Basketball in Kazakhstan, which boasts the largest economy in Central Asia and has a population of around 20 million people, is still underdeveloped. The construction of modern facilities should make it possible to involve more children in the sport and eventually bring Kazakh basketball to a new level.
Since Kazakhstan joined the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) in 1992, the men’s team’s best result has been its bronze-medal finish at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, followed by its fourth-place finish at the FIBA Asia Championship in 2007. The women’s team finished in fifth place at the Asian Games, on four occasions, and in sixth place at the Asia Championship, also on four occasions.
The country’s premier championship league – the National League for Men – has only five basketball clubs, a number that is clearly insufficient for fostering competition and player development. The leading club, Astana, which includes a lot of foreign players, also plays in a regional tournament that includes basketball clubs from Russia and Belarus.
Attendance at basketball games in Kazakhstan is low due to the lack of infrastructure. Even the leading club, Astana, plays its matches in a velodrome, where the seating is far from the court, making the experience of watching basketball uncomfortable. According to Kazakhstan’s National Basketball Federation, there is not a single basketball facility in the country that meets international standards. The lack of quality basketball stadiums and courts is impeding the development of the sport.
Last year, the well-known Kazakh businessman Abay Alpamysov became head of the National Basketball Federation. An energetic manager, he named the construction of sports facilities with a capacity of up to 3,000 people in all regions of Kazakhstan as one of his priorities. This initiative aims to promote basketball by attracting both young athletes and spectators.
Alpamysov is currently assembling a team to execute these plans. In August, he appointed Dmitry Konov, a former executive from Russia with extensive experience in advancing Russian basketball, as his adviser. Konov will be responsible for promoting basketball among Kazakhstani children and teenagers, introducing the latest coaching methods to enhance their skills, as well as developing sports infrastructure in the country.
From a young age, Konov was involved in basketball and once played for MGIMO University in the Moscow Student Championship. A qualified specialist, he oversaw the modernisation of basketball facilities in nine regions across Russia as well as the construction of six street basketball centres in partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA), the premier professional league in the United States and Canada, in an effort to ensure that the facilities met the highest quality standards.
Konov invited NBA champions, such as Bruce Bowen from the San Antonio Spurs and Brook Lopez from the Brooklyn Nets, to the openings of these facilities. The American basketball stars conducted basketball workshops for children, thereby promoting the sport. Konov was also directly involved in launching educational programmes for coaches and children in Russia.
Once a member of the supervisory board of the Russian Basketball Federation, Konov invited the coaches of the Russian national team to scout players aged 14 to 16 at regional basketball centres. This enabled the coaches to identify the most talented players and invite them to summer camps, where they had an opportunity to join the national team’s reserves. This approach also helped improve the qualifications of basketball coaches across Russia’s regions. This is just the kind of experience that is needed in Kazakhstan as well.
An MBA graduate of the IMD business school in Switzerland, Konov has also always paid a great deal of attention to sustainability issues. Upon his initiative, clubs participating in the Russian Basketball League started collecting post-consumer plastics during matches for subsequent recycling, and the recycled plastics were used to produce basketballs for league games.
The National Basketball Federation hopes that Konov will be able to apply his active managerial approach and innovative thinking to the development of basketball in Kazakhstan.