Basketball: Asian presence won't diminish in NBA

Asian stars have a bright future in the world's top basketball league, a senior NBA official said Wednesday, despite the retirement of Yao Ming leaving only two of the continent's players active.

Just two Asians -- Yao's fellow Chinese Yi Jianlian and Hamed Haddadi of Iran -- played in the 2011-2012 NBA season and none is among early entrants into the 2012 NBA draft due to be held on June 28.

"I wouldn't say Asia is underrepresented," National Basketball Association senior vice president Kim Bohuny said as the league opened a four-day camp in Tokyo to train young players from the region in cooperation with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

"What the NBA would like to do is just really work with FIBA and FIBA Asia to invest in development here," Bohuny, who is charged with international operations, told AFP.

"You have many talented young players and I really believe that the future of the region is very bright."

Injury-prone Yao, a 229-centimetre (7ft 6in) centre with the Houston Rockets, retired from basketball in July last year after helping boost the NBA's popularity in his native China for a decade.

Around 80 foreign-born players from three dozen countries have played in the NBA this past season, many of whom are from Europe. France alone has nine players active in the NBA.

Bohuny noted the NBA and its female counterpart, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), were working with federations in Asia to develop talent.

The NBA and the Chinese Basketball Association opened a basketball academy in Dongguan, southern China, last November to train young players with NBA methods, she said. "I would hope to see other players have a chance to go to the next level in the future."

Tokyo has become the 18th city to host the NBA's "Basketball Without Borders" programme which began in 2001 to promote the game and educate people on health and fitness using top talent and retired stars from the NBA.

Six camps have been held in Asia -- Beijing in 2005 and 2009, Shanghai in 2006 and 2007, New Delhi in 2008 and Singapore in 2010. Yao took part in the 2005 and 2007 camps in China.

The latest camp has brought together 46 select players, aged 18 or younger, from 16 Asian territories, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

The Asian countries are China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Uzbekistan.

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