Hong Kong – The journey from the Causeway Bay MTR Station to the practice facility best exemplifies Hong Kong’s unique status as being one of Asia’s most vibrant cities. Narrow meandering streets, heavily populated by humanity on a brisk commute, flanked by exclusive car dealerships mixed in with traditional Hong Kong style bakeries and congee shops push the stimuli to the max. On display is a synergy between the new world affluence and Chinese tradition that makes ‘The City of Life’ such a unique metropolis. The destination of the short journey is South China Athletic Association (SCAA) situated high in the Caroline Hill. It is one of Hong Kong’s more iconic sporting landmarks that overlook the financial district like a set of eyes making sure that the city of over seven million inhabitants stays physically fit while the Hang Seng Index beats like a hyper active heartbeat. SCAA, with its rich history that spans over 100 years, is an all-encompassing center for sports excellence. A swimming pool, two large gymnasiums, a shooting range, a well- equipped weight and exercise room and even a significant bowling alley that attracts some of Hong Kong’s film stars make up the complex. SCAA is also home to team sports – most notably the Caroliners Football (soccer) Club that has dominated the local sports landscape for decades with their penchant to attract talented players and cashing in by adding to the SCAA trophy case almost every season. But it is SCAA’s basketball teams over the past decade that have been making inroads and pushing their football brethren for a share of the public’s attention. SCAA operate not one, but two teams within Division A1 – Hong Kong’s top basketball league. Although designated as an amateur league that is overseen by the Hong Kong Basketball Association the AI is anything but amateur. Some deep pocketed owners are throwing millions of Hong Kong dollars into their teams to push the envelope towards professionalism. The SCAA basketball program has been backed by Hung Yau Lit, owner and President of Regina Miracle – whose company’s fortune this year rose to $US 1.1 billion as a leading global lingerie supplier.
Inside SCAA’s gymnasium the clock is about to strike seven and SCAA staffers busy themselves converting the gym from a multi-court badminton facility to a training court fit for elite basketball players. Coaches, trainers, managers followed by several players slowly immerge from the hustle and bustle of outside. Several of the players are coming from other vocations in life, a common song within Hong Kong basketball’s top-tier. Among the congregation of players is Nathan Yu of Prince George, British Columbia – a player developed within the Steve Nash youth system, trained through the Canadian national programs and weaned on a diet of Canadian University ball where he spent five productive years as the Thunderbird at the University of British Columbia. Yu, who holds a Degree in Environmental Geography from UBC, was rewarded for his stellar university play with a selection by Canada Basketball to the national team for the 2011 Universiade Games in Shenzhen, China, just a short train ride from Hong Kong. The Canadians impressed the global basketball world at the 2011 Universiade by advancing to the Gold Medal game against Serbia. It was at the Serbia game that Yu’s talents caught the attention of his new employer, scoring 14 points, second highest on the Canadian team. At that game Hung Yau Lit was in the stands admiring the quality of Canadian team and in particular a young Canadian player who held a prize possession – a Hong Kong I.D. card. Yu’s father, who had immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong years ago, had thought it prudent to apply for Hong Kong I.D. cards for his two sons.
The Hong Kong Basketball Association has implemented strict recruiting guidelines to promote local talent while curbing clubs from stocking up on imports. Gone are the days of teams like former repeat champions Regal who brought in foreign players to secure trophies during what is considered the ‘golden age’ of Hong Kong basketball in the Nineties. Hong Kong born players or those who possess Permanent Hong Kong I.D. cards are eligible to play in Division A1. Failing that, players must live in Hong Kong for 365 days over the past three years to be eligible.
Local sports journalist Lam Shing, who covers basketball in Hong Kong, is a firm believer that A1 teams need to protect the opportunities for talented young local players. “A1 doesn’t play a lot of games so if we have many foreign players it is not good for Hong Kong players as teams will play these foreign players for the full 40 minutes leaving Hong Kong players sitting on the bench,” he explained.
For Nathan Yu , a proud owner of a Hong Kong I.D. card, it only gave him the right to land and work in Hong Kong but his application to the HKBA to play for SCAA his first year in Hong Kong was turned down. He was subsequently left to wait the mandatory 365 days – training with his new employer and offering his assistance with youth development but pining for chance to show what he could do in Division A1.
Although recovering from an ankle injury this season that has kept him off the hardwood during the initial stages of the 2016 campaign Yu’s contribution to SCAA since he was given the green light to play has been invaluable. SCAA Head Coach CHU Yiu Ming values his prized Canadian. “Nathan is a strong and smart player. His leadership is also a big asset to the team,” offered Chu.
