A plan for the 2020-21 G League season is still being worked on as the NBA navigates creating a plan to play safely in the middle of a pandemic. But the uncertainty of the G League season hasn't halted preparation for the G League Ignite team that features some of the top projected picks in the upcoming NBA Draft in Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.
The G League Ignite program aimed to help some of the top high school-aged prospects develop, train, and prepare professionally has been putting in work in a training camp-like environment since August in Walnut Creek, California.
building something special #GLeagueIgnite pic.twitter.com/PWX8VV48tX- NBA G League (@nbagleague) December 21, 2020
The plan is to maximize the prospects development on the court, but what's not lost on the coaching staff - led by former NBAer Brian Shaw - and some of the NBA veterans sprinkled in on the squad like former Toronto Raptors standout Amir Johnson, is the opportunity to help develop some of the NBA future role models.
Coach Shaw and his staff have taken that role seriously offering open discussions with his team about what he calls real things that are impacting not just the world but his team's families.
"(That's) one thing that we've been cognizant of the entire time since they've been here you know with everything that's going on in the world right now," Shaw told NBA.com.
"We've had discussions again and again about what was going on in terms of racial equality, Black Lives Matter, and even having some of the International guys that we have on the team and what's happening in their countries.
"There's a lot of similarities in terms of the struggles. You know, of the, of the lower and middle class in those places as well. "
While the roster is primarily made up of American-born talent, it does have a fair bit of international flavour. Lottery hopeful Kuminga was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and bigs Kai Sotto and Princepal Singh, who hope to be the basketball faces of the Philippines and India, respectively, are also on the team.
The team dedicates an hour at least once a week to have these impactful discussions, according to Shaw. They've also been able to talk to professionals via Zoom calls to further the learning and development.
Their off-court development hasn't stopped there either, the team has also gone through financial literacy and mental health exercises as they prepare for life in the NBA.
Another part of the NBA life is getting the opportunity to give back to the community. The Ignite put on a stocking stuffer event for senior citizens located in the Bay Area. The team helped decorated drawstring bags with crafts and filled the bags with crossword puzzle books, fleece blankets and topped it off with a personalized greeting card that they each wrote.
"Experience (was) great giving back to the community, giving back to others," 2021 Draft prospect Daishen Nix told NBA.com. "I've always wanted to do that since I was younger, especially being from Alaska...I would give back to others. It was just a great experience."
In their short time together, the Ignite have helped as best they could to make an impact in the community. Prior to the 2020 U.S. presidential election in November, they helped with voter awareness and educated potential voters on voter rights. They also helped those who weren't registered to vote, get registered.
And it doesn't seem as though they'll stop there, according to Coach Shaw. The responsibilities and commitment of an NBA player don't just stop at playing the game, and the young Ignite prospects are getting a hands-on look at what that truly means.
"All of these things that, just as a responsible adult, an individual that we think are important we're putting in front of them and they're embracing," Shaw continued. "Understanding when you sign an NBA contract there's mandatory appearances that you have to do and some are voluntary as well.
"We try to hold them to that same thing and make them understand the purpose of that because they have a platform. Because they have a position where they may be more fortunate you can't leave anybody else behind.
"And so we're making them aware of all those things and they're stepping up to the plate and understanding and doing their part."
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