NBA to hold basketball camp in Cuba to foster talent

Apr 08, 2015, 2:36 AM EDT
Yolanda Jones (C) from Puerto Rico vies for the ball with Marlene Cepeda (L) and Clenia Noblet (R) from Cuba, during the women's final basketball competition, at the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games, in Veracruz, Mexico, on November 23, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) announced on Monday that it would organise a basketball camp in Cuba later this month, reports the BBC.

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

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.

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.

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. 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".