Basketball: Fingleton following in famous footsteps

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S GIANT teenager, Neil Fingleton, has decided to follow in the footsteps of the NBA legend Michael Jordan and England's national team captain, Steve Bucknall, by accepting a scholarship at the University of North Carolina.

The 18-year-old from Durham, in his final year at Worcester's Holy Name High School in Massachusetts, raised eyebrows with dominating displays at several basketball camps last summer.

"He's made a good decision," Bucknall said. "It's one of the top schools in America. He'll get a good education and they've got a great coaching staff. They know how to help players develop and they teach fundamentals, which is what you need to be a successful player."

The overwhelming majority of professional players in America spend four years playing basketball for a university before signing professional contracts. Fingleton will be following other English players such as the Nigerian-born centre Michael Olowokandi, who was the No 1 pick in the NBA draft after his third season at the Pacific University in California, and John Amaechi, now playing with the Orlando Magic, who spent four years at Penn State before signing a free agent contract with Cleveland in 1995.

Fingleton is unlikely to play for England in the European Championship semi-finals, but would be a strong favourite to represent his country in Istanbul in two years' time if they reach the finals.

n The England coach, Laszlo Nemeth, has pencilled in his starting line- up for tonight's European Championship qualifying match against Latvia in Riga. The Newcastle centre Ian Whyte will start, plus rookie Kojo Bonsu, captain Steve Bucknall, point guard Silas Cheung and Andy Gardiner. Centre Chris Haslam has a chest infection and is unlikely to play