By Ed Odeven
With scorching heat enveloping Tokyo last week, the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp provided heated competition inside the air-conditioned facilities at Mizumoto General Sports Center.
For four days, the NBA and FIBA joint operation staged a testing ground for 64 top-level boys and girls players ages 16 and 17 from the Asia-Pacific Region. Intense, high-energy five-on-five games were held each day.
The 11th edition of the BWB Asia Camp wrapped up Saturday afternoon, with a pair of All-Star games, boys and girls 3-point contests and championship tilts in each division. Teams had WNBA names in the girls division and NBA names in the boys division, with the New York Liberty and Orlando Magic, respectively, capturing titles over the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tight defense and run-and-gun offensive sets were on display during Saturday’s final hours of competition before the awards ceremony in the capital city’s Katsushika Ward.
Earnest practice was another staple of the morning hours.
At around 11:30 a.m., China’s Zhang Liwen was working on his 3-point shooting skills, firing up a few shots from various spots around the perimeter, moving from the right corner to the left corner. Then there was Amaan Sandhu of India repeating the rapid-fire drill after Zhang finished taking his shots.
Throughout the spacious gym, big smiles were on display, an indication of camp participants’ enjoyment and love for the game, which, of course, they shared with camp instructors. This wasn’t a do-or-die Game 7 playoff series; it was, however, four days of intense competition.
During the final day of games, impressive individual skills were also showcased. For instance, South Korea’s Yeo Jun-seok, one of the West All-Stars, grabbed the ball after the opening tipoff against the East All-Stars and threw down a powerful slam dunk to the visible delight of his teammates. Moments later, Australia’s Patrick Ryan, Yeo’s All-Star teammate, made a steal and displayed nifty dribbling en route to completing a layup. Mongolia’s Enkhiin-Od “Michael” Sharavjamts, another West All-Star, stuffed the ball through the net in traffic.
After the camp wrapped up, Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell said that events like Basketball Without Borders are vital to growing the game around the world.
“It’s awesome,” Cassell, who has served on Clippers bench boss Doc Rivers’ staff since 2014, told The Japan Times. “This is my first time with the BWB, and to come in here to Japan and see all these talented players. The game of basketball is in good hands, because there’s so much talent around the globe.”
He added: “I never thought there’d be this much talent this far across the water from the (United) States, and coming to Japan and seeing all these kids coming from all over the place — the Philippines, (South) Korea, Vietnam. . . . It’s amazing to see all these guys that come over here to participate. It’s awesome.
“One day of practice and performing the way they perform, it’s awesome just to see.”