From LaMelo Ball to Ousmane Dieng: How Australia Became the New El Dorado for Tomorrow’s NBA Talent

As the new “nugget” of French basketball trained at INSEP, the young Ousmane Dieng (19) could have enrolled in Paris Basketball, JSF Nanterre, in the G-League or even joined one of the most prestigious American universities to discover the NCAA. But the Lot-et-Garonne native opted for a more exotic, but less and less atypical destination by signing up for the Australian championship last summer. On Thursday night, one year after his professional debut, he will join the line of promising talents who passed from the NBL before being drafted into the NBA.

His decision to follow this path confirms the trend of the moment: the Australian championship has registered a real gain in attractiveness for two years. Usually, the prospects led to joining the NBA followed a rather classic pattern. The vast majority of American players signed up for the draft after a more or less long course on the benches of the faculty while a handful of Europeans have disembarked from the local championship. The NBL has arrived to break established codes. Inspired by Terance Ferguson’s signing in Adelaide after dropping out of high school in 2016 (before being lured by the Thunders a year later), Australian officials have decided to launch the “Next Stars program” in 2019. An innovative idea presented as “a new way to develop young players to prepare them for the NBA.

Ousmane Dieng, new star of NBL Next Stars


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We offer tomorrow’s talent the opportunity to play at a very high level in an English-speaking country and within a competition that mixes aspects of European and American basketball.“explains Jeremy Loeliger, the commissioner.”The Australian game is renowned for its fundamentals and roughness, while the game played in Europe is more about technique, discipline and fundamentals. In the United States, it’s mostly about raw talent and athleticism.“The initiative immediately paid off for the NBL. By creating this program reserved for players of conscription age, who are distributed among the different teams, it managed to attract the attention of scouts and therefore of American television. to increase the ratings of a championship that then remained in the background, sometimes even being relegated behind the Chinese championship.

So how do you explain that future orange ball stars are increasingly likely to cross the globe to enlist in Pert, Sidney or Melbourne? “I have carefully studied all the options. I thought about it with my parents and agents and it was the best choice“Dieng confided to the Quotidien du Sport last February.”The NBL is increasingly followed by passes from LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton or Josh Giddey. Matches aired on ESPN. It is a very physical championship, of a good level, which will allow me to grow physically well.“The slim winger (2.08 meters) is the first European to take the plunge, before being immediately followed by his compatriot Hugo Besson (21), Pro B’s top scorer with Saint-Quentin during the season. 2020 -2021. They had a chance to play together for the New Zealand Breakers. The former racked up nearly 9 points and more than 3 rebounds while the latter scored just over 14 points with 4 assists. Both are expected to be picked on Thursday, which would be the first time for an NBL franchise. Great visibility for the club and for the championship.

Australia, the best preparation for the NBA?

LaMelo Ball was the first and main ambassador of the “Next Stars program”. He came for a season, time to hit 17 points and 7 assists before being selected in third position by the Hornets in 2020. He opened the doors. Since then, foreigners have tried their luck every year in Australia. With success. Jae’Sean Tate, Josh Giddey and many others have been there. Their success in the NBA gives recruiters a good reason to keep monitoring what is happening in the four corners of the Pacific fields. And, by extension, it helps push some talents to leave their hometown to join the new El Dorado. For them, this is an opportunity to play in a professional league, against more powerful and seasoned adults than basketball players of their age. While he obviously receives a salary. Money is an important factor, especially for young Americans who don’t get paid in the NCAA and earn less even in the G-League, whose level is also lower.

For Europeans, the problem is different. More than the fees, it is above all the play time and the responsibilities promised by the NBL program that can attract them. The most promising talents in France or elsewhere do not always have the guarantee of playing in clubs torn between the need to be competitive and the desire to train young people. Not to mention the sometimes hesitant coaches about throwing inexperienced players onto the pitch. “I benefit from individualized work with a bodybuilding-level program that I have to stick to, a program that the other players on the team don’t have – and also at the basketball level with individual training. Almost every day I have extra workouts at the end of the workouts. This is what I liked“, Testifies Ousmane Dieng.

Announced between ninth and fifteenth position according to various experts, the young Frenchman is already proving that his choice was worth it. Now, we’ll have to wait for the rest of his career to really judge his level of preparation. But for him there is no doubt: going to NBL was a successful franchise. “This season has made me more resilient, it has made me better in all respects. If anyone asked me if they should join the Breakers, I’d tell them to go.Seen as it is, more and more are likely to follow in his footsteps, and not just in France.


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