NBA to open acad­emy in Africa in 2017

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

THIES: The NBA will open an acad­emy in Africa next year, its lat­est move to un­earth tal­ent from out­side the United States and ex­tend the league’s reach into new ter­ri­to­ries.

The African acad­emy will be based in Thies, Sene­gal, and fol­lows sim­i­lar NBA projects opened this year in China, which has three academies, and Aus­tralia. An­other acad­emy in In­dia is set to start op­er­at­ing in April. The NBA aims to open the Sene­gal acad­emy, its sixth, in May. The in­ter­na­tional academies, elite train­ing cen­ters for boys and girls at un­der-16 and un­der-18 level, are “the big­gest in­vest­ment the NBA has ever made in bas­ket­ball de­vel­op­ment glob­ally,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice pres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions. “We are mov­ing full force ahead and are re­ally ex­cited by the progress we’ve made,” Meek told The As­so­ci­ated Press. A record 26 in­ter­na­tional play­ers were se­lected in the 2016 NBA draft. Along with the new play­ers, the NBA’s push into Asia and Africa, specif­i­cally, pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant new au­di­ences and mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the league.

The NBA has made two big plays in Africa over the last year-and-a-half, hold­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion game in South Africa in Au­gust 2015, the first on the con­ti­nent, and sign­ing a new trans-African broad­cast deal in April.

NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver was in Johannesburg for the ex­hi­bi­tion game and said it was part of the league’s plan to have a pre-sea­son and then reg­u­larsea­son game in Africa. At the time, Sil­ver said the NBA was on a “fast track” to build a brand in soc­cer-crazy Africa.

The new acad­emy in Sene­gal will fo­cus on elite tal­ent de­vel­op­ment, said Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for Africa. For the last 15 years the NBA has laid the foun­da­tion, us­ing its in­ter­na­tional Bas­ket­ball with­out Bor­ders camps to de­velop the game at a grass-roots level in Africa and else­where.

Those Bas­ket­ball with­out Bor­ders camps have al­ready pro­vided nine NBA play­ers from Africa, in­clud­ing Luc Mbah a Moute of the Los Angeles Clip­pers, who is from Cameroon. For its new acad­emy, the NBA will work with and use ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties set up by Sports for Ed­u­ca­tion and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, an in­ter­na­tional NGO, which has also had suc­cess af­ter pro­duc­ing the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves for­ward Gorgui Dieng. The NBA will pro­vide NBA-trained coaches and other sup­port staff for the acad­emy.

“We’ve had a grow­ing num­ber of play­ers com­ing from the con­ti­nent and this is re­ally with­out a con­certed ef­fort or fo­cus on elite tal­ent de­vel­op­ment,” Fall said. “Now we’re de­cid­ing to fo­cus on that. Not only is the num­ber of play­ers com­ing into the league from Africa go­ing to in­crease, but they’re go­ing to come bet­ter pre­pared.”

The NBA will be­gin scout­ing for the African acad­emy’s first class of 12 young play­ers this week, Fall said.

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