The movement, which will alter the culture of youth basketball in north Texas, follows the NBA’s recent initiatives to deepen its involvement in youth basketball at the pre-collegiate, elite level.
Forty athletes from Dallas and surrounding areas earned a coveted invite to the 2019 Mavs Youth Combine and some of the best sixth through eighth graders showed up at the Mavs Lympo Practice Facility on Tuesday night to compete.
The Mavs became the first NBA team to test student-athletes’ strength, endurance and on-court skills in a simulated environment that replicated the NBA Draft Combine.
“It’s important for us to be in the gym with these kids because we bring NBA knowledge to youth basketball at the elite level,” said Brad Freeman, Dallas Mavericks Director of Youth Basketball (Elite). “We are excited that we can be a part of elite basketball because for the first time the NBA is allowing teams to work with elite-level youth players.”
In March, the Mavericks became just one of 13 NBA teams to put on a Jr. NBA-sanctioned local competition with 48 boys and girls teams from grades four through eight competing in the tournament. Winners in the 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls divisions earned an automatic bid to the Jr. NBA South Regional from June 7th through June 9th at Drive Nation in Irving, Texas.
Some of the participants at this year’s Mavs Youth Combine will be among those student-athletes competing at the South Regional, with the chance to advance to the Jr. NBA Global Championships in August.
The tournament, along with other new programs like the Mavs Youth Combine, is part of the NBA’s grassroots, stepped-up strategy around youth sports under the direction of Commissioner Adam Silver.
“It’s huge for these teams to have the support of the Dallas Mavericks, Mavs Basketball Academy and Jr. NBA,” said Brandon Barkley, Dallas Mavericks Manager of Player Relations. “On top of that, USA Basketball is backing the Jr. NBA, so every coach that participates in the 14-U has USA Basketball licenses. So, I think it just encompasses a lot of great organizations and shows that we stand together and support the future of basketball and youth. We are really excited about this.”
Over 13,000 student-athletes participated in a Mavs Basketball Academy program or event this past year. The Mavericks – along with the NBA and Jr. NBA – aim to work with other youth basketball programs and leagues to better develop and protect young players.
“We have always had programs that connected with kids and our focus on getting more kids to learn the game the right way,” Kathy Behrens, president of social responsibility and player programs for the NBA told Sports Business Daily. “When Adam became commissioner, we elevated our work to try to make sure that the experience the kids, parents and coaches were having was always as positive as our influence could make it.”
To jump-start the 2019 Mavs Youth Combine, each player received a jersey and shorts and then received instruction and motivational talks from top basketball coaches, many of them former professional and college basketball players.
Next, the student-athletes hit the court to test their lateral quickness and explosion, ability to change directions at a high speed and showcase their basketball skills against some of the other top athletes in the area.
With the help of performance basketball coaches on site, the student-athletes then recorded their scores to help track their progress before they hit their developmental growth spurt.
Eighth-grader Drew Steffe of Frisco (2023) was selected to attend this year’s Mavs Youth Combine. He said the entire experience was something he’ll never forget.
“It was a great experience and a lot of fun going up and down on the same court the Mavericks practice on each day,” Steffe said. “We worked hard, but also learned the importance of nutrition and treating our bodies right. The coaches also told us that we don’t have to compete every single weekend because our bodies need rest. They talked to our parents, too. It was a really great time.”
Freeman said Mavs Senior Vice President Greg Nared set the tone for the future of youth basketball when he addressed the parents at the end of the youth combine. Nared reminded the group that players don’t need to compete 24/7 to get to the next level.
“In fact, players are risking their health, burnout, and other issues when they are pushed more than their bodies can handle,” Freeman told Mavs.com “The elite players have the desire and drive to practice and play. But, the parents need to be wise in how much they allow.”
After testing their endurance skills and agility quickness on Tuesday night, the players then scrimmaged full-court with officials on hand. Each athlete then had the chance to tour the Dallas Mavericks locker room and take photos in front of the lockers of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson and the other Mavericks players who are just a few years older than them.
“We present youth with a different opportunity because we’re an NBA franchise,” Barkley added. “If none of these kids ever make it to the NBA, it’s really cool that they get to run on the court where the Mavericks practice every single day. Only a few hundred people per year ever get that chance here. So, to play on that court, use the facility and get up and down an NBA-regulation court is something really special for these kids. To live the NBA lifestyle for one day at 14 years old is something they’ll never forget.”
It’s a statement Steffe agrees with.
“I love to play basketball,” he told Mavs.com, “and tonight was a reminder why.”
ABOUT THE MAVS BASKETBALL ACADEMY
The Mavs Basketball Academy brings the excitement of the NBA to your community and is the #1 source for professional basketball training for every skill level of the game. Our basketball training organization is dedicated to helping athletes achieve basketball related goals by utilizing cutting-edge training techniques and a distinctive coaching style that stresses physical improvement, mental growth, and leadership necessary for long-term development and success.
ABOUT THE JR. NBA
The Jr. NBA is the official youth basketball participation program of the NBA. The Jr. NBA includes a free, membership-based program for existing youth basketball leagues/organizations. The membership is to help encourage and support youth basketball participation and improve the overall youth basketball experience. The Jr. NBA aims to develop a lifelong passion for the game of basketball in boys and girls by teaching them the fundamentals of the sport while instilling core values including teamwork, respect, and sportsmanship.
The future is here! 👀🤙
Tonight the @DallasMavs become the first NBA team to ever host a youth combine. Congrats to the Top 40 6th-8th graders from all across North Texas invited to the this year’s event! pic.twitter.com/jDeqmD1c1D
— Mavs Basketball Academy (@MavsAcad) May 28, 2019
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