NBA ACADEMY GAMES (JULY 2019)
The third annual NBA Academy Games took place July 9-14 at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex in Atlanta, Georgia, the official practice facility of the Atlanta Hawks. The series of exhibition games featured 70 prospects from NBA Academies based in Australia, China, India, Mexico, and Senegal, along with two International Select teams and The Skills Factory, a domestic based team. The event was held during an NCAA live recruiting period and open to NBA team personnel, which resulted in 200+ NCAA coaches and 18 NBA personnel attending to observe and scout the Academy prospects over the course of the week. This was the first time the NBA Academy Games has been held in the United States – the location and partnership with the Atlanta Hawks allowed for a world class event that has begun to make shifts within the NCAA recruiting world. The prospects were also led through daily life-skills seminars focusing on education, health and wellness, leadership, and communication.
Atlanta is the hub of elite grassroots basketball during the NCAA live recruiting period in July and the NBA Academy Games proved to be a unique and significant recruiting and scouting event. Impressive performances by Academy athletes from each region in the first few days created a palpable buzz within the NCAA coaching community. On the final day, 124 NCAA coaches were in attendance to watch the Academy Games championship game between the NBA Global Academy and World Select Blue (a team comprised of International Select players largely based in Europe).
NBA Global Academy won the championship game for a second straight year and several of their players proved to be must-see talent for high major NCAA coaches. Mojave King (Australia/New Zealand), Santiago Vescovi (Uruguay), and Joshua Giddey (Australia) all emerged as high major prospects throughout the event drawing the likes of University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart, University of Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, and University of Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger (along with his entire staff) on the final two days.
Prospects from each regional Academy got significant exposure and performed at a high level. The influx of NCAA coaches at the event resulted in recruiting interest of athletes within the NBA key priority markets.
The Academy Games were live-streamed for the first time on the NBA's YouTube page. Additionally, the NBA Academy Games website hosts all game video and statistics. The website leverages Scorebreak’s platform, a game film review app, which allows for users to engage with an interactive box score. One can filter by participating team and watch full game film or drill down into any player or team statistic to watch a clip of that play. The NBA Academy Games website was shared with all NCAA coaches in attendance and received incredibly positive feedback.
TERRY LI FROM NBA GLOBAL ACADEMY SIGNS WITH NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS (JULY 2019)
NBA Global Academy athlete Tianrong “Terry” Li, a 19 year-old 6’2" point guard from China, signed a professional contract with the New Zealand Breakers. Li played in the NCAA Next Generation Showcase and NBA Academy Games in 2018 with NBA Academy China prior to making the jump to the NBA Global Academy. With the NBA Global Academy, Li played against his now Breakers teammate, RJ Hampton, in the NBA Academy & USA Basketball Junior National Team scrimmages as a part of the 2019 NCAA Next Generation Showcase.
BWB AFRICA (JULY 2019)
The NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program, Basketball Without Borders, successfully engaged 160 of the top U17 boys and 100 of the top U17 girls from 92 different countries across four summer camps. The camps, which were held in Latvia, Colombia, Senegal and Japan, featured 44 current or former NBA/WNBA players and 29 NBA coaches and team executives.
In late July, the 17th edition of Basketball Without Borders Africa tipped off at the NBA Academy Africa in Saly, Senegal. The camp hosted 60 of the most talented boys and girls from 29 African countries, including six boys and five girls from the NBA Academy Africa program. Hosting the first day of camp at the Academy provided a unique opportunity for NBA players, head coaches, and senior leadership – including Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum – to experience first-hand the effect of the NBA’s investment into the growth of the game on the continent. The New York Times shared that sentiment in an article published just prior to the start of camp, The N.B.A. Is Pushing Into Africa. Can It Compete With Soccer?: “The idea, in part, is to strengthen the pipeline of players to the N.B.A., but also to create a robust basketball landscape in Africa itself, and to elevate the sport here to soccer’s star status.”
