NBA set for 1st Cuba trip since relations restored

NBA set for 1st Cuba trip since relations restored
Former NBA basketball player Dikembe Mutombo laughs during a news conference announcing him as one of the 12 finalists of this year’s hall of fame class during an event ahead of the NBA All Star basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in New York.
Associated Press / Julio Cortez, File

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NBA is set to become the first U.S. professional sports league to visit Cuba since President Barack Obama ordered diplomatic relations between the countries to be restored.

The league will hold a three-day development camp and host clinics for youth from April 23-26. Recently retired two-time MVP Steve Nash, newly elected Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, and former WNBA star Ticha Penicheiro will take part, along with NBA coaches Quin Snyder of Utah and James Borrego of Orlando.

The league said it will make an official announcement on Tuesday.

Obama ordered relations with Cuba to be normalized in December. The NBA and FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, also will invite two players and one coach from Cuba to participate in an upcoming Basketball without Borders camp for the first time.

When it comes to sports, Cuba is known for its achievements in boxing and baseball. But it won bronze in the 1972 Olympic men’s basketball competition, and the women’s team is the reigning FIBA Americas champion.

“In the continued effort to strengthen our national federations, it is extremely gratifying to see Cuba serve as the center of a development camp of this magnitude,” FIBA President Horacio Muratore said. “This is a country that loves basketball and we are proud to work together with the NBA on this historic venture.”

The NBA, through its NBA Cares program, and FIBA will refurbish three basketball courts and host youth basketball clinics at two Havana locations.

It will be the NBA’s first event in Cuba. Ties between the U.S. and the island were cut off in January 1961.

“We’ve seen the bridges that basketball can build between cultures,” Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said. “We look forward to sharing the values of our game with Cuban youth and learning together through the common language of sports.”

Washington Wizards vice president Tommy Sheppard, Knicks associate athletic trainer Anthony Goenaga and FIBA Americas referee Geraldo Fontana will join the coaches in hosting workshops for sports professionals.

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