NBA Draft 2021

Kai Jones: From Basketball Without Borders to the NBA

Since 2001, Basketball Without Borders has helped young hoopers from across the globe get exposed and developed under the guidance of elite training and coaching provided by the NBA, in collaboration with FIBA.

All-Stars Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid, along with Jonas Valanciunas, Nicolas Batum and Danillo Gallinari are just some of the names that spent time at a BWB camp.

In some cases, BWB has become a confirmation of one's talent. It's an opportunity for exposure and a chance to get hands-on training with NBA-level coaches.

In other cases, it could be the introduction to the game of basketball as a whole - one that is often life-changing.

2021 Draft pick Kai Jones falls into the latter category.

Jones heard his name called with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. A first-round selection after impressive sophomore season at the University of Texas where put up per-40 averages of 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 58.0 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three.

Standing 6-foot-11 and now 225 pounds after packing on a bit of muscle since the end of his college season, Jones has the size and frame of a prototypical basketball player. He doesn't just have the size, he has the skillset that has some saying he's the best Texas prospect since Kevin Durant. NBA.com's draft expert Kyle Irving says of Jones "his high ceiling is undeniable". As a Texas and Brewster Academy alum, he has the basketball pedigree that most prospects dream of. Jones' abilities are clear, an athletic rim-runner with the ability to play on the perimeter. A defensive upside that could transform him into a franchise's dream starting big. All that is clear today, less than a week away from the NBA Draft.

But Jones' NBA dream might not have been realized if it wasn't for the Basketball Without Borders camp.

The 2017 BWB Americas camp was in Jones' hometown of Nassau, Bahamas. It was an experience that would forever change his life.

"That camp was a great time," Jones told NBA.com. "We stayed at Atlantis (Paradise Island Bahamas) while we were at the camp so we got to go to the water parks and everything and got to kind of bond with other players from all around the world.

"I had a kid on my team from Argentina. I had a kid on my team from Jamaica, a kid on my team from Canada, so it was really cool just to have that experience and gain some new perspective by talking to guys and girls from all over the world.

"And then basketball wise I was competing with some of the best players of my age from around the globe so it was a really fun time."

Prior to the camp, Jones hadn't played much organized ball. In fact, a growth spurt at the age of 15 prompted him to pick up a basketball and a year later he was competing at the BWB camp with some of the best talent his age.

Jones competed on a team alongside Jamaican Kofi Cockburn (Illinois), Canadian Addison Patterson (Oregon) and the tournament MVP, Argentina's Francisco Farabello (TCU). His play earned him a camp All-Star spot, a turning point in his development.

"I grew a lot at that camp," Jones continued. "Gained a lot of confidence because I felt like, especially after making (the) all-star team that gave me the confidence to know that I can do it - I can play with these guys."

After an eye-opening outing at the Americas BWB camp, Jones was invited to attend the Global camp in Italy a year later. ESPN's Jonathan Givony called Jones' performance at the Global camp "one of the biggest breakout performances".

Now less than a week away from becoming an NBA player, Jones continues to talk about his experiences at Basketball Without Borders with glee.

There's no doubt the experience is near and dear to him, as it is for so many others who have had the opportunity to attend.

And while there are many memories Jones will keep with him, one sticks out above the rest.

"What I would say one thing that stuck with me was a guy named Eugene Park he was a scout - and he works with the NBA right now, he invited me to camp a couple of years later, but he said to me 'I had some of the highest upside of anybody there' - just to hear that from him, it just motivated me to keep working.

"Now, I can do it for sure. I can make it to the NBA, it's just a matter of when.

"So I just continue to put in work - that really stuck with me."

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