Yu quickly gravitated to veteran teammate Duncan Reid who not only helped him with translation but also transition to being a full time professional in Hong Kong. One of Yu’s biggest challenges has been brushing up on his Cantonese as it is the dialect of his coaches and his teammates. Reid, a giant of a man standing 6’8” in height with a powerful physique and oversized hands, is not only the face of basketball for SCAA he also captains the Hong Kong national team. Reid moved to Canada after a stellar high school career in Hong Kong where he landed on the roster of the University of Guelph. Unfortunately injury cut his CIS career short after two university seasons but some intensive rehabilitation has made him a powerful force within the Hong Kong basketball landscape. Reid, the product of a Canadian father who moved to Hong Kong permanently three decades ago, is of the opinion that Hong Kong is home to many talented youth players and he is dedicated to advocating for the sport in his home town. He does, however, see a need for young local Hong Kong players to follow in his footsteps and test the waters in such places like Canada – a destination he considers a perfect place to further develop Hong Kong potential. One such player is Billy Cheng – a recent graduate of the University of Northern British Columbia who is now on the radar of SCAA. Cheng , a talented point guard, who led the Timberwolves during his five years of CIS ball, is rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury but he is confident to be ready for the next season in Hong Kong – his first season as a professional. Nathan Yu believes the infusion of Cheng, who brings a wealth of CIS experience, will further strengthen the SCAA roster and possibly encourage other Hong Kong players to migrate to the Great White North for development opportunities.
Hong Kong’s basketball structure is heavily weighted from the hotly contested inter-school competitions. Many of the elite secondary school students are invited to join Hong Kong A1 Division training and eventually recruited to one of the top eight clubs that make up Division A1 or filtered to Division A2 or B Division. Hong Kong Basketball takes on some of international soccer’s traits where one team will be promoted from A2 to A1 and one team relegated. The A1 schedule consists of approximately 30 games from March to August that include cup competitions and league play.
Yu is considered a full-time professional player in Hong Kong with SCAA securing housing for him in return for his many roles within the organization. His training schedule starts in October with three sessions per week but when the calendar roles into February training increases to 6-7 practices per week during a 30 game schedule. He is helping coach the youth programs under the umbrella of SCAA when not working out to get stronger or training to perfect his skills. Yu cautions that the level of play in Division A1 is quite inconsistent. “A1 basketball is very undisciplined and not really developed basketball,” he reported of his experiences in Hong Kong to date. “You have to understand that Hong Kong is very low in the globe in youth basketball development and they don’t have the high level coaching that we offer at a young age in Canada,” he added. But Yu cautioned that when SCAA meets Winling five times in the season it is a different level of basketball as both teams ratchet up their games given the savvy on both rosters.
Over the past decade Division A1 has been a two horse race between SCAA and Winling who seem to battle for supremacy – be it the Silver Shield or league playoffs. Duncan Reid describes it as being the classic “red and yellow rivalry” relating it to the teams’ traditional colors that offer a great optic within a full house stadium during big games. Winling, a team with rabid fan support and deep pocketed ownership, is led by Tyler Kepkay of North Vancouver who has consistently been one of the league’s top sharpshooters mysteriously appeared on the Hong Kong basketball scene several years ago after a decorated NCAA career in Utah. Kepkay, like Yu, have links to the Canadian national program and they have taken on celebrity status in Hong Kong. Many local journalists compare Kepkay’s outside shooting prowess to the likes of NBA superstar Stephen Curry.
This season a third team has entered the picture with Eastern having risen through the layers of Hong Kong basketball to promotion to Division A1. Eastern, who also operates a successful professional soccer team, has invested HK$10 million into the basketball operation hoping to add a little blue into the red and yellow mix. The addition of Eastern is a welcome addition for Yu, who is puzzled as to why the Red and Yellow rivalry has never gotten stale. Big games that are played at intimate Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai often sell out and burst the 2000 capacity. The media crunch is quite impressive with camera crews and photographers packing the baseline offering sports fans comprehensive coverage. Big games often demand significant column inches within the Chinese dailies with Kepkay , Reid and Yu’s mug shot plastered throughout. The three big clubs have also well- organized fan clubs but numbers are limited due to the size of the venue and the fact that games often sell out. Eastern’s team spokesman Riddle Yam reported that: “fan club memberships could be higher but there is a shortage of seats at Southorn Stadium and the shortage of tickets as compared with the football match.” She also disclosed that one of the things keeping the A1 from moving towards full professionalism is the lack of large indoor basketball facilities despite the infinite number of pristine outdoor courts that litter Hong Kong’s crowded cityscape. “The Hong Kong Basketball teams haven’t their own basketball courts (with the exception of SCAA) and if they need to practice they need to rent from the Government as public, “explained Yam.
