VILNIUS – NBA Basketball School, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe, opened in Vilnius on Friday to develop and promote the sport among children.
Representatives of the NBA, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation and Vilnius Municipality, who unveiled the initiative on Friday, said the new school will organize NBA camps for children, international tournaments and other high-level events that will help promote basketball and improve the skills of young players.
"We are delighted. It's an amazing moment. It's our first NBA school in Eastern European countries. We have a couple in Madrid, in Italy, in Greece, but never in this part of our beloved European countries," Jesus Bueno Pascual, vice-president of NBA Europe, told a news conference in Vilnius.
The official said the school will not only run special basketball programs for children, summer camps and other NBA events.
"We can also help coaches, we can also help other clubs, the local federation or stakeholders to develop physical clinics, physical events here – not only for kids that are playing here, but for everyone in Lithuania," he said.
"Hopefully, they'll play in the professional leagues in Lithuania, professional leagues somewhere else and, hopefully, one day, they'll play in the NBA. But the purpose is not to develop players for the NBA. It's to develop basketball among the community, among young people to show them how beautiful our game is."
NBA Basketball School will be run by Vilniaus Krepsinio Mokykla (Vilnius Basketball School), a municipal body. The venue can accommodate around 1,400 spectators at a time.
Vilnius Deputy Mayor Valdas Benkunskas said the municipality has invested more than 5 million euros in the project.
Mindaugas Balciunas, secretary general of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, underlined that this will be a "permanent program", rather than a temporary project.
The highlights of the program this summer include visits by former famous NBA players and other events under the NBA brand, which will allow communicating them internationally, according to him.