The 16th edition of Basketball without Borders (BWB) Europe will be held August 13-16 at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, marking the first time that Israel is hosting the National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA) global basketball development and community outreach program.

BWB Europe brings together 60 top male and female players born in 2000 from across Europe to learn directly from NBA and FIBA players, legends and coaches and to compete against the best young players from the continent. This summer’s edition is held in cooperation with the Israel Basketball Association.

Since its founding in 2001, BWB has reached more than 2,720 participants from 134 countries and territories, with 43 campers later drafted into the NBA. Thirteen former BWB Europe campers were on opening-night rosters for the 2016-17 season, including Golden State Warriors forward Omri Casspi of Israel, who was a camper in BWB Europe 2005.

Israel’s Omri Casspi, forward for the Golden State Warriors. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

Casspi — the only active NBA player from Israel — is involved in this year’s BWB program, which includes a variety of NBA Cares and Jr. NBA clinics and workshops for Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze youth in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in partnership with local community organizations. BWB will dedicate a new “learn and play” center at Jerusalem’s International YMCA as part of the program.

Junior NBA activities took place for Israeli youth from many diverse populations during Basketball without Borders Europe 2017. Photo: courtesy

FIBA National Federations & Sport Director Zoran Radovic said that BWB in August and then the group phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2017 in September “will make for two very exciting basketball months in Israel as well as put a focus on European and local basketball heroes.”

“Hosting BWB in Israel will allow the NBA and FIBA to use basketball and the values of the game, including teamwork, integrity and respect, to bring together youth and community organizations from a variety of backgrounds and foster cultural understanding,” said Brooks Meek, NBA Vice President, International Basketball Operations & Head of Elite Basketball.

Breaking down barriers

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met at his residence on August 10 with NBA Deputy Commissioner and COO Mark Tatum, NBA club owners, chairmen, board members, and NBA Hall of Famers David Robinson and Wayne Embry.

“Sport has the great power to break down barriers between people from different communities. In Israel, we are working to build this understanding,” Rivlin said.

Israeli President Rivlin with NBA Hall of Fameers David Robinson and Wayne Embry in Jerusalem. Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO

“Basketball without Borders is an amazing program,” said Casspi. “It’s great to see the NBA and FIBA recognize Israel’s basketball development efforts by hosting the camp there for the first time. I look forward to working with Europe’s top male and female players and showing them the beauty and culture of my home country.”

Casspi has been back in his native land since early July, first appearing at the 20th Maccabiah Games and then training with 15 other all-star Israeli players under Coach Erez Edelstein ahead of the group phase of FIBA’s 2017 EuroBasket championship, with matches planned for Israel, Finland, Romania and Turkey between August 31 and September 17.

Casspi is captain of the team consisting of Oz Blayzer, Alexey Chubrevich, Jake Cohen, Shawn Dawson, Lior Eliyahu, Yotam Halperin, Richard Howell, Elishay Kadir, Karam Mashour, Gal Mekel, Yogev Ohayon, Guy Pnini, Amit Simhon, Bar Timor and Idan Zalmanson.

The two previous summers, Casspi led groups of American pro athletes and celebrities on trips to Israel under the wing of his Omri Casspi Foundation.