Lam Sheng, who is fondly known as “Big C” and doubles as key organizer of the Winling supporters group, believes that support is growing for basketball in Hong Kong. “10 years ago we couldn’t find organized supporters, but today the Stadium is full,” he explained, boasting that the team he supports has captured 11 championships since 2000. “Winling is like a family where fans, players, alumni and even the owner and his wife enjoy each other’s company,” he added.
Like all basketball players who want to test their skills against the best Nathan Yu and Duncan Reid have aspirations beyond A1 basketball. Both players would love the challenge of showcasing their skills in the Chinese Basketball Association – considered one of the fastest growing leagues in the world. But for now Nathan Yu, Duncan Reid and Tyler Kepkay are representing Canada with distinction in the City of Life.
Record 17 Canadian NBA players invited to 2019 FIBA World Cup Training Camp
Canada Basketball has released it’s highly anticipated 2019 FIBA World Cup training camp roster.
Loaded with 29 high-skilled Canadians — 17 currently under NBA contracts, the roster is Canada’s best-assembled talent of all-time and represents the country’s best shot at reaching the podium at the upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup in China — and potentially earning a return trip to the 2020 Olympics games in Tokyo.
Tough decisions will need to be made by recently announced head coach Nick Nurse who will have the difficult task of cutting multiple NBA players for the first time in order to finalize the final 12-man roster that is expected to be committed to the goal from training camp through the World Cup.
2019 SMNT Training Camp Roster
|Name||Position||Height||Hometown||Previous / Current Club|
|Nickeil Alexander-Walker||Guard||6’5”||Toronto, ON||New Orleans Pelicans|
|R.J. Barrett||Guard||6'7”||Mississauga, ON||New York Knicks|
|Aaron Best||Guard||6'4”||Scarborough, ON||Riesen Ludwigsburg (Germany)|
|Khem Birch||Centre||6'9”||Montreal, QC||Orlando Magic|
|Chris Boucher||Centre||6'10”||Montreal, QC||Toronto Raptors|
|Oshae Brissett||Forward||6’8”||Mississauga, ON||Syracuse Orange (NCAA)|
|Dillon Brooks||Forward||6'7"||Mississauga, ON||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Brandon Clarke||Centre||6’8”||Vancouver, BC||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Aaron Doornekamp||Forward||6’7”||Napanee, ON||Valencia Basket (Spain)|
|Luguentz Dort||Guard||6’4”||Montreal, QC||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||Guard||6’6”||Hamilton, ON||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Melvin Ejim||Forward||6'6"||Toronto, ON||BC UNICS (Russia)|
|Brady Heslip||Guard||6’2”||Burlington, ON||Istanbul BBSK (Turkey)|
|Cory Joseph||Guard||6'3"||Toronto, ON||Sacramento Kings|
|Mfiondu Kabengele||Forward||6’10”||Burlington, ON||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Naz Mitrou-Long||Guard||6’4”||Mississauga, ON||Salt Lake City Stars (G League)|
|Trey Lyles||Forward||6’10”||Saskatoon, SK||San Antonio Spurs|
|Jamal Murray||Guard||6’4”||Kitchener, ON||Denver Nuggets|
|Andrew Nembhard||Guard||6’5”||Aurora, ON||Florida Gators (NCAA)|
|Kelly Olynyk||Forward||7'0"||Kamloops, BC||Miami Heat|
|Kevin Pangos||Guard||6’2”||Newmarket, ON||FC Barcelona Basketball (Spain)|
|Dwight Powell||Forward||6'11"||Toronto, ON||Dallas Mavericks|
|Phil Scrubb||Guard||6'4"||Richmond, BC||Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia)|
|Thomas Scrubb||Forward||6’7”||Richmond, BC||Openjobmetis Varese (Italy)|
|Marial Shayok||Forward||6’5”||Ottawa, ON||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Andy Rautins||Guard||6’4”||Syracuse, NY||Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul (Turkey)|
|Nik Stauskas||Guard||6’6”||Mississauga, ON||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Tristan Thompson||Centre||6’10”||Brampton, ON||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Kyle Wiltjer||Forward||6’10”||Portland, OR||Unicaja Malaga (Spain)|
Top Canadian Basketball players not invited
Other Canadian NBA players under contract but absent from the list included Andrew Wiggins (Twolves), Anthony Bennett (Houston Rockets), Kyle Alexander (Miami Heat) and Knicks rookie Ignas Brazdeikis — a dual-citizen that is expected to opt to play for Lithuania. Other former NBA players omitted from the list include Andrew Nicholson, a 2012 draft-pick, 19th overall selection of the Orlando Magic and Olivier Hanlan a former 2015 second-round pick of the San Antonio Spurs.
