The UK needs to raise its talent development game if British basketball wants more NBA players.

That is the verdict of the league’s deputy commissioner Mark Tatum on a visit to London ahead of Thursday’s game between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks.

The NBA has long pushed its own grassroots initiatives into the country through its Jr. NBA programmes in tandem with Basketball Scotland and England.

Yet there is only one player with a Great Britain cap in the Association in ex-internationalist Luol Deng, with no obvious candidate in the pipeline.

The lack of cohesion – and the adjoining deep well of political in-fighting – remain a roadblock within British Basketball.

“The challenges with the organisation over time are well documented,” Tatum told MVP.

But the NBA, he signalled, will offer its help to get the UK over its hump and onto building the kind of production line – and creating the kind of top-level impact – seen in France and Spain.

“I think it’s going to be more investment in that infrastructure,” he said. And identifying these kids and putting them in situations where they get world-class coaching.

“When you think about how and why players in Spain, in Turkey, in Lithuania and in the US, why do they get better? They’re playing every day against great competition. It forces them to develop quicker.

“In the UK, we just don’t have that yet. It takes time but that’s what we’re focused on. How do you create that infrastructure with a competitive environment from an early age? But we’re in it for the long game.”

Basketball missed out on a fresh tranche of UK Sport funding late last year with its lack of a plan for a sustainable future cited by the agency’s chief executive Liz Nichol.

The absence of the kind of club network seen in other nations is a black mark against Sport England and its counterparts who have not made that ecosystem a priority. Despite high participation numbers, there are a multitude of teams but no proper mesh knitted together, critics argue, nor a clear pathway between BBL and WBBL and youth development

And Tatum observes: “You see it in European football. There is very clear infrastructure of how you develop talent including academies. We’re starting to get into the academy business in various countries and territories around the worlds. We’ve opened up seven academies but it’s an ecosystem.

“Starting with the grassroots development. Having those 50 Jr. NBA programmes in 22 different countries across Europe. That gets kids into basketball playing at an early age, gets them passionate about the game. But then you need to create opportunities for them to continue that development.”

The NBA is also ready to help broker a deal between the warring factions of the Euroleague and FIBA, Tatum added.

On the executive committee of the latter, but with the NBA’s interests seemingly closely aligned with the former, there has been a degree of neutrality adopted in the fight for control of European club basketball.

We will continue to be partners with both, he insisted.

“We’ve said we’ll be helpful. We encourage both parties to resolve the dispute so we can get on with the business of growing basketball in Europe.”

London, hosting its eleventh regular season contest, could even get more than one game per season in the future, although Paris and Berlin may also get a share of the pie.

“Those are the scenarios, frankly, that I am just now starting to look at,” said incoming NBA European chief Ralph Rivera. “Do you split a weekend? A Thursday and a Saturday game? Eurostar in the middle of that? So we are looking at those scenarios. But a lot of it is logistics and caring about the players and the travel. It’s not just the getting here, it’s the being here and going back.”

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