By Josh Beneteau
Pedro Paulo had never left Brazil before this week. But the 17-year-old couldn’t turn down the opportunity to train with coaches from the NBA; a league he hopes to one-day play in.
Paulo was one of 60 teenagers who participated in the 2014 Americas Team Camp, held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre earlier this week. NBA coaches and coaches from Canada’s national program were on hand to run drills and provide advice to the players.
“Everything is different for me because I’ve never travelled to other countries to play,” Paulo said. “But I try to join everything I can, work hard and one day get there.”
Besides Brazil, players from Mexico, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Canada participated in the four-day camp. Roy Rana, head coach of the Ryerson men’s team and of Canada’s national junior team, said this was the first time the camp had been hosted in Canada and that he was honoured to have it at Ryerson.
“It’s really giving a group of young players from across the Americas an opportunity to learn from NBA coaches,” he said. “To a small degree it’s an identification to the NBA for talent but to a large degree it is giving back to the Americas from a developmental perspective.”
Rana and Jay Triano, coach of the Canadian senior team, worked with the Canadian players throughout the week. Other coaches at the camp included NBA assistant coaches Kenny Atkinson of the Atlanta Hawks, Chris Finch of the Houston Rockets, Brett Gunning of the Orlando Magic, Eric Hughes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Jama Mahlalela of the Toronto Raptors and Gersson Rosas of the Houston Rockets.
Bruno Caboclo, the Toronto Raptors top pick in the 2014 draft and a Brazil native who participated in the camp last year, was on hand as a guest counselor.
All of the players worked on drills that were both team based and meant to improve their individual skills. One of the skills the players worked on was inspired by a play from Argentine player Manu Ginóbili, Triano said.
“Today we worked on the Ginóbili step which Ginóbili perfected in Argentina and the Argentines feel proud about,” Triano said. “You learn from different countries, this game is global and that’s why this camp is great.”
The camp gave Triano an early look at players who could be representing Canada in the future and it also allowed him to see what they will be up against on the big stage. Triano said learning how other countries train and play is key to success on an international level.
“My biggest thing this summer is that we need to continue to educate our Canadian players at every level on what the international game is about,” he said. “When the young kids can come here and play against kids from Brazil and Peurto Rico and Argentina, they learn that the game is global and they may learn something.”