Jarrett Allen has always had a passion for basketball and exploration. He discovered a way to combine the two through Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the global basketball development program of the NBA and FIBA.
Allen had been looking forward to being a part of BWB for a few years, but the pandemic hit when he was originally supposed to attend. This summer, he finally won his chance to participate.
“Two things: I’m not going to lie, the trip; it’s a free flight around the world,” Allen said with a laugh in a phone interview with Athleticism. “And then at the same time, I was interested in seeing how basketball is, like, the basketball scene of young people growing up in other countries. We only see a tiny part of the global spectrum in the United States, so I wanted to see what it was like all over the world.
In early August, Allen was named one of four NBA players to help coach the BWB Asia Camp in Canberra, Australia. Other NBA players linked to this camp include Josh Green of the Dallas Mavericks, Cameron Johnson of the Phoenix Suns and Coby White of the Chicago Bulls. Three NBA assistant coaches, New York Knicks international scout and Serbia men’s national team assistant coach Adam Tatalovich, former WNBA players Kristi Harrower and Annie La Fleur and former Australia Women’s National Team Jenni Screen have also coached BWB Asia.
The camp took place from August 7-10 and brought together 60 top male and female school-aged players from more than 15 Asia-Pacific countries. The NBA’s international basketball operations group uses a team of scouts to help identify talent for programs such as BWB and NBA Academy and work with basketball federations. A select group of campers are invited to attend.
At the BWB, Allen witnessed firsthand the collective reach of the NBA around the world.
“It showed me how great the Cavs are around the world,” Allen said. “I was going there, and somebody said to me, ‘Oh, can you sign that shirt,’ and I was like, how do you get a Cavs shirt here in Australia?”
At the start of camp, the coaches watched some preliminary games and got to know each of the campers. Then they drafted their teams and Allen’s team got the first pick, followed by a respective draft order. Allen called the draft “a lot of fun.”
Throughout the week, they led campers through movement efficiency drills, offensive and defensive skill stations, 3-point competitions, 5-on-5 games and leadership development sessions. .
“What struck me was how well-adjusted the kids were to high-level basketball already,” Allen said. “One thing the United States is proud of is our athletic ability. Every kid at 15 can make a windmill these days. … Right there at Basketball Without Borders, it was the kids doing the good readings, even on defensive things that took me a while to learn in the NBA. It seemed like these kids got it right away, and we didn’t have to teach them certain concepts; they knew it automatically. And the passes they were making seemed like they could make the right reading or be in the right place.
Allen continued, “I could tell they had a love for basketball – whether it was learning how to shoot, sticking around after long days at camp to shoot, talking with their teammates about the way to do the right backdoor cut, they had the energy to learn something.
Basketball Without Borders, which began in 2001, also serves as a community outreach program. The first BWB camp was held in Europe in July 2001. Since then there have been 65 BWB camps in 30 countries, with over 3,800 participants from 133 countries and territories. BWB has advanced 105 former campers to the NBA or WNBA. The NBA hosts four regional BWB camps over the summer in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
After camp ended, Allen spent time traveling Australia and New Zealand. He explored places like Canberra and the Great Barrier Reef.
“I’ve always wanted to experience something new,” Allen said. “I’ve never been to Australia, and you hear so much about it, and it was a perfect opportunity. Only there for four days for camp, I’m going to stay there longer and explore.
Between Allen’s off-season job and his involvement with the BWB, he participated in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he hung out with his Cavs teammates. Allen sat next to Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Dylan Windler in the Cavs’ first summer league game, and they got to see rookie Ochai Agbaji up close.
“It was great to be with the guys again,” Allen said. “After the season, you don’t see anyone. It’s like that; you’re going to do your own thing, see your family. But when it was finally time to see them again, it was awesome. We all had a good reunion. We did our group workouts together and it felt like we never left each other. And as for seeing Ochai, I feel like he’s already part of the team. … It’s good to have him in our team.
Cleveland will continue to prepare for the 2022-23 season with training camp next month. Allen knows that as a young group, the Cavs haven’t hit their peak yet. After failing in the playoffs last season, the Cavs want to prove themselves. As Cleveland’s starting center, Allen will play an important role in helping his team get there.
After being traded to Cleveland in 2021, Allen signed a five-year contract extension with the Cavs last offseason. The 24-year-old expanded his game offensively and was named All-Star last season. Still, his finger injury in March put a damper on his season as he missed 18 games. Allen returned for the Cavs’ final game of the Play-In tournament against the Atlanta Hawks, but Cleveland’s season ended that night in a loss.
Allen has been healthy this offseason and hasn’t had to change his plans much because of the regular season injury. He said he’s sticking to the same offseason plan he’s used in recent years to prepare, put in some work in the gym and weightlift. It’s a plan he’s seen results with to improve his game every year.
As he enters his second full season with the Cavs and they look to take another step forward as a team, Allen reflected on his time in Cleveland and what’s to come.
“I think I’ve landed in the perfect place to grow as a person and as a player,” he said.
(Top photo by Jarrett Allen: NBA Academy)