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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 10:00 GMT
Amaechi signs for Manchester
By Andrew McKenzie

John Amaechi
British basketball star John Amaechi is returning to England to play for the Manchester Magic.

Amaechi, who has spent the last five seasons in the NBA, was recently traded from the Houston Rockets to the New York Knicks who then paid up the rest of his contract.

He will make his debut for the Magic against London United on 31 January.

"I'm hugely excited about coming home," the 33-year-old told BBC Sport.

"I'm a free agent and have had words from a couple of NBA teams already, but I'm planning to take some time away for me - I think I've earned it.

"I have a plane flight that's completely open-ended but I can't imagine wanting to leave any time soon."

He plans to spend the rest of the season with the Magic, who play their home games at the Amaechi Centre, before deciding what to do with his future.

As long as I can come in and not disrupt things totally for the Magic I want to try and help
John Amaechi
Amaechi, who is currently studying a doctorate in child psychology, has not ruled out the prospect of returning to the NBA or even playing in Europe, but for now he is just looking forward to being back in England.

"I'm looking forward to spending time with my sister and I'm studying a lot so this gives me an opportunity to work and be at home at times I'm not normally home. I've not been at home in January for 12 years," he added.

"I'm not expecting the weather to be any better but there is something to be said for just being at home.

"My whole life has always been very planned - every summer I've known what I am going to be doing every day.

NBA CAREER
Born: 26/11/70 in Boston but raised in Manchester
NBA teams:
Cleveland Cavs (1995-96)
Orlando Magic (1999-2001)
Utah Jazz (2001-2003)
Houston Rockets (2003)
Games: 294
Points: 1,837
Rebounds: 772
Assists: 228
"That's the beauty of my situation. The only thing I have to do now is get my homework in on time and show up to practice.

"I'm going to go with the flow and see how that feels.

"As long as I can come in and not disrupt things totally for the Magic, I want to try and help.

"We've had a lot of kids have come from the Magic over to America and we have more kids who have the potential to do that.

"If I can come in and help that program and the kids on an individual basis that will be a lot of fun for me and another way I can help put a bit back in."

Amaechi was hoping for a new start after being traded from the Utah Jazz to the Houston Rockets at the end of last season.

His two-year spell in Utah ended acrimoniously after he fell out with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

If it is the end of me in the NBA then it was a good run and a good way to finish
John Amaechi
However, after a promising pre-season in Houston, Amaechi was unable to find a way into the Rockets rotation, but says he will take away fond memories of his time in Texas.

"I had great team-mates - they were a really good bunch of people," he added.

"I got a really lovely note from the coach Jeff van Gundy when I left saying that I'd been very professional and he'd really appreciated my influence on the team and for being so positive under very difficult circumstances - which was nice.

"If it is the end of me in the NBA then it was a good run and a good way to finish.

"You do your thing and you set out to achieve a certain task and when you do that you can only be proud.

"I think what I have done is an achievement on its own. I've been a very respectable player in the world's best league for quite a long time.

"Certainly longer than most people thought I would anyway."





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