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Kiwi customs a match for Chester

When it comes to frightening sights in sport, the Maori tradition known as the Haka, adopted by all New Zealand national teams, must rank pretty high on the list.

Pero Cameron is another intimidating sight. At 6'7" and 19 stone, the sheer size of the Chester Jets' forward is enough to strike fear into the hearts of players, coaches and fans alike.

For Cameron, who hails from Tokoroa in New Zealand, is the captain of the Kiwi national team, who recently booked themselves a place at the 2000 Olympic Games in neighbouring Sydney, Australia. Playing for his country is a big honour for Cameron and he takes pride in leading his team-mates in the pre-game Haka.

"There are two reasons why we do the Haka," he explains. "One reason, which dates back years and years, is that it sets the challenge for both parties - meaning a challenge for your opponents and a challenge for yourself. Secondly, we do it before the game to show our commitment and show we are serious. I think every country has their traditions and this is ours."

The Kiwi seems to have settled firmly in Chester with the recent arrival of his partner and child in the town. And while he has yet to go tracing his ancentors from Glasgow - the reason for his Celtic surname - he admits that life in Britain suits him nicely.

"I'm enjoying it a lot. It was a great opportunity to play in England. I got other offers - I could have gone to Finland - but I came here. It's a very good league - very competitive, especially with each team having five foreigners. It's very tough.

"Robbie [Peers] is a very good coach. He knows what he wants, as does Mike Burton. They are very experienced and they have a lot of background - you know, been there and done it all! We are a fairly young team - there are quite a few of us under 25. Then, there are a couple of older players like Dave Gardner, who is everything you would want from a professional."

Chester Jets have suddenly found some good form after a difficult start to the season. With the injuries that plagued them and led to the exit of Kenny Pratt, Carlos Brown and Clarence Tyson, things have not been easy.

"I have always felt we had a team that could compete," admits Cameron. "It's just a case of building it all together. When you've been together for a long time, like Sheffield, you get to know each other and feel confident with each other. You trust each other, because you almost spend more time with your team-mates than you do with your family. We've only just got together, so the chemistry isn't quite there yet. It takes a while. The sooner we get that camaraderie the better the results we will achieve."

Cameron and company seem to be slowly building that camaraderie at Chester now and it is the same camaraderie that binds the ‘Tall Blacks’ together. It doubtless helped the Kiwis qualify for the Olympics next summer - an event Cameron is certainly looking forward to.

"I have certainly enjoyed playing for my country in the past and the Olympics is obviously a very big event - it's traditional. Most athletes aspire to go to the big show. It's always been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I'm just happy I will have the opportunity to go to the Olympics."

When Cameron leads the Kiwis onto court for the Haka before their first game in Sydney next summer that will doubtless provide the proudest moment of his career. However, to date, Cameron claims one of the highlights of his career is with Chester.

"Coming to England has got to be one of the highlights. Now, I just want to win some titles and championships. I would like consistency and pride in my play."

That pride is clearly important to Cameron. It's why he takes the Haka so seriously and why he gives his all out on court for the Jets. It's a quality instilled in Pero by his family. He comes from a sporting family - he has an uncle who played rugby league for Warrington in the 1980's and both his parents play sport as well. It's not just basketball, but rugby and tennis that captured his interest when he was a child.

"I played rugby in my early years. I played from when I was 3 to 15 years old. I always liked tennis too. I can't say if I was any good - I don't like to blow my own trumpet!

"My Dad was a rugby league player and my Mum was an indoor basketball player. I was always back and forth between their various games when I was a kid. Basketball ended up being the sport for me. I really think it's the best sport in the world! I really enjoy it and I always have."

That explains how Cameron came to be where he is today and although it might seem unlikely to some, he aims to claim silverware with Chester this season.

However, regardless of Jets' success, Cameron will be returning to New Zealand when the British season ends to play in the New Zealand winter. After that, the Olympics beckon so Pero Cameron has a busy schedule ahead of him.

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