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Former President of the Strength and Conditioning Association in the NBA joins WWS Scout Camp

Jesse Wright

Johannesburg, 7 December 2020 - As basketball’s popularity grows worldwide, the top universities and professional NBA teams in the United States have cast their recruitment net ever wider to find the competition’s next stars. While South African teams’ participation in the Basketball Africa League has been delayed due to Covid-19, thanks to World Wide Scholarships (WWS), there is now a much more direct pathway to potential fame and fortune for young local basketball athletes.

In December WWS will hold its annual multidisciplinary talent scouting camp near Pretoria, with South African youth athletes who compete in a variety of sporting codes (soccer, basketball/netball, rugby/American football) encouraged to participate in drills and skill showcases while being assessed by some of the world’s leading talent scouts.

Already drawing big names such as former Springbok rugby player Derick Hougaard, who will try out for American Football in front of NFL coaches and talent scouts, the talent camp will also be attended by Jesse Wright – a well-respected professional in sports performance in the NBA – the world’s top basketball league - for the last 14 years.

Wright has most recently served as a Draft Combine Coaching Consultant for the NBA and has had roles as Director of Performance Science for the Philadelphia 76ers, as President of the National Basketball Strength & Conditioning Association as well as strength and conditioning roles for American Football teams. Wright was also named the NBA Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year 2013, an award voted on by his contemporaries in the league.

WWS has so far sent 13 young South African players to the US to play basketball via scholarships, and the organisation has affiliations with the NCAA and former NBA players and personnel who work as talent identification scouts – including Wright.

“This is a first for South Africa and we’re very excited about the possibility of unearthing the next big NBA star right here. There will be games and physical tests that our sports science team will run, and then basketball and netball players will get to strut their stuff in a series of games over two days to allow them the chances they need to impress the NBA and NCAA scouts. The best players will be selected to play in an all-star setup on the final day,” says Munya Maraire, CEO of WWS.

Each player at the camp will be profiled with their performance and physical statistics updated as the camp progresses. “Having the expertise of someone as respected and experienced as Jesse on the panel adds a huge amount of credibility to this camp. He knows everything there is to know about what it takes to perform at the top level in basketball and sports in general,” adds Maraire.

Wright says he saw the work that WWS was doing for talented youth in Africa and was excited and welcomed the chance to be involved. “It is apparent that WWS is doing great work for the youth of Africa. If this camp and these assessments can contribute to helping these kids gain exposure and experience they otherwise would not get, that is a big win, in my opinion. I am excited to help in any way I can and to extend my network of opportunities to assist.”

Many interested young basketball players will be keen to get some tips on what the NBA’s talent scouts look for. “The skills and movement patterns in basketball require a tremendous amount of athleticism and physical ability – including acceleration, deceleration, sprints, vertical jumps and quick changes of direction, to name a few. The speed of the game demands that all of these occur at high intensities and at a fast pace up and down the court repeatedly.

“The skills of shooting, ball handling, passing and defensive actions must be learned and developed as well. In addition, physical qualities such as height, wingspan and standing reach are advantageous within the game. Finally, there are a number of non-basketball intangibles that round at the profile of a talented player, including a strong work ethic, selflessness, leadership qualities, decision-making ability and the quality of being a good teammate,” Wright explains.

The WWS camp will also feature netball talent identification trials, opening possibilities for young female athletes to obtain scholarships to leading sport and tertiary education organisations.

All players in the camp will have their profiles circulated to top USA universities. Top netball girls only will have the opportunity to access opportunities in Australia, New Zealand to name a few.

Wright, who will be in South Africa from 12 – 18 December, has three pieces of advice for the talent he will see during his time here. “Seek to be the best version of yourself. Recognise your strengths and make them stronger. Be aware of your weaknesses and develop them over time. This takes a strong work ethic and a commitment to getting better in some small way every day. You will be amazed at the level of growth you can experience in this type of process and you will be proud of the person and the athlete that results.

“Also, be a good teammate. Show up early, cheer for others, make yourself available to help when needed, communicate respectfully, lead by example and demonstrate that you are a person others want on their team. Finally, always compete and remain humble. These are two qualities that will serve you well in anything you do in life,” he says.

The WWS December 2020 scouting camp will be held from 16 -18 December at Camp Discovery, near Pretoria.

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