The following days of camp were held at the recently constructed Dakar Arena. Despite the location change, the imprint of the Academy remained as Academy athletes were identified as the top four prospects from the event per ESPN’s Mike Schmitz. In his article on the rising NBA Africa draft pipeline, Schmitz detailed the standout performance on Samuel Ariyibi (Nigeria):
“The clear-cut MVP of the camp, Ariyibi kept his foot on the gas all four days, shining as a slashing, playmaking wing who defends multiple positions with incredible energy at 6-foot-8. He has made tremendous strides since joining the NBA Academy Africa in October 2018, fine-tuning his ballhandling and playmaking while becoming more of a threat in midrange spots, though shooting remains his biggest weakness.”
Ariyibi was award the Boys Camp MVP and, fellow Academy classmate, Mohab Yasser Abdelaty Abdalatib (Egypt) received the Boys All Star Game MVP award. On the girls side, Bineta Diatta (Senegal) from the NBA Academy Africa Women's Program took home the Girls Camp MVP.
Amplifying the energy and excitement surrounding BWB Africa, Basketball Africa League (BAL) President Amadou Gallo Fall announced the host cities where the inaugural BAL regular season will take place and Kigali, Rwanda as the host city for the first-ever BAL Final Four and BAL Final. Additionally, the BAL announced NIKE and Jordan Brand will be the exclusive outfitter. The announcements were made at the NBA Africa Reception the night prior to the last day of camp. Furthermore, during Media Day for the Los Angeles Clippers leading up to the 2019-20 season, Doc Rivers spoke highly of his experience at BWB Africa this summer and advocated for more NBA players and coaches to take part.
BWB ASIA (AUGUST 2019)
BWB Asia was fittingly held in Tokyo, Japan this year as BWB alumnus Rui Hachimura (BWB Global 2016; Toronto), became the first Japanese-born player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. In the midst of World Cup training with the Japanese National Team, Hachimura attended camp to meet with BWB campers and youth clinic participants. The camp brought in 64 top-level boys and girls players from the Asia-Pacific region, including four NBA Academy male athletes and two girls from the NBA Academy Women’s Program.
Academy athletes impressed throughout the week, especially NBA Global Academy athlete Junseok Yeo (Korea) who was named Boys Camp MVP. Additionally, NBA Academy India athlete Amaan Sandhu (India) was named to the Boys All Star team. Sandhu’s coach throughout the week, Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell referenced him in a Japan Times article when discussing the importance of the BWB program to the growth of the game: “A kid from Australia is telling his friend that I played with this big guy named Amaan, (a 208-cm center), from India who’s a beast out there on the basketball court. That’s amazing. I wish I had that opportunity as a kid to do that — play against someone from different countries.”
On the girls side, two NBA Academy India Women's Program athletes, Harsimran "Honey" Kaur (India) and Siya Deodhar (India), were named to the Girls All Star Team. The continued evolution of Kaur's game since participating the 2019 NCAA Next Generation Showcase was on full display at BWB Asia. As a result, following the upcoming NBA Academy India Women's Camp in early October, Kaur will be invited for a four week training session at the NBA Global Academy. The superior development opportunity in Australia will hopefully result in another major success out of the NBA Academy India Women's Program following Sanjana Ramesh's commitment to Northern Arizona earlier this year.
NBA ACADEMY AT THE G-League International CHALLENGE
Santiago Vescovi, a Uruguayan point guard enrolled at the NBA Global Academy, was selected to play with Uruguay’s Elite Team (a team of top talent selected by Uruguay’s Men’s National Team staff) in the NBA's first-ever international tournament, the G-League International Challenge (GLIC). As one of the youngest participants, Vescovi impressively helped lead his team to a third-place finish with his stellar performance, including a well-rounded 10 point, 5 assist, and 4 rebound showing in a 81-71 victory over Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico. As noted in USA Today's feature on Vescovi:
"The event for Vescovi proved to be a great opportunity to play against some of the top players from around the world, like the G League Elite Team and Bayern Munchen of Germany, which features former NBA players like Greg Monroe, Paul Zipser and Josh Huestis. Vescovi recorded 15 points and three rebounds against Bayern Munchen."
