CLOSE to 250 participants joined the Jr. NBA coaches clinic handled by Florida-based US Jr. NBA coach Frank Lopez at the Montaña Gym Thursday.

Lopez, in a press briefing, said he is overwhelmed with the turnout of participants considering that this is the first time they had included Davao City as one of the venues for the program.

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"I am shocked. This is the biggest field we have ever handled since the program was launched in the Philippines three years ago," Lopez said.

He said the huge turnout showed the commitment of coaches to Jr. NBA as an effective grassroots development program.

NBA Asia senior marketing manager Carlo Singson was also elated with the attendance.

"This is our first time in Davao. To have exceeded our target of 150 participants, it is very pleasantly surprising. This just shows the passion of people here not just to play basketball but to teach it as well," Singson said.

He said they launched Jr. NBA in the country in 2007 to provide a good venue for a clear premier grassroots program across the country.

"We expanded in Davao with the goal of really making it a truly nationwide program. We are thinking of adding more cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the next couple of years," Singson said.

Lopez, who had a six-year stint as lead clinician of the NBA All-Star Weekend Jam Session, said they look forward to seeing some local players in two Jr. NBA sessions Friday at the Holy Child School of Davao gym.

"We will go through a series of drills in ball handling, passing and shooting, among others. We will help them get through it. We will see what skills the kids have. We expect 100 kids in the morning and another 100 in the afternoon," Lopez said.

"From there, the kids may sign up for the regional camp set in March where we will choose, maybe, 10 players who will qualify for the national camp," added Lopez, who also worked with the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks.

Only the best 40 players from among the Manila, Cebu and Davao camps will be able to join the national camp in April. From the national camp, the top eight players will be enlisted as members of the Philippine Jr. NBA team.

"This is the only program where coaches and players benefit from the clinics for free. Those players who will be brought to Manila for the national camp will also have all traveling expenses and accommodations for free," Singson said.

He thanked Hi-Smart Multi-vitamins, Gatorade, Mitsubishi Motors, SM Supermalls and Spalding for supporting the Jr. NBA program.

Singson lso cited the Department of Education for supporting the program by sending their teacher-coaches and players to their clinics.