Jr. NBA Philippines grassroots program continuing to evolve after 12 years

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Carlos Barroca and Tony Dela Cruz
NBA Asia Associate Vice-President for Basketball Operations Carlos Barroca (L) and Alaska Aces assistant coach Tony Dela Cruz ushered in the 2019 edition of the Jr. NBA Philippines program with a roundtable discussion with local media on Feb. 1 at the NBA Philippines office at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

FOR the 12th straight year the National Basketball Association’s global youth basketball participation program — Jr. NBA — is to be held in the country in 2019.

And the people behind the program still have the same commitment when they started in 2007 while preparing for a further evolved staging when it becomes full throttle later this year.

Partnering with Alaska Milk for a 10th year, Jr. NBA Philippines 2019 tipped off at the weekend with the two-day Train the Trainers program at The City Club at Alphaland Makati Place in Makati.

In the program some 51 coaches from different parts of the country underwent training, covering many aspects of people, mindset, goal-setting, coaching, nutrition, behavior, and community service on and off the court which would guide them as they facilitate in the holding of various stages of the Jr. NBA Philippines program beginning next month.

After last weekend’s sessions, Jr. NBA Philippines returns for the regional selection camps in March, with one in Lucena from March 9 to 10, to be followed by Benguet (March 23-24) and Makati (April 27-28).

Two other camps are slated in the Visayas and Mindanao, but the details on them are still being threshed out and will be announced soon.

The next phase — the National Training Camp — where the best performing participants at the selection camps gather will be held in May.

A new dimension of the program this year is the inclusion of as many as five boys and five girls from the training camp earning a spot in the Jr. NBA Global Championship Asia-Pacific regional competition as “reward.”

It supplants the previous culminating program of having the outstanding participants get an NBA experience by watching league games, which in the past few years were held in China.

In the Asia-Pacific regional competition, happening in June in a still-to-be-named place in the region, the participants from the Philippines will join other youth from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The top performing boys and girls, 10 of each, will represent Asia-Pacific in the Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando, Florida, in August.

Seeing how the Jr. NBA Philippines program had gone far, officials of the NBA and Alaska are proud of what it has become and looking forward to strengthening their collaboration to keep their common vision for the Filipino youth alive.

“I’ll say that the baby became like a teenager now. It’s a big baby. I don’t think we could do as good [a job] as we are doing and create such a great platform for the kids as we are creating without the amazing, and I say amazing in terms of quantity and quality of work of our partner Alaska,” said Carlos Barroca, NBA Asia associate vice-president for basketball operations, in a roundtable discussion with local media on the 2019 edition of Jr. NBA Philippines on Feb. 1.

“We’ve been working together for the last 10 years now and everything that we do, we align on the values, the drills, and the principles that we want to teach and talk [about]. It’s been really a pleasure for me to come here and face such a great organization with great people, doing a great service for the basketball of the country,” he added.

It is the same sentiment that Alaska holds, seeing how their partnership with the NBA on the program has been a successful and fulfilling one.

“As far as Alaska, we’re super honored to continue to be partners with the Jr. NBA. We did the math in there [and] we’ve been partners since 2010. So that would be the 10th but again, I think what’s [great about] being involved in this program, what I think Alaska is really happy about is how much collaboration [takes place] each and every year… It’s like, again, a baby turning into a teenager and before you know it this teenager is going to be an adult,” said Alaska Aces assistant coach Tony Dela Cruz, who represented his group at the roundtable at the NBA office in Taguig.

“Alaska is very, very happy to continue this partnership because of the values and more importantly [the way] we’re reaching so many young Filipinos not only in Metro Manila but all over the Philippines. I think that’s where [the program] is really its strongest,” he added.

The Jr. NBA Philippines program started in 2007 and teaches the fundamental skills and core values of the game at the grassroots level in an effort to enhance the youth basketball experience for players, parents and coaches.

It has since been implemented in over a 100 cities and municipalities across the country. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo