He is not breaking height records in quite the same way as the Burj Dubai, but at 7ft 1in (2.16 metres) Jawann Oldham is a human equivalent of Dubai's latest towering architectural masterpiece.
However, the former NBA professional who has played alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and several other legends during his career, insists that it takes a lot more than long limbs to succeed in a sport such as basketball.
That and a whole lot more is what Oldham has been drilling into the heads of his wards at his summer camp taking place at the Centennial University of Dubai.
“Height is a big misconception,'' said Oldham, adding, “it doesn't matter how tall or short you are, it is down to talent and your desire and passion to play the game. Basketball doesn't discriminate against anyone.''
Having arrived here from Japan where his three-year stint resulted in the rise of the nation's first fully professional basketball league, Basketball Japan, Oldham is keen on building upon the sport's existing culture in the Middle East.
“I knew it's a great draw among the expats and that the Emiratis also love basketball as a second sport to football. And I know basketball has so much potential to grow here in Dubai so this is a great place for me to have a base and build from there.
“As we speak, I have already received an invite to open an academy in Abu Dhabi from an Egyptian gentleman,'' said Oldham.
Before that happens though, he has his hands full dealing with the response that the Dubai camp has generated.
“We have had myriad people coming down to enrol their kids at the academy. It's open to basketball lovers and we have people from Pakistan, India as well as Emiratis, Syrians and Egyptians. We don't discriminate,'' he said with a laugh.
Oldham also refused to rule out the possibility of an Emirati making it to the NBA.
“I do see the potential for that. I saw it happen in China when we started professional basketball there and we produced Yao Ming. I'm sure Japan will produce a professional NBA player in the next five to six years and I see it happening here too.
“There are some talented young people here in the Middle East and we would love to have someone from this region play in the NBA. It is part of development and I want to help develop people from the Middle East and the UAE to become, just in general, better athletes,'' said the former LA Lakers centre.
The youngsters themselves could not be any more excited about being coached by a towering former professional they are usually accustomed to seeing on their TV screens. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get trained by a former NBA star. [Oldham] trains us hard but I'm glad to be here,'' said 16-year-old Nathan Donoghue.
Abdullah Bundakji, another camp attendee underlined the benefits of Oldham's demanding physical drills. “It has already helped me lose a lot of weight,'' he said with a smile.
- Born: July 4, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois
- Career path: After graduation from Seattle University, Oldham was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 1980 NBA draft where he played the 1980-81 season
- Teams: Houston Rockets (1981-82), Chicago Bulls (1982-86), New York Knicks (1986-87), Sacramento Kings (1987-88), Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers (1989-90), Indiana Pacers (1990-91)
- Played a total of 329 games spanning 10 NBA seasons and scored 1,455 points
- Duration: Four camps, each of two weeks with the fourth and final camp ending on August 30
- Dates: Second camp currently under way and ending on August 2, third camp (August 5 to 16), fourth camp (August 19 to 30)
- Venue: Centennial University of Dubai, behind Shangri La Hotel on Shaikh Zayed Road
- Age: From nine to 17. Campers will be assessed according to their ability and age and placed in appropriate groups
- Cost: Dh3,500 for the two-week camp
- How to join? Contact Academy Director Jawann Oldham on 050-140 2271
Does it have to cost so much? Can there be a weekly payment? If so how much would it cost? These camps are too expensive for my child. Other camps cost less than Dh2,000 just for one month.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: July 27, 2007, 23:24