Abuja – The U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) will open its first African training academy in Senegal early next year, Amadou Fall, the NBA’s vice-president for Africa, has said.
Fall said the centre would train boys and girls aged between 16 and 18, adding that the centre would be part of its global network of elite training academies.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that several Africans have played for top teams in the NBA league.
Fall, who is originally from Senegal, said the pan-African academy would use its network to scout for players from around the continent.
He said the players would be given access to facilities and resources available to elite players, including nutritionists, personal coaches and physiotherapists.
The centre will be in Thies, 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of the Senegalese capital city of Dakar.
Senegal’s national teams — men and women — have traditionally been among the strongest in Africa.
Fall said those players who did not make it to the NBA would have other avenues, such as “other great leagues around the world, including the NBA development league or in U.S. universities’’.
He said 14 African-born players on the NBA opening roster this year had come from NBA’s grassroots programme, Basket Without Borders, including Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng and Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam.
Fall added that 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.
It held its first game in Africa on Aug. 1, 2015 in the South African city of Johannesburg.