UK teenagers selected for elite NBA tournament

  • Published
Media caption,

Marc will be travelling to Florida after being selected for an elite NBA camp

A teenager selected for an elite basketball tournament says it's the next step towards "changing my family's life."

Marc Mendoza is one of just two UK teenagers to be invited by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

"My dream is getting my family a new house to thank my mum for driving me to my games," he says.

The 14-year-old will spend a week in Florida being trained by professional coaches.

Image source, Daniel Jamieson/NBAE
Image caption,
Marc is one of two UK teens selected for the NBA camp

Marc says ultimately he'd like to reward his family, who've always supported his dream.

"Everyone is behind me, my sister lets me use her camera to video my games so I can see what mistakes I made or things I can improve on.

"My mum and dad drive me to all the games up and down the country and cheer me on. I want to make their lives better because of what they've done for me."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is one of the NBA's biggest stars

Marc's ultimate goal is a career playing the sport professionally - and if that happened to be in America's top league, that would be a welcomed bonus.

"It's really hard to find the words to express what getting into this camp means.

"That's the main goal right now, that's on my bucket list. The best thing that could ever happen to me is getting into the NBA," Marc says.

The teenager's journey to Orlando, Florida, began several months ago.

Image source, Daniel Jamieson/NBAE
Image caption,
Marc was selected to represent the UK in Slovenia along with Demi Dada (left) and Tinu Fakunle (middle) who is the other person selected for the NBA trial

He was initially selected to represent the UK at a training camp in Slovenia.

There he competed against people his age from all over Europe - 47 teenagers from more than 20 countries.

The top 10 boys and top 10 girls were then invited to represent Team Europe in Florida.

"They tested my skills to the max," the schoolboy said.

"We worked on everything, dribbling, balance, defending and shooting. I also met a lot of new friends and contacts, that for me was great too.

"Meeting new people, different languages, that was cool."

Marc will now test his skills against the best players in his age group from around the world.

During his trip to Florida, the 14-year-old will receive expert guidance from qualified NBA coaches. His hope is to make enough of an impact so that potential recruiters keep track of his development.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Marc's favourite player is Russell Westbrook, who currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Basketball is America's second biggest sport behind American football.

The NBA is on a mission to grow the game in Europe and around the world with the aim of attracting new viewers, players and investors.

Although Neal Meyer, the NBA's associate vice president of basketball operations, says European countries also stand to profit from the game spreading.

"For us it's really about growing the game of basketball. And giving kids the opportunity to play in a fun, safe environment.

"As it develops, you never know where the next diamond in the rough is going to come from.

"Working with our federations, maybe they get top national team players and we get a future star of the NBA from one of these countries."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Luol Deng, a Briton who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, has spent 14 years in the NBA

Currently there are only two British players plying their trade in the world's top basketball league.

Luol Deng, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Ogugua Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors.

According to Sport England's Active Lives Survey, more than 195,000 people aged 16-24 played basketball at least twice in the last 28 days.

The head of British basketball recently told Newsbeat that her aim was to have 40 homegrown players performing in America's top leagues.

Although funding for UK basketball was cut after the team's poor performance at the London 2012 Olympic games.

Marc says he wants to lead the charge for UK players heading over to America.

"The hard work starts now. I'm going to train, train, train - really push myself. This is where the hard work begins."

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