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Paul George Explains Why the youth basketball structure in US is Broken

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French sensation Alex Sarr and University of Kentucky shooter Reed Sheppard recently spoke on Podcast P with Paul George. They spoke about their NBA dreams, player comparisons, and the special difficulties they face as possible lottery selections in the 2024 NBA Draft1. But it was Paul George’s attention that was drawn to Alex Sarr’s unorthodox route to professional basketball, which in turn spurred a wider discussion about the youth basketball system in the US.

This unprecedented feat has sparked a debate about youth development structures, particularly in the United States. NBA star Paul George, through his podcast Podcast P with Paul George (@PodcastPShow), has ignited the conversation with a thought-provoking statement: “‘We’re doing it all wrong here in the U.S.’ Alex Sarr going pro at 14 had PG wondering if the youth basketball structure in the States needs some changes”. George’s comments point towards potential shortcomings in the US system, prompting a closer look at its effectiveness in nurturing young basketball talent.

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The Established US Model: A Focus on Education and Development

The United States has a long-standing youth basketball structure that prioritizes both education and athletic development. Young players traditionally compete in high school leagues before transitioning to collegiate programs, which act as a springboard to the NBA draft. This established system ensures a strong academic foundation and provides players with options beyond basketball.

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Paul George explains What’s Broken in the US System?

George’s comments suggest he sees potential shortcomings in the traditional US approach. Here’s what he might be critiquing:

  • Delayed Professionalization: The US system emphasizes education, with players typically entering the NBA draft after college. This can seem slow compared to Europe, where exceptional talents like Sarr can turn pro much earlier.

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  • Focus on Balance: The US model prioritizes a well-rounded development path, balancing academics and athletics. While this provides stability, George might question if it hinders the potential of truly elite players who could benefit from a more laser-focused training regimen.

Alex Sarr’s Trajectory: A Challenge to the Status Quo

Alex Sarr’s journey is far from typical. At the age of 14, he made the bold decision to turn pro, bypassing the traditional route of high school and college basketball. While most young players in the U.S. follow the well-trodden path through amateur leagues, AAU tournaments, and college scholarships, Sarr chose a different trajectory. His move to play professionally in Europe raised eyebrows and prompted questions about the effectiveness of the American youth basketball system.

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