The NBA is undertaking a substantial initiative to open global basketball academies that target the recruitment and development of teenage players to create pathways to higher education and professional basketball, league sources told The Vertical.
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 initial push of development academies is starting in Africa, China, India and Australia.
The NBA’s vice president of international operations, Brooks Meek, is among the league executives coordinating the program. 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.
Other global regions are expected to be included in the program over time. Through its Basketball Without Borders program, the NBA has been exposed to tremendous athletic talent and wants to build upon those seasonal camps with a full-time investment.
The NBA is working with coaches and officials on these continents to create scouting mechanisms to identify the most promising young players and work with their families to bring them into the system. 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. Around the NBA, some have described it as being similar to the old “G.I. Bill.”
For those uninterested or unable to pursue a college education, there will be vocational and life-skills training that partners with basketball.
Like the USA Basketball system, there will be mini-camps throughout the year in these countries – with travel and academy teams touring Europe and the United States to play against stronger competition.
The NBA will provide evaluation windows for the older players that will eventually be open to college coaches interested in recruiting them on scholarships.
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.
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