For most young aspiring cagers, learning to play under the tutelage of world-class NBA coaches may no longer be a far-fetched dream.
The Jr. NBA may soon arrive on Singapore’s shores with the recent formation of the Jr. NBA Asia Advisory Council as part of the league’s expanded efforts to encourage participation and active lifestyles among youths in the region.
A premier grassroots development campaign, the Jr. NBA prides itself in the ability of its coaching staff and holistic programme and it caters mainly to children aged five to 14. Five Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) have already jumped on board.
NBA legend and 2015 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dikembe Mutombo and NBA Asia’s managing director Scott Levy were both in town for the second meeting of the council on Wednesday (6 April).
Mutombo said, “I don’t think there are any other leagues in the world with such a great programme to reach out to our youth at this moment, and we’ll use whatever resources we have in our platform to make sure that we succeed.”
The 49-year-old added, “We have a goal to reach out to about a couple of million kids in the next couple of years. If we can reach out to about 30 to 40 million kids, it’ll be great and that’s my goal as an NBA global ambassador.”
Levy said that talks are currently underway between NBA Asia and Sport Singapore and is hopeful that the programme would be launched in the near future.
Vital to the success of the Jr. NBA are collaborations with local governing bodies to accelerate existing infrastructure in youth development and a re-launch of its digital platforms, which will allow access to free instructional programmes for those who missed out on open clinics.
Advanced camps for higher ability levels
The programme also caters to the different ability levels and Levy highlighted that reception in the Philippines, often known for its strength in the sport in Southeast Asia, has been overwhelming.
“Because a lot of the players (in Philippines) have been playing for a while and they have their own programmes, we can do more advanced camps and more elite camps. We already have top players that have come through Jr. NBA that are now playing in the top universities such as Ateneo. We also have one player that’s actually in the Philippine Basketball Association.”
While he did not reveal details, Levy said that the council has plans through 2025. “It’s continuing to evolve as we seek the input from the advisory council. The programme actually has a legacy that goes beyond the regional Southeast Asia.”
Optimistic that the campaign will no doubt raise basketball standards, Levy cautioned that the Jr. NBA is not to be mistaken with an elite development programme that helps raise talents to be playing at a professional level.
He explained, “For a lot of the kids in the other countries, we’re introducing them to basketball and we’re using basketball as the vehicle to create more complete individuals and teach them positive values and attitudes, so that they can use what we teach in life later on.
“We hope that more kids will continue to play after the programme. Maybe they’ll play in their high school team, maybe they’ll play for the national team and a very small number will maybe play in the NBA, but more importantly, they will learn that sport is an important part of life and by staying active, they will be more successful in whatever they choose to do.”