Junior NBA 2024 Draft: Girls Join the Competitive Teams

LAU marks the fifth edition of its Junior NBA program with the induction of a full-fledged girls’ league.

By Sara Makarem

The 10 national all-girls teams participating for the first time in the Junior NBA draft.
Dr. Elise Salem shared LAU’s mission with the girls’ teams: To empower, enrich, discover talents, and provide opportunities.
Lebanese youth from 30 school teams, basketball academies and clubs pictured after receiving their assigned teams’ jerseys.
(From left) Charbel Rizk, Akram Halabi, Gaelle Khoury and Joe Moujaes.
Professional basketball player, Gerard Hadidian, receiving a shield of appreciation from Dr. Mohsen.

This year, the annual Junior NBA League draft event, which gathers Lebanese youth from 30 school teams, basketball academies and clubs to simulate NBA games, was unique. It coincided with LAU’s centennial year and marked a significant milestone in the five-year history of this initiative—the participation of 10 national all-girls teams.

The initiative to transition young Lebanese female basketball players from benchwarmers to on-court players aims to give them access to this valuable and professional experience, thereby empowering girls who aspire to pursue sports.

According to Joe Moujaes, LAU director of Athletics on the Byblos campus, including one female participant in each team in the previous editions was not enough or fair to promote and engage ambitious female players in the game, which is “why creating a Junior NBA girls-exclusive program was necessary.”

Two drafts took place consecutively on February 10 at the Beirut campus, one for the boys and one for the girls. The teams will eventually compete separately in an eight-game season, culminating in single-game elimination playoffs to determine the Junior NBA Lebanon champions.

In her opening speech, Dr. Elise Salem, vice president for student development and enrollment management, said that LAU, founded as a women’s college, “will continue to work with young girls and women across Lebanon and the region to empower, enrich, discover talents, and provide opportunities.”

Several guests attended both events and rallied the teams, including Akram Halabi, president of the Lebanese Basketball Federation; Dr. Makram Oueiss, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies and former professor of political science at LAU; Gaelle Khoury, sports reporter at MTV Lebanon; Charbel Rizk, secretary general of the West Asian Basketball Association and the Lebanese Basketball Federation; and Gerard Hadidian, professional basketball player at Beirut Sports Club.

This annual tradition of instilling the values of athletics in Lebanese youth, like discipline, teamwork, positive attitude and leadership, falls under LAU’s social commitment to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages, a UN Global Sustainable Development Goal.

Dean of Students in Beirut Raed Mohsen emphasized the significance of basketball in developing essential personal skills such as conflict resolution and management, which apply to various aspects of life.

Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd, he said: “In the same way that we are playing a minor part in your lives now, we hope that LAU continues to play a role in your life in the years to come.”