Basketball Without Borders, Asia 2014 Recap

Day 1
While the eyes of most NBA fans were on the Spurs and the Heat this past month, four NBA players and four NBA coaches jetted to Taipei, Taiwan in mid-June as part of the Basketball without Borders Asia program. Based at the Taipei American School, BWB Asia brought to the hardwood 47 of the top 16- to 18-year olds from 17 Asian and Oceanic nations. NBA players Nicolas Batum, John Salmons, Ronny Turiaf, and Cody Zeller joined the young talent, interacting with the campers in basketball and life-skills sessions, covering both layups and leadership.

On the first day of BWB Asia, the campers were welcomed to the program by an opening address from representatives from the NBA and Chinese Taipei Basketball Association. Following the speech, all eyes turned to the screen, as BWB’s 47 participants watched Game Four of the NBA Finals live alongside the NBA players and coaches. The screen was placed parallel to the court’s sidelines, and the amateur and professional athletes alike sprawled out on the hardwood, watching San Antonio defeat Miami, 107-86.

From there, the ball was in play—for the rest of the day, the athletes played, watched, and talked basketball, taking part in a series of practices and competitions led by the NBA vets alongside League coaches Dean Cooper, Bryan Gates, Bobby Jackson, and David Vanterpool.

After a 12-hour marathon, Day One of BWB Asia 2014 was officially in the books, and the campers got some much needed rest in preparation for another full day of hoops on Saturday.


Day 2
The day after watching the famously-well balanced Spurs inch one step closer to the NBA championship, the campers at BWB Asia spent the morning of Day Two learning about team building and the significance of trust in sports. Led by Hornets center Cody Zeller and Pelicans assistant coach Bryan Gates, the Life Skills workshop stressed how building one’s character can lead to a boost in one’s performance on the court—and how the way one interacts with teammates in the locker room can have a direct effect on how those same players interact in late-game moments.

Following the seminar, it was time for the campers to put their lesson to the test. The athletes were split into the teams on which they would remain for the entirety of the day—the objective being to allow teammates to forge the bond that was encouraged by Zeller and Gates that morning, enabling the campers to see how team bonding could lead to team baskets.

It wouldn’t be Basketball without Borders if community service weren’t an integral component of the week’s events. This year, NBA Cares partnered with Special Olympics Chinese Taipei to put on a skills clinic for 45 local Special Olympic athletes. The participants even got a surprise as former NBA superstar Yao Ming showed up to hoop with the group.

The end of Saturday’s NBA Cares event marked the halfway-point of BWB Asia, and the campers ended the evening with a deeper understanding that there is no “I” in basketball.


Day 3
With Saturday’s emphasis on upholding a team-first mentality still in mind, the campers spent all of Sunday with their respective squads, getting to know each other’s off-court habits in the hopes of playing more cohesively on the hardwood. The groups rotated through an assortment of skill development stations, at which the NBA players and coaches guided the campers in their various areas of expertise. While big men Ronny Turiaf and Cody Zeller spent their time with the athletes demonstrating how to be successful in the post, Nicolas Batum and John Salmons were able to teach the participants how to navigate the perimeter game.

While the 16 to 18-year-olds had gotten the opportunity to learn from the NBA pros for three days now, it was the local coaches’ time to learn from the best on Sunday afternoon. NBA assistants Dean Cooper and Bryan Gates—with help from FIBA—preached the ins and outs of the game to the more than 40 coaches in attendance, discussing and demonstrating various strategies.

When the final whistle blew on Sunday night, signaling the end of the coaching clinic, the players and coaches packed up and left their benches, ready to get some rest before BWB Asia’s final events on Monday.


Day 4
While a regulation NBA game may be 48 minutes long, the campers at BWB Asia had five hours on Day Four to impress the scouts. The concluding day of the program enabled the 47 premier athletes to put all the skills they had learned to the test, as a series of team scrimmages led up to the All-Star Game, during which the best of the best of these 16 to 18-year-olds would go head-to-head, vying for Camp MVP.

Although there was no dunk competition at the Taipei American School on Monday, the competition was no less fierce. The Game matched up the Red All-Star Team—led by coaches Nic Batum, Bobby Jackson, Ronny Turiaf, and David Vanterpool—with the White All-Star Team—spearheaded by Dean Cooper, Bryan Gates, John Salmons, and Cody Zeller.

After a surfeit of pull-ups and post moves, blocks and breakaway layups, the Red team was crowned the champion of the BWB Asia 2014 All-Star Game. China’s Bai Haotian, who carried the Red squad throughout the contest, was named All-Star MVP, while Iran’s Mohammad Yousof Vand and Japan’s Ryogo Sumino were selected as Co-Camp MVPs.

At 3:30 p.m. local time, the game clock hit zero and BWB Asia had officially ended. The saying goes that basketball is a game of numbers, and that adage was no less true for BWB’s campers. After 36 hours and 15 minutes, these 47 young premier athletes could turn to the four NBA veterans and four NBA coaches with whom they were now familiar, and state that while the NBA Headquarters may be over 7,000 miles away in New York City, for four days it felt as if the NBA was truly at home in Taipei, Taiwan.