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A new competition: the Belgian D-League

January 20th, 2011 · No Comments

This season, the Belgian Basketball League has started a new competition called the Belgian D-League. We spoke with the General Manager of the Ethias League who is also in charge of this newly created competition. Let’s give the word to Wim Van de Keere.

The concept of the D-League is very simple, every team that plays in the professional Ethias League (first division of Men’s basketball in Belgium, organized by the BLB, Basketball League Belgium), has to enroll a team in the D-League. The games are played 3 hours before the pros and players aged 16 to 20 play in it. Each team can additionally have a maximum of two players being 21 or 22 years old in their roster. This means that for this season, the players in the Belgian D-League are born between 1988 and 1994.

This is the first year the D-League exists. The reason why the BLB decided to organize the competition was that the league clearly found there to be a lack of training at the highest level, more exactly preparation for a professional career of basketball player. Of course certain clubs have better youth programs than others and already invest in the training of talented players, but nothing really happened on a league wide level, nor national level for that, since the two federations (Flemish and Walloon) no longer organize a national youth competition.

So the first thing was to have a league in which the BLB wants to expose the best Belgian prospects. Concerning the organization, the same obligations as far as scouting and video apply as for the professional Ethias League.

Secondly, the BLB wants to make sure that clubs that do invest in the formation of talents, have their investments protected, which is why the League would like to develop a system of training compensation for the case that a player should opt to sign a first professional contract with another club than the club that trained him. Van de Keere gives more details on this compensation structure:

I guess you are aware of the Bernard case in which the European Supreme Court decided that a system of training compensation can be a legitimate infringement on the principle of free movement of labor if it is in proportion to the actual amount invested by the club and also takes into account the means invested for the players that never make it to the professional ranks . Furthermore, it stated that the aspect of possibly receiving training compensation for players trained (only for those signing first pro contract) can incite clubs to invest in the training of prospects.

Thirdly, and this would be the basis for the calculation of the amount of training compensation, the D-League will start to develop with lawyers from several clubs a model-contract for the players playing in the D-League. This contract would stipulate the rights and obligations of players and of teams in the age bracket of 16-22 within the clubs. In addition they would like to develop an apprentice contract, which would allow the teams to pay certain prospects that don’t have a professional contract yet (but of course the teams can offer a professional contract to if they want).

Wim Van de Keere explains the origins of the competition model as well.

The model of the competition and the measures taken around it are based on the French system of “Centres de formation” and the “Championnat Espoirs”, a competition and model which in my opinion has proven its value over the years. However, the competition system is very particular for this first season. As you will notice on the website, there are no standings. This was agreed on by the clubs for the first year, since some of our clubs had to take big measures to get ready for the season and weren’t sure if they were going to have enough quality on the court. There are no play offs, the first four play a Final Four and that’s it.

This Final Four will be played during the weekend of the Belgian Cup Finals on the 23rd and 24th April in a location to be determined.

We also wanted to know who came up with the idea of the D-League as Belgian had no more National Youth Championship because of the differences between the two regional federations.

The Ethias League itself launched the idea of the D-league, the details of the competition and the total project were developed by a committee of 4 people from the clubs (two former players, two administrative experts) and myself. I have played professional ball for about six years in Belgium and went to the United States to play NCAA (Fairleigh Dickinson University), so based on those experiences, I think that this model is ideal for long-term results.

Looking at the current results of the games, you see some large differences between the participants. That’s why I wanted to know how was the reaction of the professional teams in relation with this new competition for a country that was not particularly known for the good development of young players.

As far as the reaction of teams participating, they are mixed. Obviously, we knew we would not have a very high level this year, since the teams had to recruit players for something that did not exist yet. Furthermore, there’s only a small window in which non-professional players can change teams in Belgium (the month of May) and the final decision came almost halfway through that period. So, overall the level can be much better. Obviously, recruiting for next season should be easier with the competition existing, the website running and the Final Four being played. But it’s our job to ensure a maximum exposure of the competition.

I guess that this is done at least for some people reading this website now. Personally, I was not aware of this competition and found it out only by luck when surfing one day on the website of the Ethias League.

But let’s check also who are the players that are currently dominating this League.

The clear leader in the Index Rating is Yannick Moray from Spirou Charleroi. The 1991 born forward has already seen some garbage minutes with the Euroleague team and currently averages 26.7ppg, 13.4rpgs and 3.4apg in the D-League. This gives him an excellent 34.8 Index Rating over the first 9 games of the season. He is followed by the 1988 born Mukeny Kabeya from Vervies-Pepinster who scores 20.4ppg, 12.3rpg and has a 28.1 average Index Rating. The third one in this Ranking is Gael Hulson, a 1990 born guard from Spirou Charleroi who has 24.3ppg, 7.6rpg and 4.3apg for a 25.6 Index Rating.

We will follow this League as well and may go to the Final Four competition in April. Thanks a lot to Wim Van de Keere for his time to share the information on this new competition.

Official Website: http://www.belgiandleague.be/

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