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Basketball star Ryan Richards returning to Kent for sold-out training camp in his home county

Former NBA draftee Ryan Richards is coming home to Kent to help nurture future basketball stars.

Richards, who grew up in Sittingbourne, hosts his first-ever basketball camp in the county next week.

Ryan Richards wanted to host a basketball camp in Kent
Ryan Richards wanted to host a basketball camp in Kent

The sold-out event will be held on Monday and Tuesday in the Thinking Fitness gym at Rochester Grammar School, with Richards keen to give back to his home county.

The 6ft10in forward left Kent to start his professional career in Spain as a 15-year-old.

Soon after, in 2010, he was drafted by San Antonio Spurs in the NBA as a virtual unknown.

Double shoulder surgery ultimately put paid to his hopes of breaking into the team but it’s been a career to savour all the same.

Now 32, he’s played for clubs all over the world, in countries including Japan, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and is still going strong.

His next stop, however, is Kent, where he’ll be working with more than 70 youngsters, aged nine to 19, at the two-day camp.

Richards, who went to Murston Primary School and Westlands Secondary School, had significant sponsorship on the table to host the event in London and Manchester - but his heart was set on Kent.

Those attending are in for a treat, with special guests including American youngster Adrien Isaac, the 6ft10in 14-year-old who’s been tipped for NBA stardom.

“I know other places get a lot of funding, a lot of exposure, and I feel a lot of kids in Kent get a bit lost,” said Richards, speaking from a training camp in Chicago.

“There’s not much for them here and I definitely felt that growing up.

“I felt a bit lost and didn’t feel I had a purpose or knew what I was going to do. I always wanted something that was missing.

“I had opportunities to do this camp in London and Manchester, with sponsorship from big companies, but I wanted to do it at home.

“You can give back anywhere in the world but if you can give back where you’re from, that’s more special.

“We’ve sold out in year one, which is overwhelming and truly amazing.

“I know what I’ve achieved in my career but where basketball isn’t as big in England, I don’t get the respect that I do in other countries.

“That’s fine, so putting on a camp when I’ve been away for 17 years, and to have all these kids excited for me to share my experience, it’s humbling.

“We have international players, ex-pros and current pros coming in to help.

“We’ve got the No.1 young player in America flying over to work with me for a couple of days, which is kind of crazy.

“Adrien Isaac is going to get picked in the NBA in the next three to four years, so for him to come to Kent is special.

“He’s got it all. It’s just about staying on the right path until he’s eligible to be in the NBA.

“For these kids in Kent to compete against a player who will be in the NBA, on their own doorstep, how amazing is that?

“We’ve also got Chantel Charles, who’s an ex-GB player, to help the girls’ programme, and I’m really excited about that.”

Richards, who expects to continue his career in Japan next season, sees a big opportunity to mentor youngsters at the camp.

And with contacts all the over world, doors can open.

“My advice to anyone is definitely find a mentor,” he said.

“Find somebody you trust, whether it’s basketball or something else.

“That’s my goal at this camp. It’s not to make money, it’s just to be there for people, because I didn’t have a mentor in my career.

“I didn’t have someone I could call if I was going through things.

“I had to figure it out myself and it definitely affected me mentally and affected my career.

“I want that mentorship role. That’s my goal, to be like a big brother in Kent, the south east and beyond.

“I’ve played in 50 counties, I’ve played 17 years professionally.

“I’ve got connections in every level, whether it’s NBA, Euroleague, national teams, Asia, Africa.

“If there’s any kids who are really ‘wow’, there’s no question we can help them.

“That’s the beauty of these camps. You find hidden gems.

“I was a hidden gem. I was drafted in the NBA in 2010; nobody knew my name. I went to the NBA Combine and ended up getting picked.”

A long NBA career eluded Richards but nobody can take that draft away from him.

“To get picked was insane,” he said.

“I got drafted with double shoulder surgery, which a lot of people don’t know.

“To achieve that, it shows my work ethic, it shows talent and how I was raised by my mother as a kid, because that counts.

“I look back at what I could have done but I’ve had an amazing career, and it’s still going.

“I’ve managed to make money to take care of my family and see the world.

“In my younger years, I felt kind of jealous of NBA players but as I’ve got older I’ve accepted what happened.

“The NBA is the NBA. Some guys are there for one month, some are there for one year, so to play professionally for 17 years and stay relatively healthy, I’m blessed and grateful for what I’ve accomplished.”

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