBA will offer educational components that will include college scholarship funds for players to pursue higher-level education. For players who don’t earn scholarships or professional contracts – and even for those who do – a fund will be provided to draw upon for higher education.

For players interested in taking the professional route, agents will be allowed to meet with players in designated windows. The league believes that another natural extension of the global academies could come with the NBA Development League, which the NBA is planning to bolster. The D-League eventually could be a draw for elite players before they are draft-eligible.

This programme will allow the NBA to go out and nurture the talent themselves, instead of waiting for the end product to arrive to them on draft day. What this means is that, instead of waiting for state level federations or the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to identify and develop our players in their own, flawed way, the NBA will be able to give the best young Indian players a higher level of of coaching, administration, development, and educational options.

Every country has its own specialised conditions. In India, often the biggest loss is when young prospects with potential aren't discovered by top quality scouts/trainers until it is already too late for them. Lost opportunities have limited the potential of many star Indian players. Players who have NBA or at least NCAA potential at 14 have to eventually settle for competing only in Indian basketball. Stars like Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh are prime examples: both players, 24, are now two of Asia's top big men and have played professional basketball in Japan. But if their talents were scouted and improved upon in the right manner at the right age, both should have played college basketball and at least the NBA D-League in the US by now. Often, domestic conditions hamper the growth and opportunities for Indian players, the worst case of which has of course been the rift for the BFI's executive committee and the BFI's rift with the UBA League.

Instead of young Indian players getting stuck in the cobwebs of age-fraud, regional favouritism, infighting between federations and leagues, or unhelpful training and coaching practices, they will be honed with a directed focus to develop under the umbrella of the world's finest basketball association.

The league already has a hundred or so international players, many of them present and future superstars. For the NBA, their vested interest in developing more international talent will help basketball as a whole become a larger sport worldwide and help spread the NBA brand globally. If India, China, Ghana, Kenya, or Australia have more players in the NBA or in NBA contention, then those country's are more likely to become larger consumers of the NBA brand, too. Yao Ming's influence transformed China, and thus transformed the way basketball business is conducted worldwide. A similar effect could help grow the game and its influence in other countries, too.

By focusing on education and supporting the athletes beyond their NBA dreams, the league is also signalling that this programme will not just be about the money. There are only between 400 to 500 players every year that get to play in the NBA. Not everyone's hoop dreams are going to come true. With an educational or another foundation, the programme should be able to help these young players find success in other fields of life through basketball.

As Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress mentioned in this interview with Wojnarowski
, long-term, this programme should level the playing field - somewhat - between North American and foreign talents competing for spots in the NBA, the D-League, and NCAA programmes.

Hopefully, India can be one of those countries producing basketball talent to join that competition, too. Not every great young Indian player is going to make the NBA; but this programme should help young Indian players to make a career out of their basketball talents, and thus, encourage more youngsters to consider basketball. India already has a player - Satnam Singh - who was drafted by the NBA last year and is currently playing minor minutes in the D-League. Satnam's story was incredible, but his development mostly took place in Bradenton, Florida's IMG Academy after he was taken out of Punjab. Satnam had to arrive ready-made (sort-of) for the NBA; hopefully, this programme will help the NBA catch others like him and hone many more Satnams in India itself!

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