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Friday, 15th June 2012
In Japan Sports News,

NBA star hosts Basketball Without Borders project in Japan

Retired NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo is leading basketball's attempts to grow its international presence and recruit more youngsters to the sport.

The former star is currently in Japan hosting a series of basketball sessions for some of the top young players from Asia as part of the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) programme, AP reported.

Fifty of the most talents youngsters are in Japan for the four-day event, which is all part of the NBA's bid to grow basketball's international stature.

Three current NBA stars are helping Mutombo at the camp, with the Houston Rockets' Samuel Dalembert, Denver Nuggets star Corey Brewer and Vladimir Radmanovic from the Atlanta Hawks all taking part.

Japan's own Yuta Tabuse, an ex-NBA player is also involved in the sessions.

Speaking to AP reporters, Mutombo – who was picked to be global ambassador for the NBA in 2009 – said that the idea of the programme is to pass on their knowledge of the game to aspiring youngsters.

The 7ft 2in juggernaut was only the third African player to sign for an NBA side when he joined the Denver Nuggets more than 20 years ago in 1991, and became determined not to be the last and do all he could to help more African players reach the pinnacle of the game.

"After I made it to the NBA, I said that I didn't want to be the last player from Africa,'' he said.

"After my rookie year, I went to the league and talked about this and they embraced my idea and started conducting basketball clinics in Africa and that's when I knew I wouldn't be the last African.''

There are now between 200 and 250 basketball players who, having taken part in the BWB programme, are plying their trade at high schools and colleges across America, Mutombo added proudly.

While staying in Japan, the player-turned-coach also took time out of his schedule to visit Sendai, a city devastated by the tsunami and earthquake last year.

Last month, Major League Baseball stars in the US donated $310,000 to help aid the tsunami relief work being carried out by a Japanese charity.

Written by Susan Ballion