NBA to host its first-ever combine for the Basketball Africa League – The Rookie Wire

There is now a new path to the NBA for aspiring hoopers in Africa and around the world.

The Basketball Africa League (BAL), a new 12-team league spanning the continent of Africa organized by the NBA and FIBA, is holding its first-ever combine in New York City on Dec. 4-5.

The league will begin play in 2020, but first needs to populate its teams with the best available prospects it can muster, which will in large part be drawn from the 50 hopeful participants attending the first-ever BAL combine this week.

The event, to be held at the Brooklyn Nets’ practice facility, is part of a longtime effort by the league to boost the profile of the sport globally while creating new and more closely-affiliated paths into the league for a larger network of prospective athletes.

While the NCAA has long been the preferred path for young players seeking an “in” to the world’s best basketball league, that route has increasingly been eschewed.

Instead, prospects are exploring alternate approaches, ranging from an additional year in prep school post-graduation (to satisfy existing NBA requirements to be a year removed from one’s senior year of high school), to playing professionally overseas in foreign leagues, most notably Australia’s National Basketball League.

While the BAL may not appeal to many U.S. prospects given the challenges presented by a league spanning the culturally-rich continent of Africa, it will present additional, remunerated paths the NCAA — at least for now — does not, while also opening the door for African prospects to have an easier route into the NBA.

With players like Boston Celtics big man Tacko Fall and Detroit Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya having had a fraught path to the league only their perseverance and good luck made happen, such an alternative is wise for multiple reasons, the most immanent being not making others tread such a precarious route in the first place.

But besides the injection of talent, such prospects developing in the BAL could provide the NBA, it’s also redirecting players who might otherwise end up playing another sport — both Fall and Doumbouya were soccer neophytes before shifting to basketball, for example — while also helping generate local interest in the sport.

It will still be many months before the inaugural tip-off of this new league takes shape, but when it does, it will be one of the biggest moves yet of the NBA into the worldwide sports market in history.

And it may just spark a seismic shift in how rookies find their way into the NBA as well.