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Japan's First NBA Basketball School Opens Amid Hoop Fever

The elite NBA Basketball School aims to nurture the next generation in Japan by imparting complex basketball skills with a focus on values, health and wellness.

Japan's first NBA Basketball School was unveiled on April 5 in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.

The buzz of excitement was palpable as 20 girls and 20 boys, all between ages 9 and 18 and selected from a competitive pool of 160 applicants, eagerly took to the courts of Shibuya Junior and Senior High School for the first-ever training session.

This initiative, in partnership with a local organization committed to fostering young talent, marks Japan as the 18th addition to the global network of NBA Basketball Schools, alongside countries such as Australia, Brazil, Spain and China.

NBA Basketball School
Japan's new NBA Basketball School joins the global network of academies. (©NBA)

Overseeing the session was Natalia Andre, the NBA's senior manager of basketball operations for Asia and former Portuguese pro league player.

"I'm so excited to finally be here. We've been working on this for the last year and a half. So to actually see it here today, happening, it's amazing," she shared with a radiant smile.

NBA Basketball School
Natalia Andre, the senior manager of basketball operations for NBA Asia, provides instruction to students on April 5. (©NBA)

Building Beyond the Court

Guided by local Japanese coaches honing their skills in line with the NBA's cutting-edge methods and closely collaborating with Andre and the global operations staff, the students engaged in drills to enhance their dribbling, ball-handling and driving techniques. As the program progresses, it will place students at levels that align with their individual goals, ensuring they can focus on the aspects of basketball they most want to improve. 

Andre was buoyed by the enthusiasm of the young participants. "They're having fun. Our program is elite, but our goal is to teach in a fun and positive environment," she noted.

"And the coaches have been amazing. The coach who is leading this session talks in a way that they understand. He explains in a simple but very detailed way."

NBA Basketball School
NBA Basketball School students participate in a training drill on April 5. (©NBA)

The coaches' commitment to clear, detailed teaching mirrors the NBA School's comprehensive goals. It utilizes a curriculum designed to not only impart complex basketball skills and tactics but also to nurture well-rounded individuals, emphasizing a holistic approach to personal and athletic development.

"Our curriculum has input from NBA coaches, NBA players and highly qualified skill development coaches. But we also focus on values, health and wellness," Andre emphasized, highlighting the importance of sportsmanship, respect and teamwork.

NBA Basketball School
Natalia Andre bonds with the students at the NBA Basketball School in Tokyo. (©NBA)

Japan's Young Ballers Set Sights High

The launch of an NBA school in Japan is timely, coming at an exciting moment in the country's basketball development. With the B.League catalyzing a basketball renaissance since 2016, the surge in local talent is unmistakable. Japan's women's team clinched a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and with both the men's and women's teams securing berths for the 2024 Paris Games, Japan's presence on the world stage has been solidified. 

Furthermore, the presence of homegrown talent in the NBA (Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe) is energizing the next generation of young hoop dreamers.

"If I couldn't manage something well, the coaches today showed me a good way to do it. They were very easy to follow and understand. After graduating from university, I want to become an NBA player. My dream is to one day play in the NBA All-Star Game," said an ambitious 10-year-old boy, Hayate Hachira.

NBA Basketball School
Fourteen-year-old Hikari Inoue has aspirations to become a pro player. (©NBA)

Hikari Inoue, 14, felt equally inspired.

"The coaches really livened it up from the start," she said, "creating an atmosphere different to what I'm used to."

Added Inoue, "I am very interested in the NBA, so I was curious about this school. My goal is to become a professional player one day."

As these young Japanese talents take their first steps in the NBA Basketball School, they carry with them big dreams, dreams that this school could help turn into reality.

NBA Basketball School
Students honed their individual skills on the school's opening night. (©NBA)

It's just a shoe!

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Author: Philip Dann

Philip Dann is a video journalist and producer, versatile across mediums with a background in documentary and news production that spans Japan and the UK. With a distinctive portfolio at NHK World, his work is recognized for its storytelling in sports, culture, travel, and social issues, offering insights through a multicultural lens.

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