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Star Hoopster Teams Under Basket in July

While the NBA is setting the standard for basketball in the world, officials from the International Basketball Association (FIBA), the governing body of world of basketball is targeting development of the sport at the grassroots level globally.

"Our role is to have basketball played in every corner of the world," said Ching Man Wai, the Asian Marketing and Event Manager of FIBA.

"Now, basketball is an America-orientated sport, but we have been working hard to provide fans a diversified basketball and promote it in our own style."

The federation has worked hard to organize top-notch basketball tournaments like the World Championships, a widely-watched event which joins national teams from different countries and regions and is held every two years.

FIBA officials are also playing a key role in promoting the sport among the young people around the world to make it as deep-rooted as possible.

"We are responsible for our members from 212 nations and regions all over the world, especially those of developing countries," said Lubomir Kotleba, the FIBA Sports Director.

Now FIBA is turning its sights on reaching out the world's biggest basketball base where fan numbers are rapidly increasing thanks to the inspiration of Houston Rockets star centre Yao Ming.

This has enabled the federation to hold the "Stankovic Continental Champions Cup", a top-level continental event, for the first time on the Chinese mainland.

The event will be held in Beijing's Capital Gymnasium from July 26-31.

The entry list includes Asian champions China, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games gold medallists Argentina, European champions Lithuania, Oceania champions Australia, African champions Angola and last year's American runners-up Puerto Rico.

This strong team line-up is likely to put the tournament up among the world's best - Argentina are the reigning world and Olympic champions; Lithuania were fourth-place finishers at the Athens Games and Puerto Rico placed sixth.

China were two spots lower at eighth in Athens, while Australia is currently ranked No 3 in the world.

And special good news for fans is the promise by Chinese officials that their hero Yao Ming will be there.

"The exact date of Yao's return is not fixed, but he will certainly participate in the event," said Hu Jiashi, vice-director of the National Basketball Administrative Centre on June 12.

Along with the Stankovic Cup, FIBA will also launch a youth training camp - Basketball without Borders - from July 14 to 17.

Under the co-operation with the NBA, the camp, which makes its debut in China, is part of a global tour that includes South Africa, Italy and Argentina.

More than 440 children from 72 nations and regions have been part of the program, with two training centres set up in Brazil and South Africa.

(China Daily July 25, 2005)

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