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The NBA will open an academy in Africa next year, its latest move to unearth talent from outside the United States and extend the league’s reach into new territories.
The African academy will be based in Thies, Senegal, and follows similar NBA projects opened this year in China, which has three academies, and Australia. Another academy in India is set to start operating in April.
The NBA aims to open the Senegal academy, its sixth, in May.
The international academies, elite training centers for boys and girls at under-16 and under-18 level, are “the biggest investment the NBA has ever made in basketball development globally,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international basketball operations.
“We are moving full force ahead and are really excited by the progress we’ve made,” Meek told The Associated Press.
A record 26 international players were selected in the 2016 NBA draft. Along with the new players, the NBA’s push into Asia and Africa, specifically, provides significant new audiences and marketing opportunities for the league.
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.
The new academy in Senegal will focus on elite talent development, said Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice president and managing director for Africa. For the last 15 years the NBA has laid the foundation, using its international Basketball without Borders camps to develop the game at a grass-roots level in Africa and elsewhere.
Those Basketball without Borders camps have already provided nine NBA players from Africa, including Luc Mbah a Moute of the Los Angeles Clippers, who is from Cameroon.