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Kenny Smith to Own a Team, Help Develop Young NBL Players Aiming to Reach the NBA Draft

New York (AP) — Kenny Smith will own an expansion team in Australia’s National Basketball League and will help recruit and develop players for the league that has sent LaMelo Ball and others to the NBA in recent years.

The former NBA player and TNT studio analyst was appointed Thursday as head of the league’s Next Stars’ player initiatives for North America, hoping to boost the program that aims to be a springboard to the NBA for young players.

Ball came through the NBL before he was the No. 3 pick of the 2020 draft by the Charlotte Hornets and the Rookie of the Year the following season. Oklahoma City guard Josh Giddey is another product of the NBL, which has had eight players drafted by NBA teams since the inception of the Next Stars program in 2018-19.

“Legitimate pathways to the NBA are evolving, and the NBL has a proven track record of getting players drafted,” Smith said. “The NBL identified a key role for me to mentor and support young talent and equip them with the tools to compete at a professional level with a view to making the leap into the NBA.”

Alex Sarr, a center from France, is expected to emerge from the NBL as a top pick in this June’s NBA draft.

Besides competition in the league, players in the Next Stars program are provided with financial planning guidance and media training.

Smith’s expansion team will be announced in the near future. There are currently 10 teams in Australia and New Zealand.

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