Pro Basketball Combine offers players another path to NBA

Former Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney has become the latest free agent to head to China.

Every summer hundreds of college players enter their name into the NBA Draft. However, only 60 players get invited to the NBA’s annual combine in Chicago.

So what do the players who did not get invited do?

That’s where 26-year-old founder of the Professional Basketball Combine, Jake Kelfer, comes in. He started the combine in the summer of 2017 to target the need of alternative combines for the many players who need a platform to showcase their skills to NBA scouts.

While there are only 60 draft picks every season, the NBA introduced the two-way contract during the 2017-18 season, freeing up an additional 60 roster spots.

“I’m so thankful just because it put me in front of a lot of teams,” Antonio Blakeney told Amico Hoops about the combine in December.

The former G-League Rookie of The Year participated in the first annual Professional Basketball Combine in 2017. He averaged 7.3 points per game for the Chicago Bulls this past season, and used Kelfer’s combine to jumpstart his pro career.

After two successful summers at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the combine is moving after partnering with Mamba Sports Academy in Southern California. The location change should make it easier for NBA scouts, media and players to attend.

“First and foremost teams are going to show up when the talent’s good,” Kelfer told Amico Hoops. “We’ve gotta go out there and get as good of talent as we can, and put together an incredible group of 24 players.”

In just the first two years, the combine has produced an astonishing nine players who have landed two-way contracts in the NBA. That’s not to mention the multitude of players who have gone to the NBA Summer League, or gone on to play overseas.

Once a player arrives at the combine, he is gifted many other things than just a gym full of scouts. Kelfer has people there to teach them about things such as personal branding, money management and media training.

“We want to add an educational component to help them be the best pro and person on and off the court,” he said.

This year, Kelfer is introducing the “PBC Prospect Development Program,” which is presented by PTD Business Management and Urner, Lemos, & Paul of Wells Fargo Advisors. A few of the other companies leading workshops and programming are Brand Forward and Point Advising.

In essence, the players’ performance in front of the abundance of NBA scouts and executives in attendance is only half of the experience. The players learn from highly-educated people about money and social media, as well as getting to know one another.

Outside of the 24 players who attend the PBC, Kelfer heads a team of 20 people, each with a variety of skill sets, from the on-court trainers to volunteers trying to break into the industry. Most of the staff are in their 20s, looking to make their mark and create a name of their own.

In just two years Kelfer and his group of coaches, trainers and volunteers have exceeded anyone’s expectations.

“The players are getting the highest quality experience that they can,” he said. “Everybody, both the players and the staff, we’re all fighting for our spot, we’re all fighting for the players, and we all want it so bad.”

Corey Davis Jr. (Houston), Jeremy Harris (Buffalo), Kevaughn Allen (Florida), Isaiah Reese (Canisius), Kenny Williams (North Carolina) and D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State) are six of the 24 players who have already been announced for this year.

Founder Jake Kelfer launched the Pro Basketball Combine in 2017.

Those players will  be the first to try out the Combine’s new advanced technology. They are calling it the Advanced Combine at the PBC, featuring companies like KINEXON, RSPCT, and VERT, and they will be able to produce ultra-advanced data on players.

The Advanced Combine at the PBC is focusing on technology based-testing to find new predictors of success at the highest levels of basketball, with the goal to help players differentiate themselves and teams to find enhanced methods of evaluation

Teaming up with these companies, the PBC will be able to measure metrics such as the entry arc, the location of where the ball goes in on the rim, and the consistency of it. If two players shoot 8-of-10 from the same spot, the aforementioned analytics will be able to determine who is actually the more reliable shooter.

Other aspects, such as the consistency of someone’s jump, their power output over a jump and increase in consistency over times of jump, can also be measured.

“We’re really excited to debut the Advanced Combine at the PBC,” Kelfer said. “We think it’s going to be an incredible way to further sports and analytics.”

After two successful summers at IMG Academy, Kelfer and his team will have everything under way at the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, Calif., on May 21.