Three young Kiwi basketballers have received an invitation from FIBA and the NBA to attend a global basketball camp that will be peppered with US College scouts, NBA Coaches and NBA players, albeit Sam Waardenburg has reluctantly declined the invitation due to his College commitments in the United States.
Waardenburg, Quinn Clinton and Taane Samuel attended Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Asia, held in Australia last June. After strong performances, all three were selected to attend BWB Global, an exclusive camp for only the best players from the regional 2016 camps in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, with Clinton and Samuel taking up the invitation.
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive, Iain Potter, says having three players selected from any nation is unique.
"The Global Basketball Without Borders camps enable FIBA and the NBA to tap into talent outside of the U.S. In the past, we were proud to have one player selected, with Matt Freeman selected in 2015 and Tai Wynyard in 2016, both of whom have gone on to secure scholarships to high ranking Universities. To have three young Kiwis selected is outstanding and an example of the exceptional basketball talent that is being produced in New Zealand," says Potter.
Sam Waardenburg was named camp MVP of the BWB Asia camp in June while Quinn Clinton was named MVP of the camp's All Star Game. Consequently, they were both guaranteed a spot at BWB Global. But Tanne Samuel was not automatically selected and he says the invitation letter comes as a pleasant surprise.
"I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this great event and given the opportunity. The BWB Asia camp in Australia really helped me improve as a player physically and mentally. It helped me to identify my weaknesses and work on turning that into a strength.
"To receive the elite level of coaching at BWB is a once in a lifetime opportunity and to share this with other players my age around the world is surreal. I'm really thankful," said Samuel.
Christchurch's Quinn Clinton is equally excited to be involved.
"I'm really looking forward to this experience. It's going to be great for Taane and I to represent our country together and help promote New Zealand basketball on the world stage. I'm keen to learn as much as I can from the NBA coaches and players, and get an insight into what it means to play at this higher level," said Clinton.
The international prestige of this event is gathering momentum as more BWB players are finding their way into the pinnacle events of the sport, including FIBA World Cups and the NBA. FIBA says over the years 43 alumni have been drafted into the NBA. The NBA Draft of 2016 contained three BWB Global participants, all selected in the top 10 picks. This is the third BWB Global Camp, while the NBA and FIBA have staged 48 BWB camps in 29 cities in 25 countries since 2001.
To add to the excitement of the event, BWB Global will centre around the NBA All Star Game in New Orleans. The NBA All-Star Game is a basketball exhibition game hosted annually by the NBA, which matches the league's star players from the Eastern Conference against their counterparts from the Western Conference. Camp participants will attend and participate in NBA All Star activities throughout the weekend. The camp will also consist of basketball positional development, strength and conditioning, life-skills sessions, and games and competitions during the day.
The camp is fully funded with the players' expenses covered, including flights. The 2017 edition of Basketball without Borders Global will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, from 17 to 19 February, 2017.
The invitation further underlines the growing reputation of the burgeoning talent pool coming out of New Zealand, with increasing numbers of young men and women securing scholarships into prestigious American Colleges.
Such opportunities further emphasize that basketball is not only a numbers game (amongst the fastest growing sports in New Zealand) but also a high performance achiever, with the New Zealand U19 Men set to appear at the FIBA Junior World Championships in Egypt in July this year, following on from their history making defeat of Australia at the Oceania Champs in 2016.