A former Kent Crusaders basketball player was one of the first to play competitive sport at the Olympic Park after making his debut for the senior Great Britain basketball team.

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Ryan Richards, 20, made his bow against France on Tuesday, which was part of the London Invitational Tournament.

Involving six nations, it ends on Sunday with Britain against Australia and is the first test event held on the Park ahead of next summer’s Games.

Sittingbourne’s Richards, who made headlines last year when he was drafted to NBA franchise San Antonio Spurs, was impressed with the temporary venue, which will be dismantled and sold after the Olympics.

“It’s an amazing arena, it’s just a shame it will be sold off,” he said. “It doesn’t feel temporary whatsoever, it’s a great experience to play there and get into the men’s programme for the first time.

“Playing in the Olympics is one of my main career goals and to do it not far from where I grew up would be fantastic.”

Richards, who played as a junior for the Canterbury-based Kent Crusaders, is confident of making the cut when the squad is trimmed from 15 to 12 for the EuroBasket finals in Lithuania later this month.

Richards is hoping strong performances for the national side will also be well received on the other side of the Atlantic after a frustrating first year at San Antonio.

He spent the majority of the first year in Texas on the sidelines recovering from two operations to repair a shoulder injury.

The 6ft 11ins forward is expecting to spend at least the first part of next season on loan to a club in Europe, but is eager to prove himself at the highest level as quickly as possible.

He said: “I’ve spent most of my time since moving to San Antonio in rehab, getting healthy and learning about the game. It was a tough season but I’m enjoying being part of one of the best franchises in basketball.

“Coming from Sittingbourne to where I am now I’m just grateful really. I have my friends and my mum to keep me grounded and humble.

“I’ll probably be coming back to Europe to start with next season to prove myself. I just want to show I have what it takes to help the Spurs win.”

Photo by MANSOOR AHMED

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