Latin America & Caribbean

NBA to hold basketball camp in Cuba to foster talent

Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz disputes a call during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics on 4 March 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz will be among the coaches teaching at a basketball camp in Cuba

The US National Basketball Association (NBA) announced on Monday that it would organise a basketball camp in Cuba later this month.

The NBA will be the first professional US sports league to visit the Communist-run island since the two countries announced a thaw in their relations in December.

Retired players Steve Nash and Dikembe Mutombo will be among those teaching.

Basketball is very popular in Cuba and the country has produced top players.

Its men's national team won the bronze medal at 1972 Summer Olympics and its women's team won the 2013 International Basketball Federation Americas Championship.

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Image caption Fidel Castro is fond of basketball, but he banned professional sport

For more than five decades, all professional sport was banned in Cuba, with athletes drilled to perform for the love of their country, not cash.

The restrictions have recently been loosened, but chances for Cuban athletes to test their skills against foreign professional players remain rare.

'Fantastic opportunity'

The NBA said it would hold a four-day development camp from 23 April. It said it had chosen former players who spoke Spanish to go on the trip.

They are eight-time NBA All-Stars Steve Nash and Dikembe Mutombo and former Women's National Basketball Association player Ticha Penicheiro.

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Image caption Former Lakers guard Steve Nash (centre) is among those travelling to Cuba
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dikembo Mutombo said the visit was a "fantastic opportunity" for both sides to learn from each other

Quin Snyder, head coach of the Utah Jazz, and James Borrego, who coaches the Orlando Magic, will also travel to Cuba.

Two players and a coach from Cuba will also be invited to take part in the camp run by the programme Basketball without Borders.

Mutombo said the visit would be "a fantastic opportunity to teach the values of our game and learn from one another".

'Magnificent'

The president of the Cuban Basketball Federation, Ruperto Herrera, also welcomed the move, calling it "magnificent".

Cuba and the US announced on 17 December that they would move towards normalising bilateral relations, which have been frozen for more than five decades.

Since 2013, Cuba has allowed some of its athletes to play in professional leagues overseas under the proviso that Cuba can recall them for competitions.

US professional sports leagues and teams are keen to encourage Cuban talent for a time when existing restrictions on recruiting players may be lifted completely.

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