For 45 teenagers from across the Asia Pacific, the next few days could launch their basketball careers- with players, coaches and scouts from the NBA, NFL and the International Basketball Federation watching their every move.
“We look forward to seeing you all on the big stage in years to come, hopefully in the NBA, hopefully in the NBL, hopefully in the WNBA and the WNBL,” said General Manager of the Australian National Basketball League, Jeremy Loeliger as he welcomed the participants on Thursday.
This year is the first time Australia has hosted the event, with a 4 day program in Melbourne’s outer suburbs devoted to skills development for the young players.
San Antonio Spurs player Patty Mills- the first Torres Strait Islander to play in the NBA- says events like this are a big opportunity.
“People are watching,” he says, “it just takes a small opportunity for them to be seen and hopefully that creates bigger opportunities in the future for them.”
“Here in Australia- things aren't at their feet…so community outreach is huge,” he says. “Nothing's ever given to you on a silver platter, you gotta work for it. But it's those opportunities you gotta make the most of."
The dividends for making it big are huge, with Australian no1 NBA draft pick for 2016 Ben Simmons expected to make just over $5million in his first season according to the International Business Times, not to mention lucrative sponsorship deals in the tens of millions.
NBA’s Basketball Without Borders has been running for 15 years, with events held in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.
Since 2001, the program has reached more than 2,500 players from 130 countries with 37 subsequently drafted to the NBA.
With an influx of Australian talent into the NBA in the past few years, Australian and Utah Jazz player Joe Ingles says pressure has been mounting for the event to come here.
“With seven of us over there now it’s the most we’ve ever had but there is more to come. So we wanted them to show the love back to us and show they know what’s happening.”
On Friday that list of Australian talent grew bigger- with Australians landing two spots in the NBA’s draft top 10 for the first time.
Melbourne’s Ben Simmons was taken first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and Perth’s Thon Maker went as the No10 pick to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Simmon’s father Dave was a basketball great himself and the 19 yr old is the first Australian to take out the top spot since Andrew Bogut in 2005.
"It is amazing," Simmons told crowds in New York. "I'm happy the Sixers chose me. I've been working so hard to get to this point.”
With the Basketball without Borders event wrapping up in Melbourne on Sunday, Patty will be turning his mind to the Rio Olympics.
Whilst key players Dante Exum and Andrew Bogut aren’t likely to be joining the Boomers due to injury, Patty says the team is gunning for a Rio Olympic Medal.
“We start camp in a couple of weeks, to be able to go into camp with a purpose, a meaningful purpose to try and do something no other Australian team has done before.”