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Jr. NBA Global Championship Europe and Middle East Selection Camp Concludes in Bologna, Italy

- Ines Goryanova (Newham Youngbloods), Josh Kubacki (Manchester Giants), Andrew Melville (Sony Centre Fury) and Jenni Torrance (West Lothian Wolves) from the UK took part and gave their impressions -

The Jr. NBA Global Championship Europe and Middle East Selection Camp in partnership with Bologna Municipality and Bologna Welcome, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, concluded last week in Bologna. The week-long camp was held to determine the 10 boys and 10 girls, soon to be selected by a committee of coaches and NBA staff, who will represent the region in the second annual Jr. NBA Global Championship Aug. 6-11 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. 

Taking place April 30 – May 4 at the CUSB (Centro Universitario Sportivo Bologna), the camp featured 60 participants ages 13 and 14 years old from 24 of the European and Middle Eastern countries where Jr. NBA programs currently operate. Also in attendance to provide tutelage to the young players were former NBA player Boris Diaw (France), NBA Europe Ambassador Vladimir Radmanovic (Montenegro), Sports Envoys Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Casey Shaw as part of the U.S. Sports United program and USA Basketball Head Coach/Coach Director, Youth & Sport Development, Don Showalter

Each day saw the young players receive instruction from more than 20 coaches from across the region, four of whom will be selected to lead the respective boy and girls Europe/Middle East teams in the in Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando. Off the court, coaches took part in coaching seminars throughout the camp led by Showalter.

The winning boys and girl’s teams from each of the eight U.S. regional tournaments and the boys and girls teams representing the eight international regions (Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe & Middle East, India, Latin America and Mexico) will receive all-expenses-paid trips to compete in the culminating event in Orlando. 

The Jr. NBA, the league’s global youth basketball program for boys and girls, teaches the fundamental skills as well as the core values of the game – teamwork, respect, determination and community – at the grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents.  During the 2018-19 season, the NBA and its teams plan to reach more than 51M youth in 75 countries through league play, in-school programming, clinics, skills challenges, and other outreach events.

A selection of quotes from UK campers Ines Goryanova (Newham Youngbloods), Josh Kubacki (Manchester Giants), Andrew Melville (Sony Centre Fury) and Jenni Torrance can be found below, alongside quotes from NBA legend Boris Diaw, WNBA legend Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Director of Coach Development of the USA Basketball Youth Division Don Showalter.

Ines Goryanova – Newham Youngbloods

On the camp in Bologna

Ines: “The whole experience has been very enjoyable. It’s also been tough, but mostly enjoyable. I’ve worked hard and the coaches have helped me get through it. It’s really cool to have people from all over Europe here. It’s very competitive, but you can learn a lot from them and they can learn from you in return.”

On her chances to be selected for the Finals in Orlando

Ines: “I’m not 100% sure, because everyone is good here, so you have to work really hard to be selected. It would mean a lot to go to Orlando, I’ve worked really hard and I really want to do well.”

On the level of talent on display in Bologna

Ines: “Not really. I know that last year it was really high, so I expected it to be high.”

On the NBA and WNBA

Ines: “I follow the WNBA. I like Candace Parker [Los Angeles Sparks] a lot because she always helps her teammates out, she’s a great team player, selfless. I want to have my own style though.”

On the Newham Youngbloods

Ines: “I enjoy the Youngbloods because we are a team. We’re all such good friends, which makes our relationship on the court and off the court stronger.”

On getting into basketball

Ines: “My mum used to play for the national team in Bulgaria and I started playing myself when I was three.”

Josh Kubacki – Manchester Giants

On the camp in Bologna

Josh: “It’s been great to compete against people coming from all over Europe. Just a very fun time overall. Everyone has a different style and you can learn from everyone.”

On what it would mean to be selected for the Finals in Orlando

Josh: “It would mean a lot to me. You get to go to America, which is where everyone wants to go and play basketball, and experience the level of basketball over there, so it would be fantastic to go to Orlando.”

On the internationality of the camp

Josh: “I have a Russian and a Finnish roommates and it’s been great to interact with people from different countries.”

On the NBA

Josh: “My favourite player is James Harden because he is just different from everyone else. I don’t think anyone else could do what he is doing right now and obviously my favourite team is the Houston Rockets because of James Harden. I watch a lot of videos of him and I try to base my game around him.”

