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DetEksi Basketball League: Spreading Hoops and Hope

While trying to gather more information about Danny Granger's visit to Surabaya, Indonesia, I was thrilled with the excitement shown by his hosts from the DetEksi Basketball League (DBL). They were quite helpful in sending me pictures and info about the events involving Danny. Through our email correspondence, my interest quickly evolved from Danny's visit to the budding DBL program itself.

It's quite interesting to note that Indonesia is grappling with student-athlete issues in their youth-development programs just as the NBA, NCAA and AAU programs are in the United States. The stakes and factors influencing the debate may differ greatly but the bottom line for both countries is an attempt to strike an appropriate balance for the kids involved.

Money and marketing aren't the overwhelming factors hanging over Indonesian youth basketball, like they are in the U.S. Instead, the DBL is trying to use basketball to improve the quality of life for kids and open up opportunities to improve their education along with their basketball skills. Basketball becomes a vehicle to open doors to a brighter future whether that be on the court, or more likely, in some other walk of life. I look forward to tracking the progress of the DBL in the years to come.

My thanks to DBL Media Officer, Aziz Hasibuan, for providing pictures and a video of the events involving Granger, as well as putting me in touch with the league's Commissioner, 31 year old, Azrul Ananda. Azrul was kind enough to answer all of my inquries promptly (seriously, I'm not sure the guy sleeps, he'd be a great blogger). With his permission, I'm happy to share his insights on Danny's visit, as well as how and why he started the DBL in Surabaya.

DBL Commissioner Azrul Ananda swaps jerseys with Danny Granger

DBL Commissioner Azrul Ananda swaps jerseys with Danny Granger

IC: How did Danny and the NBA become involved in the DBL's Best and Biggest event and NBA Clinic?

Azrul: I met people from the NBA (NBA Asia office) in March 2008 to help grow DBL in Indonesia. We made a multiyear collaboration, starting with the NBA Basketball Clinic in August 2008. In the Clinic, an NBA player will coach and inspire DBL Champions from the regions. The Clinic is also Indonesia's first-ever NBA event.

NBA Asia office later informs that Danny Granger is available. We are soooo happy to get a player of his caliber to coach our champions. And he was GREAT!!!!!! Granger is not alone in the clinic. He was helped by Martin Conlon, manager of basketball operations international NBA. He used to play for the Milwaukee Bucks (Marty Conlon).

Marty Conlon, working for NBA Asia, organized
the NBA Clinic and Granger's participation

IC: Can you share any humorous stories from the events involving Danny? Something along the lines of a DBL player challenging him or any funny comments. Did Danny ever refer to his love of superheroes Superman and Batman?

Azrul: Danny did arrive in Surabaya on 22 August wearing a Superman t-shirt! During an interview with Jawa Pos newspaper (DBL sponsor and Indonesia's biggest newspaper network) he mentions how he loves superheroes. He also mentioned that he will sign a five year contract extension with the Pacers worth between US$ 50 million to US$ 70 million.

He was great with the kids. On August 23, when he arrived for the DBL Finals in Surabaya, almost 5.000 spectators were screaming "Danny! Danny! Danny!" He was a superstar in Surabaya!!!!

He played NBA 2Ball with some of the high school players during halftime, and he wowed the crowd with his 3-point shot accuracy! In the NBA Basketball Clinic on August 24, he dunked four times to make the kids happy. He jokes around by racing (running) with the kids, blocking their shots, and doing pushups because he was losing in shooting games.

Funny story: He said he loves Batman and The Dark Knight is now his favorite movie. But during a dinner in Surabaya, he jumps scared when a little bat entered the room!!!! Everybody laughs! Granger said that he fears bats the most.

Would Superman jump scared of a bat? Man.

IC: How long has the DBL been developing Indonesian basketball players?

Azrul: DBL was established in 2004. It is the first league in Indonesia to use the concept of "student athlete." Before DBL, Indonesia's basketball system was a mess. Professional players still allowed to play in amateur or school level. With DBL, players must perform on the court and in the classroom. We check their grades to make sure they are still eligible to play. Just like in the US.

