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From LaMelo Ball to Ousmane Dieng: How Australia has become the new Eldorado for tomorrow’s NBA talent

As a new “nugget” of French basketball trained at INSEP, the young Ousmane Dieng (19) could have signed up with Paris Basketball, JSF Nanterre, in the G-League or even joined one of the most prestigious American universities to discover the NCAA. But the native of Lot-et-Garonne opted for a more exotic – but less and less atypical – destination by entering the Australian championship last summer. Thursday evening, a year after his debut in the professional world, he will join the line of promising talents passed by the NBL before being drafted in the NBA.

His decision to follow such a path confirms the trend of the moment: the Australian league has experienced a real gain in attractiveness for two years. Usually, the prospects brought to join the NBA followed a rather classic pattern. The vast majority of American players registered for the draft after a more or less long course on the benches of the faculty while a handful of Europeans landed from their local championship. The NBL came to break the established codes. Inspired by the signing of Terance Ferguson in Adelaide upon leaving high school in 2016 (before being drawn by the Thunder a year later), Australian officials decided to launch in 2019 the “Next Stars program.” An innovative idea presented as “a new way to develop young players to prepare them for the NBA.

Ousmane Dieng, new star of the NBL Next Stars


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We offer the talents of tomorrow an opportunity to play at a very high level in an English-speaking country and within a competition that mixes aspects of European and American basketball.“, explains Jeremy Loeliger, the commissionaire. “The Australian game is renowned for its fundamentals and its rough aspect while the one played in Europe is more focused on technique, discipline and fundamentals. In the United States, it’s mostly about raw talent and athleticism.“The initiative quickly paid off for the NBL. By creating this program reserved for players of draft age, who are distributed among the different teams, it was able to attract the attention of scouts and therefore American television. Enough to increase the audiences of a league which then remained in the background, sometimes even being relegated behind the Chinese championship.

But then how to explain that the future stars of the orange ball are more and more likely to cross the globe to enlist in Pert, Sidney or Melbourne? “I have carefully studied all the options. I thought it through with my parents and my agents and it was the best choice“, confided Dieng to the Quotidien du Sport last February. “The NBL is more and more followed since the passages of LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton or Josh Giddey. Matches air on ESPN. It’s a very physical league, at a good level, which will allow me to develop well physically.“The slender winger (2.08 meters) is the first European to have taken the plunge, before being quickly followed by his compatriot Hugo Besson (21), Pro B’s top scorer with Saint-Quentin during the season. 2020-2021. They had the chance to play together for the New Zealand Breakers. The former compiled almost 9 points and more than 3 rebounds while the latter scored just over 14 points with 4 assists. Both are likely to be drafted on Thursday, which would be a first for an NBL franchise.A great exposure for the club and for the championship.

Australia, the best preparation for the NBA?

LaMelo Ball was the first and main ambassador of the “Next Stars program.” He came for one season, the time to slam 17 points and 7 assists before being selected in third position by the Hornets in 2020. He opened the floodgates. Since then, foreigners try their luck every year in Australia. With success. Jae’Sean Tate, Josh Giddey and many more have been there. Their success in the NBA gives recruiters a good reason to continue to monitor what is happening on the four corners of the Pacific courts. And, by extension, it contributes to pushing certain talents to leave their native country to join the new El Dorado. For them, this is an opportunity to play in a professional championship, against more powerful and seasoned adults than basketball players of their age. While obviously receiving a salary. Money is an important factor, especially for young Americans who are not paid in the NCAA and also earn less in the G-League, whose level is also lower.

For Europeans, the problem is different. More than the emoluments, it is above all the playing time and the responsibilities promised by the NBL program that can attract them. The most promising talents in France or elsewhere do not always have the guarantee of playing in clubs torn between the need to be competitive and the desire to train young people. Not even to mention the coaches who are sometimes hesitant about the idea of ​​​​throwing inexperienced players on the field. “I benefit from individualized work with a bodybuilding level program that I have to respect, a program that the other players on the team don’t have – and also at basketball level too with individual training. Almost every day I have extra workouts at the end of the workouts. That’s what I liked“, testifies Ousmane Dieng.

Announced between ninth and fifteenth position according to the various experts, the young Frenchman is already proving that his choice was worth it. Now, we will have to wait for the rest of his career to really judge the level of his preparation. But for him, there is no doubt: going to the NBL has been a successful franchise. “This season has made me more resilient, it has made me better in all aspects. If anyone asked me if they should join the Breakers, I would tell them to go.” Seen as it is, they are likely to be more and more to follow in his footsteps, and not only in France.


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