World Student Games: Amaechi a British star in the making: Basketball prodigy stands out from the crowd as he pursues NBA ambitions

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The Independent Online
JOHN AMAECHI'S 6ft 9in looked small next to China's giant 7ft centre, Wang Zhida, but his play was head and shoulders above anyone else on the court. And this despite Amaechi's verdict that he had an 'off day'.

With five minutes to go, Amaechi slam-dunked Britain into the lead, almost tearing off the hoop. It was a brief moment of glory in what was a disappointing performance in Britain's opening match in the basketball tournament here. China eventually won 72-66, severely weakening Britain's chances of moving into the next round. The United States are expected to win the event.

Amaechi is the first top-quality indigenous talent Britain has produced at basketball. Needless to say, he studies in the United States, where he has finished his junior year at Penn State, a leading basketball college.

This time next year, Amaechi, by his own reckoning, will be in the top 20 of the NBA draft, the system used to transfer college basketball players into the professional league. He stands to be a very rich man. While basketball players in Britain earn just about enough to keep up with the latest range in Nike trainers, in America serious money is to be had, and Amaechi, again by his own reckoning, stands to make dollars 1m ( pounds 680,000) a year. No problems with trainers there; he might even have a range named after him.

Unlike Britain's latest cricket 'discovery', Martin McCague, Amaechi is a true Brit, brought up in Manchester. He went to the States four years ago to cultivate what was an obvious talent. Basketball in Britain, he believes, is still really in its infancy. 'There are no facilities or funding in Britain, which is unfortunate because I would come back if there was.'

Unlike many college basketball players in the US, Amaechi has had the foresight to take his studies seriously. He is on a clinical psychology course and plans to take a doctorate in the subject when his basketball career ends - normally in about six years.

Dr J, Julius Erving, went down in the annals of basketball as one of the best forwards in history. Maybe we have a new doctor on our hands: Dr A?

Vitaly Shcherbo, the winner of six gold medals in gymnastics at the Barcelona Olympics, finally arrived in Buffalo yesterday after being delayed by financial and travel problems. There were fears that he would not arrive in time for competition.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 55

(Photograph omitted)