Today, DBL is held in ten out of 33 provinces in Indonesia, with about 13,000 registered players. Next year, it will grow to 15 provinces, with around 16,000 players. By far Indonesia's biggest basketball program at any level.

I was an exchange student in Ellinwood High School, Kansas, in 1993-1994. It is where I learned about the basketball system. It is where I was inspired to start DBL. Ironically, my host family, John and Chris Mohn, is now living in Evansville, Indiana. I was in Indianapolis in January 2007, I saw Danny Granger and the Pacers play there against the Dallas Mavericks. Little did I know, that Granger later will be coming to my hometown, for my basketball league.

IC: These were the Top 25 boys and Top 25 girls high school players. What is next for these kids in their basketball careers? Will they possibly play in pro leagues or could they play for American colleges?

Azrul: A total of 238 players (boys and girls) participated in the NBA Basketball Clinic. They are the DBL high school champions from ten provinces in Indonesia. Before the clinic with Danny Granger, they must join a pre-camp with Surabaya's CLS Knights, Surabaya's professional team. The CLS Knights then selects the top 25 boys and 25 girls to continue the camp with Danny Granger.

IC: Since the CLS Knights help select the top players, will those players eventually move up to play in the CLS Knights program? Do they have developmental teams to support the main professional team? 

Azrul: Unfortunately, in Indonesia we don't have complete program like in the US. Basically, CLS Knights is a professional league that is supporting DBL's particular needs, such as giving clinics. I work for Jawa Pos (now i am vice COO), and Jawa Pos sponsored the CLS Knights.

Our top players are not automatically in the pro league. They may not even play at the collegiate level. That is how dysfunctional Indonesia's system currently is. One of our long term program is to set up the steps for them to move up.

For now, our goal is to have better human quality, balancing between basketball and school. As I mentioned earlier, before DBL, sometimes schools deliberately failed their basketball players so that they can stay in school longer, winning more championships for the school. Before DBL, there are no separations between the pros and the amateurs, between the pros and the students.

As for now, those top DBL players get a great opportunity to study abroad. DBL and the Australian government (sorry, no US government yet) have agreed to send a DBL All-Star Team (12 boys and 12 girls, plus four top coaches) to go to Perth, Australia, for a week. They will participate in DBL Western Australia Games, playing a few games against Western Australia's high school and youth teams. Some of them were selected from the NBA Basketball Clinic with Danny Granger, some others by their performance in the DBL.

For most of them, it will be their first time flying outside the country!

We hope, with the multiyear agreement with the NBA (the first in Indonesia!) we can grow faster. Not only the league and the system, but also the level of play in the future. For next year, DBL and NBA will work together in Surabaya, organizing the first INDONESIA DEVELOPMENT CAMP. One NBA player and two assistant coaches will fly to Surabaya next summer, helping DBL's top 40 or 50 players and top coaches to improve.

But DBL is still young. We still have a looooong way to go before becoming a true league like in the US.

All we can do now is work hard to attain it.

The light bulb really went off for me after reading Azrul's final comments. The DBL  is less about developing talented basketball players and more about developing opportunities for Indonesian youth. They use basketball as a means to an end for a better life and education for the kids.

A big tip of the cap to the NBA and NBA Asia for supporting this grass roots effort to spread the game of basketball (and all the wonderful side effects of the game) to this area of the world.

I can't wait to hear about the DBL's first big time player to arrive on the national stage in a few years. With the dedication and support from Azrul and his organization it is just a matter of time. Until then, the big time impact on hundreds of Indonesian youths will remain a source of pride.

Speaking of pride, Azrul followed up a recent email with this little postscript:

One more ironic thing: Pacers' new motto is "....restore the pride." Well, our DBL motto since 2006 is "Pride." One more coincidence. So I was sure Danny Granger was MEANT to be in Surabaya.

No doubt.