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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Professional Basketball Combine: Helping Make the Unknown Known

With over 170 prospects testing the NBA waters and only sixty slots open in the NBA Draft, every prospect is hoping to get a look from professional scouts.

What many consider the “top prospects” will get their shot at the NBA Draft Combine, but for others that will go under the radar, with just as much talent, could utilize the Professional Basketball Combine as their way to land on draft boards come June.

Beginning just last year, the PBC, founded by Jake Kelfer and hosted at IMG Academy, had 16 NBA scouts and 23 prospects, including NBA G-League Rookie of the Year Antonio Blakeney.

Having a year under his belt, Kelfer sees opportunity and after talks with guests from last year, his expectations and vision for PBC have only grown.

“When I first started creating it, the goal in mind was to create a platform that could be an exposure opportunity for players to compete and achieve their dream of playing professional basketball…What has evolved is now more people are hearing about it, the competition level to get in is great, the talent level is rising which only adds more value to the teams, agents, players, and media,” said Kelfer.

As a basketball fan, watching the game is a passion and Kelfer takes full advantage all year to scout college players and talk with other evaluators to see who will be the next crop of young stars to be at PBC this year.

“I care about the type of person you are and the way you play basketball. We were fortunate last year to have a great group of agents buy into the system and deliver great players. This year we focused on all levels, power five conferences, mid-major, we even are looking at some very small schools that I’ve never heard of. For me the biggest thing is to provide NBA teams with the opportunity to evaluate great talent and a platform for players to showcase their skills,” said Kelfer.

In year two, the development of the whole weekend has improved and there is an aspect of the weekend that will be most beneficial to each prospect that shows up to compete.

“A very valuable part of the event is the player interviews. So all the NBA teams that are attending can select the players they want to interview and we do an entire interview component around the event on the IMG Academy campus…Last year we had a guy get interviewed and got sent off to a workout the next day, he is now on their G-League team…It is stories like that that make this event so successful in my opinion,” said Kelfer.

One of the 24 coming into camp with something to prove will be LiAngelo Ball, coming back to the states from overseas with an opportunity at PBC to prove he can matchup with NBA talent along with having one-on-one interviews with scouts at the combine.

“LiAngelo is an interesting situation. With him going to Lithuania and becoming a pro basically during his freshman season, he had an agent this whole year, which puts him at a potential advantage verses some of these other players who are coming out of college and they have two months of pre-draft process…It is a huge opportunity for him because he is a guy if you look on draft boards, people are split on how they feel about him as a prospect. That is what is so beautiful about our event. We take guys who we want to put in a situation and see what they can do against NBA caliber players,” said Kelfer.

Many of us focus on the on the court abilities, but NBA scouts evaluate the whole body of work, and Kelfer has received great feedback that has directly impacted the PBC going into this year.

“So far it has been great, we made some adjustments last year to this year based on the feedback we received, but overall teams were really excited. Some teams said, ‘Jake without your event we would never have thought about bringing this player in,’” said Kelfer.

This event is becoming even more valuable for individuals interested in the off the court ventures of the game with the Basketball 101 Program being introduced. It will be a two-part series, one being in the classroom and the other being on the court.

“Basketball 101, exploring the jobs of basketball. Basically what we are doing is similar to how Sports Business Classroom is at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, we are attaching a classroom activity to the PBC that provides a select group of people an opportunity to learn what jobs are available in sports. We are going to have a full day of career panels, team executive panels, agent panels and many other panels as well as giving participants access to networking opportunities and VIP access to the PBC,” said Kelfer.

With so much notoriety comes sponsorships, which the PBC is very excited about in year two.

“We have two partners that we have announced so far, MVMT and Eastbay. To be able to have two unbelievable companies support our event and partner with us in year two is incredible. To have both these companies believe in what we are creating and the impact we are having in the basketball world, that’s a blessing,” said Kelfer.

The future of hoops is now, and the league’s next star may just be coming through the PBC on May 22-23 at the IMG Academy.

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