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Why Neil is ready for another giant leap.

Byline: By Neil McKay

A sportsman's dreams of becoming the next Michael Jordan and playing top-flight basketball in the USA have been scuppered.

Neil Fingleton, from Gilesgate, Durham City, left home eight years ago and flew across the Atlantic, stars and stripes in his eyes.

His ambition was to play in the National Basketball Association league, where the earnings for top players can dwarf even those of British footballers.

But now his mum Christine has revealed that he's looking to explore "other avenues" in his life after injury wrecked his chances.

Hopes were high for the 7ft 6ins youngster, Britain's second tallest man, after he was widely touted as the UK's answer to superstars such as Shaquille O'Neal.

And at first his dreams were on course, as he graduated from Holy Name High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he had been awarded a scholarship, aged 17, in 1998.

He moved to the University of North Carolina, which Michael Jordan, the USA's top basketball star, had attended, and his future looked bright.

But a disc problem in 2000 kept him off the courts for a year, and his career failed to take off.

After unsuccessful spells playing in Greece and Italy last year Neil returned to the USA and signed for a newly formed team called Boston Frenzy.

It played in the minor American Basketball Association league before crowds of around 1,500.

But he was released by them before Christmas, just two months before his 24th birthday, and is not playing at present.

His mother Christine, 48, a nurse from Wilson Street, Gilesgate, said: "Neil has stopped playing for the moment and he is looking at other avenues to explore.

"He is still living in the USA. He doesn't want to come back here.

"He has an American accent now and he is accustomed to their way of life.

"And he is planning on doing some basketball coaching in summer camps." Mum Christine also hinted that Neil, who has size 14 feet and weighs 19 stone, may leave the sport altogether.

She said: "He graduated in the American equivalent of Business Studies at Holy Name College, so he has other strings to his bow.

"The American basketball season has finished now and doesn't start again until October, but I don't know whether he will play again, he is a very private person but I understand he is having a re-think on his career."

One of the highlights of Neil's career was representing Great Britain in the World University Games in Beijing, China, four years ago.

He had earlier played for Teesside Mohawks and went on from there to represent England.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 26, 2005
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