The National School League (NSL) was a new vehicle to identify up-and-coming basketball talent and GEMS Sports Academy took notice of the impressive players in the tournament.
As the hosts of NSL games played in Dubai – along with Victoria International School Sharjah and New York University in Abu Dhabi – GEMS got a firsthand look at the UAE’s young talent pool.
James Tucker, principal director of GEMS Sports Academy, believes the tournament brought some of the best basketball has to offer in the region to the forefront.
“I think certainly there was some talent in the groups that came and played,” Tucker said. “Obviously, basketball is like a new grassroots sport in Dubai and it’s yet to be mainstream in the main schools.”
The initiative very much aligns with the vision GEMS have of developing young athletes in the UAE, both on and off the field. By combining education with sport, GEMS are paving the way for aspiring athletes to begin the journey towards becoming professionals capable of a reach outside the UAE.
“GEMS Sports Academy is aimed at developing athletes for the future. In year one of our launch, started in September, it’s a great platform for us to identify talent of the future,” Tucker said.
“GEMS want to be involved with shaping the future of sport in Dubai and the UAE. The project, under GEMS Sports Academy, allows us to tap into future talentthat can hopefully not only represent the UAE nationally, but also allow students to train as a professional student athlete, allowing them to get the best of their education and training at the same time.”
GEMS have already had success preparing students for furthering their sporting careers, with Callum Beaver the precedent and Aaron Ferns a symbol of what’s to come.
Beaver became the first GEMS Sports Academy student to receive a full scholarship for a Division I school in the United States, where he’ll attend Holy Cross College and play football. Ferns, who’s already been invited to national team tryouts for his native India, is hoping to follow a similar path while training with former NBA player Jawann Oldham in GEMS Academy’s team.
The NSL has served to widen the talent pool from which GEMS can find new players to develop.
“Sport is still in its infancy in the UAE,” Tucker said. “I think projects like GEMS Sports Academy really allows athletes the opportunity to focus and develop, as well as have a chance at becoming a pro-level athlete, which is something that has always been missing in the UAE.”
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