Canada will kick-off a short 3-day training camp from August 4-6 at the OVO Athletic Centre in Toronto before embarking on a loaded exhibition schedule that features two games on home soil against Nigeria and a final marquee-matchup against the USA on August 26th.
2019 Canadian Senior Men’s National Team Schedule
|August 4-6||Training Camp||OVO Athletic Centre – Toronto, ON|
|August 7||Canada vs. Nigeria (Exhibition)||7:00 PM||Mattamy Athletic Centre – Toronto, ON|
|August 9||Canada vs. Nigeria (Exhibition)||8:00 PM||Bell MTS Place – |
|August 16||Canada vs. Australia (Exhibition)||5:30 AM||RAC Arena – |
|August 17||Canada vs. Australia (Exhibition)||5:30 AM|| RAC Arena – |
|August 20||Canada vs. New Zealand (Exhibition)||5:30 AM|| Quaycentre – |
|August 21||Canada vs. New Zealand (Exhibition||5:30 AM|| Quaycentre – |
|August 26||Canada vs. USA (Exhibition)||5:30 AM||Qudos Bank Arena – Sydney, Australia|
|September 1||Canada vs. Australia|| |
|FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 –|
|September 3||Canada vs. Lithuania||7:30 AM|| FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 –|
|September 5||Canada vs. Senegal||3:30 AM||FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 –|
Major time zone difference
Outside of the two home games against Nigeria, Canadian basketball fans should brace themselves and get ready for early morning basketball depending on which coast you reside in. Sydney, Perth, Australia and China are a whopping 14, 12 and 12 hours ahead of Canadian eastern time zone – meaning early morning Tim Hortons to support the national pride.
USA ends Mali’s historic run win 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Gold Medal
The United States of America are back on top of the FIBA U19 World Cup.
Two years after finishing a record low, third-place in Cairo Egypt — the Americans defeated and ended rising African champion’s historic basketball run with a 93-79 victory over Mali to claim the 2019 U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece.
The USA fought off a hot and confident Mali squad playing in their first ever FIBA World Cup finals to win their record seventh FIBA U19 gold medal.
Mali got off to an outstanding start on the strength of Hassan Drame’s 9 points, as Mali ripped off a 11-0 run and took a early 11-3 lead with 6:58 to play. The USA pounded Mali on the offensive glass pulling down 13 offensive rebounds on their way to out-rebounding the African side 19-12 in the quarter to quickly close the gap as Mali led 22-20 lead after 10 minutes.
The USA went to a 3-2 zone early in the second-quarter and slowly grinded Mali out with tight defense and relentless offensive rebounding to finally take a 37-36 lead, their first since leading 3-0. A late three-pointer, the USA first of the half, put the Americans ahead for good at with a 42-40 at half-time.
The USA opened the third-quarter with a 14-0 run, holding Mali scoreless for the first 3:00 minutes of the second-half and forcing Mali head coach Alhadji Dicko to call a time-out to restore orders as the lead swell to double-digits at 54-40.
Mali showed their resiliency and pride, fighting until the final whistle to close a game-high 20 point lead to single digits at 84-77 — on a made pull-up three pointer by Martin Diakite with 4:11 to go. The USA clamped down, allowing Mali just two points the rest of the way for the 14 win.
Undeclared point guard Cade Cunningham paced a loaded USA offense with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and had several highlight reel dunks. The 6’7″ Montverde Academy standout holds offers from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and a long-list of major suitors. Jalen Suggs added 15 points and 5 rebounds. Scott Barnes Jr. finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds and tournament MVP Reginald Perry also finished in double figures with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Mail had four players in double-figures led by continuous all-around talent of Hassan Drame with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. Karim Coulibaly (Pittsburgh Panthers) showed a nice soft touch around the rim with 17 points and 3 blocks. Gonzaga commit Oumar Ballo came-up short of fourth straight double-double and finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Ballo, a sure-shot NBA prospect showcased multiple Point guard Siriman Kanoute capped off a stellar tournament with 16 points , 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
2019 FIBA U19 MVP & All-Stars
Joel Ayiyi – France
Oumar Ballo – Mali
Tyrese Haliburton – USA
Siriman Kanoute – Mali
Reginald Perry – USA
The USA had previously beaten Mali twice at the 2017 World Cup — 117-69 and 118-56, a 55-point margin of victory.
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