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NBA legends open basketball training camp in Cuba

Basketball legends Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Nash opened a basketball training camp in Cuba last week. The four-day camp started last Thursday at Havana University and featured former WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro and NBA coaches who taught more than 100 athletes in a bid to boost the game's population on the Caribbean island.

NBA legends open basketball training camp in Cuba

Basketball players Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Nash opened a basketball training camp at Havana University last week in a bid to boost the game's population.

The four-day camp started last Thursday in the capital of Cuba and the two basketball legends were joined by former WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro and NBA coaches who helped coach more than 100 athletes.

Mutumbo, a Congolese American retired professional basketball player who played 18 seasons in the NBA, explained:

"As you know, basketball is a sport that can connect people, give them a bridge for cultural change.

"I'm glad that we're about to build this bridge that will help so many young men and women here in Cuba to develop the game of basketball."

The NBA is the first professional sport league from the United States to visit Cuba since the Obama administration announced that travel restrictions to Cuba would be relaxed. Basketball is the fourth most-popular sport on the Caribbean communist island after baseball, boxing and football, and the country's women's teams are leaders in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) games played in Latin America.

Despite the travel restrictions for Cubans for the past 60 years, the game of basketball is very popular on the island and many local residents play on street courts. As part of the four-day training camp, the NBA and FIBA plan to renovate three basket courts. Mutumbo also commented:

"Our job is to expand our game globally. It's a very historical trip."

Felipe Chavez, a 16-year-old player from Havana, watched every move played by the professional players and said it was:

"... a great opportunity to develop, to work on technique and the mental aspect of the game. I'd like to get to the top level of my sport and that's the NBA."

The Cuban players are hoping to be chosen for an NBA and FIBA training camp called "Basketball without Borders" that will be held in the Dominican Republic in the near future.

President Obama's announced late last year that Cuba travel restrictions will be eased for American residents after a travel embargo lasting more than 60 years was relaxed.

While general tourism has not yet been approved as a reason to visit Cuba, American residents can now visit the Caribbean island for educational, religious, academic and cultural, family and sports purposes across 12 categories.

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