NBA

Allison Feaster.

WNBA legend Allison Feaster talks about basketball's presence in the UK at Jr. NBA event

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To novice eyes, basketball might seem confined to the NBA and the shores of North America. However, the NBA is doing all that it can to defy that notion and increase the game's global presence, and they're doing this by giving kids opportunities they've never had.

During the 2014-2015 season, Basketball England piloted the first ever Jr. NBA League in the entire world and recreated the ideals of the actual NBA as closely as possible.

30 selected schools from across London were allocated their own NBA franchise via lottery draw. From the uniforms to their name, the schools played as an extended arm of their NBA franchise.

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The format will be replicated going forward, and it has given boys and girls aged 11-12 a true sense of what being an NBA player feels like.

Former WNBA legend Allison Feaster is a huge proponent for the NBA's initiative. As an ambassador for the league, the former Los Angeles Sparks star was at the Evelyn Grace Academy for the finals of this years Jr. League and presented the respective victors with their awards.

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Tishanie Simpson and Chanel Babb, two young students aged 12 and 11-years-old from Greig City Academy, won the Spalding Shooting Contest and each received a trophy and a Spalding basketball for their fine efforts.

Harris Academy (Detroit Pistons) won the Jr. NBA Girls League Final but just came up short against St. Bonaventure (Sacremento Kings) in the Co-ed League Final.

Harris

After Feaster presented the talented youngsters with their awards, we caught up with the three-point queen to get her thoughts on the how the Jr. League is helping the game grow, how the initiative is bridging the gap between the UK and the US and even her thoughts on the Warriors pursuit of immortality.

GIVEMESPORT: Hi Allison! How do you think initiatives like this Jr. League will help the NBA gain exposure over here in England?

Allison Feaster: "I think it's great. It starts with giving the kids the opportunity to play the game and identify with the teams in the league. We're giving them the chance to hopefully be a Stephen Curry or a LeBron James and exposing the kids to these big names and big teams can definitely help basketball become more prominent for sure."

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six

GMS: Do you think the NBA and basketball as a whole can become a prominent sport in England? Much like Soccer has grown in popularity in the US?

AF: "The potential is there, for sure. Whenever the NBA comes over to the UK they sell out the 02 Arena, so that shows there is a definite interest in the sport over here.

"I just think getting the children involved in the sport early on, like these Jr. League's do, helps the sport build a solid foundation. It's taken the MLS time to grow, but the NBA are doing the right things. The important thing about an initiative like the Jr. NBA League is to plant that first seed of passion for the game, and you can see it happening."

St. Bonaventures

GMS: Co-ed sports aren't common place in the UK for most sports, how do you think the co-ed league in the Jr. NBA Basketball England League benefits the kids involved?

AF: "It's not necessarily about boys or girls playing the game, specifically, it's about just giving the kids the opportunity to play, that's the important thing. I played on a co-ed team as a kid and I was the only girl on the team.

"I think playing with the guys helped teach me a lot of things that I might not have been able to learn without the co-ed opportunity. That opportunity helped me become the player I am, and as you said, that's quite unique to basketball."

GMS: Only 11 British players have ever played in the NBA and Miami Heat man Luol Deng is obviously a success story for England, but he had to move to the U.S at age 14 to pursue his dream. Are league's like this likely to make the jump easier for future Luol Dengs?

Olympics Day 6 - Basketball

AF: "First of all, it's hard for anyone to get to the NBA no matter where you're from! Only the very elite make it and that's just the nature of the sport. I think the NBA increasing its presence in England and hopefully many more countries moving forward, can only be a good thing for finding talent too.

"These Jr. League's can provide a platform for talent that previously didn't exist, so when you look at it from that perspective, Luol Deng obviously did it the hard way and he's done tremendous for himself, but hopefully, it won't be as hard for future generations to get a shot in the future."

GMS: A big part of these Jr. League's focus on getting girls involved and playing the game, would you say that has been a success so far?

AF: "It's been amazing to see all the girls involved over here. The fact that England piloted the first NBA Jr. League in the world is actually pretty mind-blowing and it's opened up so many opportunities for young girls already that didn't exist only one, two years ago. The progress is already there and it's exciting to see how things will develop in a few years."

GMS: On the NBA, do you believe the Golden State Warriors can go on a break the Chicago Bulls regular season record this season?

AF: "I hope so. I'm a big Steph Curry fan and the things he's been doing this year have been amazing. His father [Dell] Curry used to come to our games when I played for the Charlotte Sting and he brought his kids with him; they were always incredibly nice and humble. I think that says a lot about Stephen Curry as a man and how down to earth he is. It's great for basketball that a genuinely good human being can enjoy great success - so I'm rooting for him."

Degree Shooting Stars Competition 2015

GMS: In 2002, you led the WNBA with 79 three-pointers, setting a new team record for most three-pointers made in a season. Looking at the Warriors success today, was basketball always evolving towards that kind of offence?

AF: "I don't necessarily think the game has changed completely; it's not the end of dunking and big men or anything like that. But, us three-point shooters need some love too! Obviously, I'm a fan of that style of basketball and team's are stretching the floor a lot more these days, but I wouldn't say it's taking over just yet."

GMS: Tell us what you're up to at the moment and what the future holds for Allison Feaster?

AF: "I'm still playing professionally in Spain at the moment - I'm not done just yet! I also recently became an ambassador for the NBA in Europe and just got back from a trip to Tanzania where we launched another NBA Junior League which was very exciting. And of course, I'm also a mother, so I stay busy!"

Feaster's positivity about the NBA's project is as infectious as it is warranted. This is a revolutionary avenue the NBA is opening up; there hasn't been a chance for youngsters in England like this before to play the game.

With the initiative leaving footprints in more countries every year, the NBA is no longer a spectacle to admire from afar; its a sport that is becoming tangible for kids to play and identify with, and that's only good news for all concerned.

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