As a part of the GLIC in Uruguay, Vescovi's former team, NBA Academy Latin America, partnered with FIBA and the Uruguayan Basketball Federation to showcase top elite talent in Latin America in a two-day tournament. With seven recent additions welcomed to the program, NBA Academy Latin America split into two evenly balanced teams to compete against a FIBA Americas Youth Development Program Elite Team and Uruguay's Junior Elite Team.
NBA ACADEMY PLAYERS AT THE JR. NBA GLOBAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Following a standout performance in last year’s inaugural Jr. NBA Global Championship (JNGC), Marouf Moumine (NBA Academy Africa; Cameroon) shined again this August leading his team to the Global Championship Game while averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists in the international bracket. He received the Determination Award for the second year in a row, as well, being recognized as the player who consistently dedicated the time, energy, and work ethic needed to excel on and off the court.
Team India had a drastically improved JNGC from 2018 and were led by NBA Academy India athletes Harsh Dagar and Lokendra Singh. India opened the tournament strong with a victory over Team Latin America – Dagar tallied 26pts, 6rebs, 3ast, 7stl and Singh added 28pts, 8reb, 2ast, 2stl, 8blk.
OUMAR BALLO LEADS MALI TO FIBA U19 WORLD CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NBA Academy athletes performed well at the FIBA U19 World Cup Championship in July, particularly NBA Academy Latin America student-athlete Oumar Ballo who led Mali on a historic run to the championship game. Mali was the first African country to ever make the quarterfinals in this events history. Ballo's teammate at the Academy, Jermaine Miranda Perez, helped lead Puerto Rico to the quarterfinals where they eventually lost to Mali. Ballo and Miranda Perez are now freshmen at Gonzaga University and Hofstra University, respectively. were taken out by Mali. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla tweeted that Mali's performance demonstrated "how far the continent of Africa has come in basketball in last decade." ESPN's Jonathan Givony also highlighted Mali's historic performance and went in depth on Ballo as one of the top NBA prospects from the tournament:
“Ballo is a force inside the paint at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds with a massive 7-6 wingspan and 9-5 standing reach, moving opponents around with his powerful frame and brute force. He's also highly skilled, with soft hands, nimble feet, an array of moves spinning off opponents and an increasingly polished turnaround jumper, featuring a high release and excellent touch… Ballo is not a perfect fit in the modern game, but there is still a place in the NBA for a highly skilled, highly productive big man who can dominate smaller opponents in spurts.”
NBA GLOBAL ACADEMY DEFEATS NCAA D1 TEAMS
In preparation for the start of the college basketball season, California Baptist University and Creighton University traveled to Australia as a part of their international exhibition tours. NBA Global Academy played each team in Canberra, beating Cal Baptist by a score of 85-80 and Creighton by a score of 79-66. A balanced attack on offense helped defeat Creighton with Blake Jones (Australia), Aly Khalifa (Egypt), and Tamuri Wigness (Australia) all scoring in double digits.
NBA BASKETBALL SCHOOLS
The year-round NBA Basketball School Dubai program launched in September with former NBA Academy India Technical Director, Jacques Vandescure, as the new NBA Basketball School Dubai Technical Director. NBA Basketball School Dubai is the first-ever Basketball School in the Middle East.
The NBA Basketball School Brazil program was featured on the front cover of one of the most important and well known Brazilian newspapers, Estadão. The article details the program growth since launch: in less than a year, the program has reached more than 60 licensed schools/clubs in 35 cities and 16 states with 5,000+ players between the ages of 6-18.
In addition, the program was featured on “esporte Espetacular”, a TV show on Globo TV, the biggest free to air television network in Brazil. The show focused on Mariana, an 11 year old girl who suffered a brain injury that recently received a scholarship to join the NBA Basketball School program. She started playing basketball to follow in her brother's footsteps who is also playing basketball in the NBA Basketball School Brazil program. Basketball really changed her life and improved her condition.