On getting into basketball

Josh: “I’ve always been quite tall and so by the end of Year 6 I have been asked to play and started to mess around Saturday League games. Then I carried on playing and my love for basketball got bigger and bigger.”

On having Boris Diaw at the camp

Josh: “Everyone wants to make it to the NBA and just being in the same room as him, you feel a different presence, especially an NBA Champion like Boris, cause this is what everyone is aiming for.”

Andrew Melville – Sony Centre Fury – Falkirk

What’s this weekend been like for you so far?

AM: “It’s been good, it’s been exciting. We’re learning a lot of different stuff to what we’re doing at home but it’s good to be learning new things.”

What’s it been like to be around people from so many different places?

AM: “It’s great – I’ve made a lot of new friends that I wouldn’t have had without the camp a lot of nice people. They’re from all over the place like Turkey and Slovenia.”

What have you enjoyed working on in terms of your game?

AM: “We’ve been working on a lot of skill based stuff. Three versus three, learning how to space the floor and things like that and giving us different reads to do.”

How have you found the experience of learning alongside Don Showalter?

AM: “He’s really good and really energetic too. The first day when he did the pass and dribble drill with us, that was great.”

What would it mean to you to be selected for the JNGC Team Europe?

AM: “It would mean everything. It’s such a huge opportunity for us all. We’re all fighting for this, we all want it and we’re all working hard.”

How did you first get into basketball?

AM: “It was through my primary school who had a club. I joined in my last year of primary school and they then put me forward to my local club. I’ve now been with them for three years.”

What do you enjoy about it?

AM: “I love how fast paced it is. You look at football and it’s quite slow, whereas, basketball is end to end and very high scoring. It’s very exciting.”

If you’re not selected, what will you take from the experience?

AM: “I’ll always take the experience with me as it’s been so good and there are a lot of high quality players here so I’ll try not to be disheartened if I’m not picked.”

What advice would you give to anyone who comes next year?

AM: “Just enjoy it, enjoy the experience because we’ve learnt so much here. It’s great to get all the different coaches’ perspectives so they should take advantage of that.”

Who’s your favourite NBA player?

AM: “Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is probably my favourite player. He’s so athletic and the things he can do the basketball are crazy and I’d love to model my game on him.”

Jenni Torrance – West Lothian Wolves – Bathgate

How’s your week been so far?

JT: “It’s been great. the basketball has been really fun and I’m learning a lot from it from different coaches and players. Off the court it’s also good to socialise with new people.”

Have you made friends with people from other places?

JT: “Yeah I’ve made friends with some of the Swedish girls, everyone really. Everyone has been very friendly.”

Do you feel confident about being selected for the Global Championship roster?

JT: “I’m pretty confident – it would mean so much to me. The fact that it’s Europe and not just your country makes it all the more special. The fact that I’ve been chosen to come here makes me really happy.”

How did you get into basketball?

JT: “My dad used to play basketball and my current coach lived on my street and I saw him playing one day so I went and spoke to him and have loved it ever since.”

What have you learned at the camp?

JT: “I’ve learnt a lot more names for things. I recognised quite a lot but the coaches tell you to read the defense in a slightly different way to what you’re used to so it’s really expanding my knowledge.”

What advice would you give next year’s campers?

JT: “Don’t hold back when you first start. I did that on the first day as everyone is feeling nervous but they should just go for it and play how they know they can. Just have fun as well.”

Boris Diaw – NBA Legend

On his experience at the Jr. NBA Global Championship Selection Camp in Bologna

Boris Diaw: “It’s very interesting to see the way the kids interact and it’s fun because we’ve got players and kids coming from all different countries and they have a lot of different habits because it’s the same sport but you get to teach it in a different way in every different part of Europe and the Middle East. So you see a different style of basketball in the kids, a different style in the coaching also so we’ve been working on this and trying to give some tips to the kids.”

What has impressed you about the kids that you’ve seen so far?

Diaw: “What’s been impressive about the kids is that they’ve been really tuned in. They’re really focused on this selection, they were a little stressed out at first but they really listen and they’re really into the camp. I think everybody wants to make it to the finals and be selected and so all the kids are doing the best that they can.”

Why is it important for you to give back to kids at camps like this one?

Diaw: “We’ve been those kids at some point, we started when we were young playing basketball and so we can definitely relate to what they’re going through and the way they are practicing and trying to get better but also have fun together and so we want to be part of that journey. It’s important for us to give back and come back to the roots of where we come from and be part of that journey of fun basketball.”

