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Harnessing hoops and dreams

By Chen Xiangfeng | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-15 08:00

NBA-standard school shapes China's stars of the future

The first thing 16-year-old Xie Chenfei does after waking up in the morning is review his schedule for the day.

On his desk is a personalized plan, detailing on-court drills, what muscles to work in the gym ... even how many calories he should consume.

It's one of the hundreds of training plans that coaches at the CBA Dongguan Basketball School - an NBA Training Center - come up with on a daily basis. Xie's regimen is demanding but, most importantly, it works.

 Harnessing hoops and dreams

Young players attending the CBA Dongguan Basketball School in Guangdong province hone their skills both on the court and in the classroom. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As a former elementary school player, Xie moved to Dongguan, Guangdong province to join the school in 2013. His improvement has been rapid, with his team dominating at the national level, winning Under-13 and Under-15 titles and, recently, the Nike Cup Under-17 Championships.

"The school opened up a brand new world for me," said Xie.

"I enjoy everything here - the tailor-made training schedules, the international perspective that the NBA and the coaching staff bring to us, the culture ... and, of course, NBA players visiting from time to time.

"To be honest, I didn't know much about the sport before I came here. For me, basketball was just running around and throwing a ball into the basket. But now it means the world to me. It's an ocean for me to explore."

Launched in 2011 as part of NBA China's commitment to grow youth basketball and develop elite talent, the school is a collaboration between the NBA, the CBA and the New Century Basketball Club. It's a first-of-its-kind facility for players aged between 12-17.

Students live in the on-site dormitory, attend academic classes and shoot hoops in the training facility, which boasts eight indoor courts and a topnotch strength and conditioning room.

NBA China provides an NBA-designed training curriculum, which the school is responsible for implementing. A number of NBA players have visited the center, including All-Stars John Wall, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and Al Horford, while NBA coaches often host clinics.

Key contribution

Li Qun, a three-time CBA champion who serves as principal of the school, said the NBA's contribution is key.

"I'd like to attribute our recent success to the great system the NBA provided us," said Li.

"It is not just a basketball training system; it's an all-round system for everything - school operations, staff management, nutrition, coaching development and how you arrange efficient competitions for the kids.

"The NBA's system is all about planning and details. I believe these are exactly what we are missing in our traditional sports system in China.

"I would love to see our players graduate to the NBA or the Chinese national teams someday. But our goal is really to provide these kids with more career options. We want to broaden their career path, not narrow it down. I am very happy to see them go to college, go abroad to further their basketball and academic dreams."

Technical director Bruce Palmer oversees all aspects of the school's coaching. With over 30 years of experience developing young talent around the world, he is a key conduit for the NBA's expertise.

"The NBA's involvement is huge," said Palmer.

"We have a very fine curriculum. What we deliver to the kids and how it is delivered is very critical. That's what we learned from the NBA.

"Every kid here has an individual development plan. The challenge that we have is that the kids like to play basketball, but they haven't been in any basketball environment where they practice.

"So it's important that every six weeks we help them work on goal-setting and visualization as part of their mental skills. What we want to do is to get the kids to engage and be a part of their own development."

Since the school opened six years ago, eight graduates have gone on to play with professional teams such as CBA champion Sichuan Blue Whales, Shenzhen Leopards and Beijing Enterprise Flying Dragons.

In addition, over 40 former students are currently playing college basketball in China and abroad.

The success of the Dongguan Basketball School builds on the NBA's basketball and youth development efforts in China. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, NBA China has launched a series of junior NBA leagues and incorporated its fitness and basketball-development curriculum in over 500 elementary middle schools across the country.

"Basketball development is a primary focus of NBA China," said NBA China CEO David Shoemaker.

"Our efforts at the Dongguan Basketball School demonstrate the league's commitment to developing young basketball talent. We will continue to provide current and future generations of Chinese basketball players with the resources they need to succeed."

Contact the writer at chenxiangfeng@chinadaily.com.cn

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