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FIBA/NBA - Basketball without Borders enjoys Italian job
ROME (Basketball without Borders) - Basketball without Borders (BWB), the NBA and FIBA's global basketball development programme, is continuing to make a positive splash around the globe after the successful conclusion of its European camp in the Italian capital of Rome earlier this month (2-5 June).
One of the highlights at the event - which saw 50 of the best young basketball players from the continent put through their paces by some of the best coaches, players and mentors the sport has to offer - was the All-Star game.
Featuring 20 players, as selected by the NBA coaches, those on the white team were coached by Ron Adams, Brian Hill, Patrick Hunt, Gigi Datome, Brandon Knight and Vladimir Radmanovic, while those in blue - who eventually prevailed 58-49 - had valued input from Darvin Ham, Andrea Bargnani, Al Horford, Danilo Gallinari, Melvin Hunt and Hanno Mottola.
A total of 16 countries were represented, with Stephane Gombauld flying the flag for his native France by being named All-Star Game MVP, while his compatriot Luc Loubaki took home the accolade of BWB Europe Camp MVP.
"This has been a great experience and I consider myself very lucky," stated Loubaki.
"It was great to be coached by the NBA players and the one thing I will retain more than anything, is that you have to put in the work.
"My goal is to get to the highest level possible and play in the NBA, but to get there will involve a lot of hard work and dedication."
Meanwhile, the three-point contest was won by Lithuania's Martynas Varnas.
The camp though was not only limited to the on-court action, with the camp participants able to enjoy an unforgettable experience by visiting many sites of interest in Rome - including a trip to the Vatican.
Italy has played an important part in the history of BWB, with the very first European camp held in the city of Treviso, way back in 2001.
What made this year's event all the more significant, was that Italy's own Bargnani (New York Knicks), Datome (Detroit Pistons) and Gallinari (Denver Nuggets) were all participants themselves in subsequent camps in their homeland.
Their return as fully-fledged NBA players proved an inspiration to the young kids who were assembled.
"It's crazy because Basketball without Borders started in Italy more than 10 years ago and I was able to be part of it as a basketball player as a young kid when I was 15 and when I was 16," said Gallinari.
"The camp was particularly memorable.
"I loved it when I was taking part as a young basketball player, so to be able to do it as an NBA player, coaching the young guys I think is a blessing.
"I wish all the kids well and maybe one day, they too will return to BWB as an NBA player."
Running concurrently to the activities for male athletes, 25 top girls from Italy were also put through their paces in two early sessions that focused on basketball fundamentals.
That particular day also ended on a real high with a Special Olympics Clinic that featured more than 40 athletes.
So far, Basketball without Borders has helped more than 1,700 campers from more than 120 countries, with 28 BWB campers drafted to the NBA.
The BWB Asia Camp is currently making its first-ever visit to Taipei City, Chinese Taipei (13-16 June).
The 2014 edition of the programme will conclude (5-8) when BWB Africa returns to Johannesburg for an 11th time.