US’s NBA To Open First African Basketball Academy In Senegal

Written by Dana Sanchez

The US National Basketball Association (NBA) says it plans to open its first African training academy in Senegal early next year.

The elite NBA basketball training center will represent a major step forward in the continent’s player development, according to ESPN.

It will be sixth in the NBA’s global network of elite training academies. The NBA started three academies in China (Hangzhou, Jinan and Urumqi) in October. It has plans for the NBA Global Academy in Australia and NBA Academy India, expected to open in 2017 in Delhi.

Each academy will be staffed by NBA-trained coaches focusing on player development, education, leadership, character development and life skills for male and female prospects, ESPN reported.

Several Africans have played for top teams in the NBA league.

Amadou Gallo Fall, the NBA’s vice president for Africa, is originally from Senegal. The pan-African academy will use its network to scout for players from around the continent, BBC reported.

He said the players will have access to facilities and resources available to elite players including nutritionists, personal coaches and physiotherapists, at a center in Thies, 40 miles east of the capital, Dakar.

Senegal’s national teams – men and women – have traditionally been among the strongest in Africa, according to BBC.

He said 14 African-born players on the NBA opening roster this year came from the NBA’s grassroots program, Basket Without Borders, including Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng and Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam.

From BBC:

Fall added the NBA had a long association with the continent, citing legendary players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol and Dikembe Mutombo.

“That generation has paved the way and they’ve inspired and ushered a significant number of other young players over the years, a lot of them from Senegal,” he said.

The NBA launched three academy centres in China in October, one in India last month and is planning to open another global centre based in Australia.

The international academies are for boys and girls at under-16 and under-18 level. They’re “the biggest investment the NBA has ever made in basketball development globally,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international basketball operations, AP reported:

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 regular-season game in Africa. At the time, Silver said the NBA was on a “fast track” to build a brand in soccer-crazy Africa.