Australia plays host to NBA Academy Games

Basketball Australia, in collaboration with the NBA, is currently hosting the second annual NBA Academy Games and BA Prospects Camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

The week-long showcase features prospects from NBA Academies in Australia, China, India, Mexico and Senegal, along with five teams comprised of 50 top prospects from Australia, including Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence team. Participants will engage in a series of exhibition games, on-court drills, professional skill development and daily life skills sessions.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Pick and Roll, Chris Ebersole, the NBA’s Elite Basketball Business Operations Lead, offered a glimpse into why the NBA has invested in nurturing the next generation of global basketballers.

“Our goal is to offer as many resources as we can to these young prospects,” Ebersole explained. “The goal is to be able to help the participants develop on and off the court.

“Throughout this week, we provide exposure to high level coaches on the court, [and] a high level of competition also. We are also focusing on off-the-court development. Things like life skills, character development, wellness, strength and conditioning; we really want the participants to understand that development is a holistic approach. That it’s not just about what happens between the lines, but also what happens off the court as well.”

The NBA Academy Games brings together more than 120 prospects, representing 18 countries, for a basketball camp especially designed to equip the next generation of athletes. The initiative exposes elite prospects to NBA-level coaching, facilities, competition and provides a global framework for them to maximise their success.

“Education is definitely a focus,” Ebersole said. “All of our NBA Academy athletes are full-time students and we definitely place a strong emphasis on academics.

“Our mission with this program is to maximise the potential of all these players, and given them the tools to do so.

“At the end of this program, when they graduate the program, we want them to have every door open. In terms of their basketball careers and their academic careers as well. Whether that’s going on to play professionally in the NBA or WNBA, playing professionally in the G League or overseas, or college in the USA. We want them to have access to all of those opportunities.”

This week’s camp is the second NBA Academy Games event held in Canberra, with the concept debuting in 2017. NBA Academy coaches implement a curriculum developed by leading player development coaches, with each drill tailor made to basketball fundamentals. The aim is to assist NBA Academy student-athletes improve individually and as teammates.

“We did this event last year in Canberra,” Ebersole said. “Our NBA Global Academy is based in Canberra. We share a facility with Basketball Australia’s centre of excellence. We are partnered with Basketball Australia and the AIS.

“The facilities are outstanding. The coaching is outstanding. We’ve used Basketball Australia’s centre of excellence as a model, and now as a partner for our global academy program. It’s been great being back here once again.”

Some of Australia’s leading teenage prospects are present in Canberra this week, with the likes of Tamuri Wigness, Luke Travers, Luke Jackson and Isaiah Lee all gaining exposure to elite basketball resources and global competition

Wigness, who is Australia’s most talent prospect at the camp, told The Pick and Roll that his preferred position is point guard.

“I have more control and I can get everyone involved,” Wigness said. “I know when to attack and setup teammates."

Wigness is an NBA Global Academy prospect and participating in the event for a second consecutive year. As for his biggest strengths on the court, Wigness knows the facets of game that make him a highly touted prospect.

“Being a leader,” Wigness explained, when quizzed on his strongest assets. “My speed also, I can get to the rim and create. Kickouts. Just being the leader on the team as the point guard.”

Wigness, along with his cohort of Australians playing in Canberra this week, represent further anecdotal evidence that Australian basketball is on the rise. And the NBA is paying attention.

“The NBA has strong ties to Australia,” Ebersole noted. “Especially given the number of players that have come through our league.

“I think we had eight NBA players from Australia last season. That number will only continue to grow. Obviously, with our NBA Global Academy being based in Australia, we have strong ties through that as well.

“We will definitely be back here often. Basketball Without Borders here in 2016 was a tremendous success. Now we hope to continue growing upon that.”