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NBA star eyes South Sudan’s basket-balling potential

Nichola Mandil BBC News, Juba

US-South Sudanese basketball star Wenyen Gabriel, who plays for NBA team Los Angeles Lakers, says he wants to tap into South Sudan’s basket-balling potential as the country has the “tallest and the most resilient people in Africa”.

The 25 year old, who was born in Khartoum – Sudan’s capital – in 1997 during the civil war before South Sudan won its independence, was taken to Egypt at the age of five months and later his family travelled to the US where he has spent most of his life.

“It is my very first time returning home – and [it’s amazing] such a reception,” he said about his trip to South Sudan for a three-day training camp for young basketballers.

“Basketball has changed my life and I truly believe it is more than a game and I am proud to bring it here and see how it’s going to inspire the kids of our country,” he told reporters.

“I am here to try to improve basketball in this country – to tap into the potential we have – the tallest people and the most resilient people in Africa.”

The 6ft 9in (2.06m) sportsman arrived in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, late last week for the camp that ended on Monday night.

“For these kids to see that someone like them has made it to the next level, I think it’s important for them to believe that they can make it as well,” he said.

Gabriel rose to prominence on the court when he played for the Sacramento Kings and has played for several other National Basketball Association teams.

Earlier this year, he signed a two-year deal with the Lakers.

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