Blessed with world class infrastructure and youngsters with a sure-fire passion for the game, China has been a melting pot for NBA activity for several years now. Influenced by the likes of Yao Ming and other stars of China’s national squad, basketball has become the favourite sport of the nation.
I got my first taste – on a relatively small level – of the NBA’s work in China a few days ago when I was invited by Gregory Stolt, the director of NBA Operations International, to attend the 2012 Lenovo Basketball Camp at the Beijing Sport University in Beijing. The camp featured 81 young basketball players from ages varying from 7 to 23 for four days of hoops and learning. The camp was led by Stolt and camp featured a special visit by Boston Celtics’ power forward Brandon Bass.
Brandon Bass is a player that a lot of fans know of, but few know too much about. While the five-year vet has been bubbling around and improving his performances every year, it was his work as a regular starter for the Celtics last season that bolstered him further into the limelight. It’s not easy being the fifth-most important guy in a team, behind Garnett, Rondo, Pierce, and Allen, but the 27-year-old Bass quietly did his job to average a career high 12.5 ppg and 6.2 rpg in the course of the season.
Bass appeared on the first day of the Lenovo camp in Beijing – on Monday, August 6th – to speak to the kids and young adults and lead them through some basketball workouts. Bass talked a little about his journey to becoming an NBA player, and encouraged the youngsters to follow some of the steps he did: set a goal, make sure to pay attention in school and get good grades, and make sure to work extremely hard on their game.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to be around NBA players when I was a kid,” said Bass, “I want you guys to make the most of this opportunity now, as I will be making the most of it learning from you, too.”
After taking the campers through a few hours of drills, Bass took a break by doing some more drills to improve his own game. Interestingly, Bass flew in his shooting coach with him to China, and while taking a break from the camp, he spent more time on the court working on his jump shot.
Bass will travel to other places around China before returning to the Lenovo Camp in Beijing for the final day on Thursday.
The camp continues without him for the attendees: players were separated usually in U23 and U14 groups for the different programmes. Training has included dribble exercises and shooting drills. Several of the players then get a chance to participate in 3-on-3, 1-on-1, or full court, full team basketball games. The youngsters were even given a lesson in English to get more familiar with NBA and basketball jargon!
It was an interesting first look into the Chinese basketball world: With its successful Chinese Basketball Association, its millions of basketball fans, its domination on the Asian game, its top infrastructure, and the strong foothold of the NBA here, China is definitely the world’s next biggest hoops market.
Basketball fans here can rejoice: if the low-key Brandon Bass doesn’t satisfy them, they’re about to be hit with a much higher key in a couple of months. The NBA has scheduled two official pre-season games – in Beijing and Shanghai – between the reigning champion Miami Heat and the high-flying LA Clippers.
And I will wait to see this basketball-mad nation explode when the world’s best players light up the courts here!