By Louis Ricard
CHARLOTTE, N.C.– While the streets of Charlotte are slowly getting more crowded during All-Star weekend, the Levine Center at Queens University is the center of attention for NBA scouts.
The Basketball Without Border camp opened its door on Friday morning, gathering the most talented teenagers from all across the globe to compete and showcase their skills. This year, 63 kids stepped on the court for the first day of camp.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Chris Ebersole, director of international basketball operations for the NBA. “They get exposure to — obviously — scouts from all over the NBA and WNBA, coaching from NBA coaches and NBA players who are there working with them on what it takes on and off the floor to be a pro someday.”
Among those players figure international All-Stars such as Nikola Vučević and Nikola Jokić, who showed a couple of NBA moves to their international peers.
The talent is one thing, but according to the Denver Nuggets’ Jokic it’s all about the experience. The center encouraged the young players to stay loose with NBA scouts in attendance evaluating their every move.
“Have fun, this is a really good experience,” Jokic said.
The Serbian All-Star also said that this camp would not necessarily dictate these NBA and WNBA hopefuls’ future.
“I think it’s good for young players, just to see where they’re at,” Jokic said. “It’s about sacrifice, it’s about skill. Some of these guys are probably gonna be in the NBA, some are probably not gonna play basketball, so you never know.”
Since its creation in 2001, the camp has produced 52 NBA players out of the 3,000 participants, including last year’s first overall pick Deandre Ayton from the Bahamas.
“It’s grown each year,” Ebersole said. “This global edition, which brings together the All-Stars, started five years ago. It’s been really exciting for us to get the chance to bring the players from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America, from Europe, bring them all together in one spot, seeing them compete against one another, communicate with each other, all those different things, really crucial for their development.”
The day ended with scrimmages for the men and women. While the All-Star Weekend is seen as a friendly competition, the smiles observed throughout the drills dissipated quickly when the whistle blew.
It’s game time.