What advice would you give to the players that will be selected and will represent Europe in Orlando?

Diaw: “My advice would be to just go and do what you do and you don’t need to overdo it and try and create something new. There’s a reason why you have been selected and so just play your game and listen to the coaches and try to improve, get better every day.”

You have recently joined the French national team as the Assistant GM, can you talk about your new role and also your expectations for the upcoming FIBA World Cup?

Diaw: “The National team has always been a big part of my career and I always loved and enjoyed playing for the national team. It’s a way for me to stay with the national team but on the outside of the court and we expect some good things in the future. We have a lot of talented players so going into the World Cup we expect to do pretty well.”

What are your thoughts on the following French players’ individual strength, what they’ve done for the growth of basketball in France?

Ronny Turiaf

Diaw: “Ronny Turiaf has been one of my best friends since we played together. Big role in the national team, always been there for me and always get 100% – that’s what he was known for when he was on the court, giving a lot of heart when he was playing, somebody that played hard all the time.”

Rudy Gobert

Diaw: “Rudy Gobert is a new generation of players and is part of the future of this national team. He will be here for a few years and will bring a lot and hopefully bring some more medals with the French national team… Obviously his individual strength is on the defensive end, he’s really a big threat of the defensive side and changing the way teams are playing the offence because of the presence he has.”

Evan Fournier

Diaw: “Evan Fournier is the same as Rudy – he’s a big part of the future of the national team. He has a big attachmentalso to play for the team, also a player that always plays hard and gives a lot on the court. He’s for sure going to be a leader in the next few years to come.”

Nicolas Batum

Diaw: “Nic Batum has been in between the generations a little bit. He’s somebody who will do a lot of different things on the court.”

Tony Parker

Diaw: “Tony Parker has been the most influential and the best player that we’ve had in the French national team. Everything he’s done for the national team and abroad has just been tremendous. We’ve been friends since we were young and always been there for me too.”

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke – WNBA Legend

What’s the goal of the camp?

CC: “The goal of the camp is to teach basketball and to empower these athletes to be great in the sport but also to select the cream of the crop, the top athletes to then go on to participate in the Global Championships in Florida.”

What has impressed you about the kids so far?

CC: “A lot of things have impressed. One; their skill set. The level of skill that these kids have at their age is amazing. Secondly, their energy. They want to learn, they’re bright eyed and they want to absorb all the information that the coaches are teaching them and that’s amazing especially at this age. Their size as well. I don’t remember ever being that big when I was 13 years old! It’s amazing to see how they navigate their bodies and the girls have so much confidence. It’s great to see the women here are so empowered and comfortable in their skin.”

Why is it important to give back to communities with camps like these?

CC: “It’s important to give back at camps like these as it gives you the chance to empower these athletes and give them tools that they can go and keep working on to continue to get better. It’s about empowerment, it’s about giving the kids the opportunity to be great. Not just today and the selection camp but in life and in their sport.”

Do you think it’s important that the European kids get the chance to see former WNBA and NBA players?

CC: “It’s very important for the European community to get experience from the Jr. NBA because being a part of the JNGC is amazing experience but is also a great stepping stone into getting into your basketball career. It’s also fun. Basketball should be fun because winning championships is fun and that’s what you should try to do every day.”

Don Showalter – Director of Coach Development of the USA Basketball Youth Division

On the camp in Bologna

Don: “When you have so many kids from all over Europe, it adds a really nice flavour to the camp and the coaches were really great to work with too. Language didn’t seem to be much a barrier, so overall it’s been a very enjoyable experience. I think you need to find out what basketball is like at their age group in other parts of the world, cause they see it in their own little backyard or their all little town, but maybe they don’t realise the level of competition from around the world. I think a lot of these players this week got better because they were probably playing against players that are better than them for a whole week and I think this helps a lot.”

On coaching during the camp

Don: “From a coaching standpoint, it’s not what you teach, but how you teach it. This week we have been trying to get the coaches some guidelines in terms of how to teach skills.”

On the internationality of the camp

Don: “One the things that I’ve really enjoyed about coach development is that every country has its own coaching development and in the US we’re trying to take that coach development and use it to educate coaches and how they coach young kids.”

A message to the campers

Don: “I hope the kids have grown their love for the game this week. They were out of their comfort zone, they were challenged and this is very important if they want to become better at the game of basketball.”

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