OVERSEAS PLAYERS SHARE TIPS FOR TACKLING HOMESICKNESS
While emigrating abroad to play basketball in the NBA is the dream of many young players, those who have left family and friends behind to pursue their ambitions will occasionally experience homesickness. Each player has his own way of dealing with it, but there are certain common remedies as we discovered when talking to Danilo Gallinari and Matt Nielsen. Gallinari left his Italy to play with New York, who selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He is averaging close to 15 points and five rebounds per game for the Knicks, who have endured a torrid start to the season. For the 21-year-old, music is one of the ways he can get through the tough times and feel reconnected with his homeland. “I have 2,000 songs on my iPod,” Gallinari says. “I like hip-hop and techno music, but I also listen to many Italian singers like Adriano Celentano.” Whether it’s an Italian in the USA or an Australian in Spain, the story is very much the same. Matt Nielsen, who plays his basketball in the beautiful city of Valencia for ACB, also enjoys his music. “I love rock music,” Nielsen points out, “especially Australian rock, like Gyroscope.” Rock solid is a good way to describe the play of the 31-year-old center who captained the Boomers at the Beijing Olympics and will suit up for his national team later this year at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. For now though, Nielsen is happy playing his trade in Spain and enjoys every minute of it. “My family has adapted well to Valencia,” he says. “We feel very happy here. The boys go to a great school and life is great. I am very happy to be here.” And when he's feeling a little uprooted, it’s not hard to get into the Australian spirit because in addition to the music, there is also the recourse of cyberspace. “I love sports and my favourite is Australian football, which is not well known here, but I spend my time watching games on the internet. Go Dockers.” There is no doubt that the Internet has made keeping in touch with friends and family much easier and Gallinari happily resorts to available technology. He has plenty of friends, most of them in Italy. However, he keeps in touch with all of them. “I speak to my friends on the phone or on Skype,” he said. Gallinari admits to being a tad homesick and there’s no substitute for seeing people in the flesh. Fortunately for him, his family also often comes to visit him. “My parents take turns,” he explained. “They come and go from Italy. I miss them and I miss my friends. I miss Italy.”
CHINESE BASKETBALL AWAITING NEW GENERATION OF GIANTS?
It was recently announced that China star player Yao Ming will become a father for the first time later this year. Nothing unusual about that it would seem, but the offspring of Yao and his wife Ye Li – who played for China's women's national team could have everything on their side to match the sporting excellence of their parents, providing China with another generation of basketball talent. With parents reaching a combined height of 4.17 metres13 feet 9 inches (Yao is 2.29m, 7-6, tall, while Ye Li stands at 1.88m, 6-2), excitement has been growing throughout China about the son or daughter to be, with polls and forums dealing with everything from likely names for the child to guessing the offspring’s eventual height. We will provide an update to this story somewhere around the FIBA World Championship of…2030!
THAT’S ONE COOL MAS-CAT
Most star attractions at FIBA World Championships run up and down the floor. Some split defenses with inch-perfect passes, some bury timely three-pointers or others soar through the heavens for rim-rocking slam-dunks. One megastar that will be on the prowl at the games in Turkey has something extra special: he is the mascot for the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
The inspiration for the mascot is the much-loved Van Cat, a kitty that is like no other. The breed originates from the Lake Van area of southeastern Turkey and is distinctive by its un-feline-like love for water, which is why some call it the “swimming cat.”
Normally with a coat of white fur and blue eyes, the Van Cat is perhaps most distinctive because it sometimes acts like a dog! Another unlikely trait shared by many Van Cats is that they have two different coloured eyes – as is the case with the mascot for the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
It’s not so much that there’s more growl than meow, but rather that, like canines, Van Cats are known for retrieving particular objects of interest. And so, with the Van Cat due to feature prominently at the FIBA World Championship, one shouldn’t be surprised to hear announcers use some wordplay along the lines of: “They won the game by a whisker!” and “Boy, did they claw back that deficit!”
The name of this mascot will be revealed to the public on the official tournament website, turkey2010.fiba.com.