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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Amaechi fears for potential stars
By Tom Geoghegan

John Amaechi in action for England
Amaechi played for England at the Commonwealth Games
Former British basketball star John Amaechi believes the country's talent is not being allowed to flourish.

The former NBA player feels there is not enough opportunity for homegrown youngsters to play in the BBL.

He told the BBC: "We've a talent base that is as good as or better than France, Germany and Belgium.

"We could do with a professional league - all we have is a pretence of that in which most players are foreign and most English players don't play."

Amaechi is Britain's most successful basketballer, having spent several years in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.

In the past he has also been one of the biggest critics of the way the sport is run in England.

Now retired, he has set up the Amaechi Basketball Centres (ABC) Foundation to partly help youngsters achieve their ambitions in the sport.

The development pathway is really growing and young people are showing their raw talent

John Amaechi

Amaechi says 5,000 youngsters attend his centre in Manchester each week.

A centre costing 8m is set to open in Bradford this year, with plans for another four to follow.

He joined the executive board of England Basketball in August 2005 and, despite recent problems over funding from Sport England, he feels they are in a good position to help push the sport forward.

He added: "England Basketball has a director and a board that's keen, competent and forthright, to push basketball forward.

"We haven't had a board this positive in a long, long time.

"We've progressed beyond the wildest dreams of Sport England and Fiba so we have made real progress.

"We're more than up to the task but we need the infrastructure in place.

"Part of that can come out of what I'm doing with the ABC Foundation and beyond that, we just need time to develop.

"The development pathway is really growing and young people are showing their raw talent.

"We just need to provide the infrastructure to help them make the leap to the top divisions in England or higher, even to the US."

606: DEBATE

Amaechi helped London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics but is disappointed not to have been asked to get more involved since then.

"It's a shame because I have something to offer," he said.

"If they're interested in legacy and providing a legacy for young people through their indoor sports then I'm the man."

A spokesman for London 2012 said they were grateful for the work Amaechi had done.

He added: "At the moment we don't have an ambassadorial programme but it is something we would like to get in contact with the likes of John further down the line."



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