10/25/2014 03:56 EDT | Updated 12/25/2014 05:59 EST

Eight-time NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo visits Lasalle Boys and Girls Club

About 50 young basketball players in the Montreal borough of Lasalle were treated to a special NBA skills camp Saturday – complete with a visit from retired NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo.

Mutombo, 48, a former Houston Rockets player, is an eight-time NBA All Star. He's known to be one of the best defensive players in the sport's history. 

Mutombo led some aspiring basketball stars from the Lasalle Boys and Girls Club in practice drills.  The clinic was organized by the Boys and Girls Club of Lasalle and its five basketball teams.

Most of the teenagers present had never been to an NBA game. One of them, Sone Neosoncris, said Mutombo is one of his heroes.

"[He’s] one of those players who gets you motivated to be like a basketball player," he said. "Someone who makes you want to get to where he's at. Someone who you look up to and makes you want to work hard."

The Boys and Girls Club encourages its members to stay in school by requiring them to do an hour and a half of supervised homework before every practice.

That’s a message that Mutombo echoes.

"We want to make sure whatever they want to do in their life, they need to put education first," said Mutombo. "Even if they want to play or work in the NBA, they need to be educated first."

The NBA hopes to ramp up its presence in Montreal as the sport becomes increasingly popular in the city.