Basketball: Briton set to blaze trail with NBA's Portland

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The Independent Online

Joel Freeland, a 6ft 10in 19-year-old from Farnham in Surrey, was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as a first-round selection in the NBA's draft at New York's Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

Freeland was playing in England Basketball's under-18 National League a year ago and working in a supermarket to fund his development, but now the multi-million dollar world of the NBA has been opened up for him.

England Basketball's scholarship scheme enabled Freeland to travel to Solent Stars in Southampton to work with coaches Jim Guymon and Mick Byrne. Last season Freeland played for Gran Canaria Fadesa in Spain's national under-22 league.

Freeland said: "I feel I'm not yet NBA-ready, but I'll work as hard as I can to reach my goal of finally playing the NBA." Guymon added: "Joel was prepared to put in the extra hours of training to improve his skills. To me, this is what sets him apart from other talented young players in England."

Italy's Andrea Bargnani, became the first European to be the number one pick in the draft when he was chosen by the Toronto Raptors. He is the first number one choice never to have played US high school or college ball since the Houston Rockets selected China's Yao Ming in 2002.

Ming, meanwhile, will make a cameo appearance in afilm about a kung fu fighter turned basketball player. The Rockets centre will spend a day filming for the Chinese-language film whose title translates as "Dunk" and is set to be filmed in Taiwan.

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