Back in 1947 when Little League Baseball held its first World Series, it was called the National Little League Tournament and was limited to teams from the then-48 states. Over the next seven decades, the event has evolved into one of the preeminent youth sporting events in the world.
The forerunner of the National Basketball Association, the Basketball Association of America, began its first season a few months earlier than the first LLWS. Over the next seven decades, the NBA has helped basketball become one of largest participation sports in the world – second only to volleyball.
With its global influence as large as ever and still expanding, the NBA is creating its version of the Little League World Series, and one of the qualifying tournaments will be held in King of Prussia next month.
The first Jr. NBA World Championships will feature 16 boys and 16 girls teams for players ages 14 and younger from around the world. Each division will have eight regional champions from the United States and eight international teams.
The winners of the regional tournaments and the representatives from the international teams will get all-expenses-paid trips to the inaugural championship tournaments, scheduled for Aug. 7-12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. In addition to the opportunity to be crowned as the first Jr. NBA Champions, participants in the tournament will take part in life-skills education seminars and in NBA Cares community-service projects.
"The Jr. NBA World Championship represents another significant step in our effort to promote youth basketball globally," NBA commissioner Adam Silver says. "And in addition to high-level competition on the court, participants will learn from NBA and WNBA veterans and coaches the values of the game and the most appropriate training techniques."
Qualifying is broken down into eight regions in the United States: Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and West. The international regions are Africa & Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America.
Pennsylvania is in the Mid-Atlantic region along with teams from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The Philadelphia area will host that qualifier June 22-24 at the Competitive Edge Sports complex in King of Prussia. The Junior NBA has not released the names of teams that will be in the Mid-Atlantic tournament, but Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore are three cities that always produce high volumes of college prospects.
New Jersey is in the Northeast Region along with teams from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont. That competition will be June 29-July 1 in Ardsley, N.Y.
Some regional tournaments have already been completed.
Elite SC (California) advanced to Orlando to represent the West Region in the boys' tournament, and the California Storm did so for the girls. Two teams from Australia — Eltham Wildcats (Boys) and Bulleen Boomers (Girls) — will represent the Asia Pacific. The champions from India are Delhi (boys) and Bangalore (girls).
Canada will play its tournament in June. The teams representing Africa & Middle East, Europe and South America will be composed of players from different nations who will be selected during training camps by representatives for each country's basketball federation. The players from China and Mexico will be selected from NBA-connected youth programs.