By Luke Hatfield | @Luke_Hatfield
It is no exaggeration to say Steve Gayle is playing at a level not equal to his skills. The veteran from Manchester is a seasoned pro, so when he decided to stay with the now VCars.co.uk Division 3 outfit, Rossendale Raptors, for a second year, turning down offers from BBL clubs in the process, many coaches and fans alike couldn’t understand why.
But the 6’1’’ guard who began his career at the recently revived Manchester Giants programme believes he’s finally back to having a good time on court:
“When you’ve been in basketball for as long as I have you forget that you’re supposed to have fun whilst you’re playing, and here [at Rossendale] I’ve finally rediscovered that part of the game,” said the 1980 born Gayle.
“I received offers from teams in the BBL including Manchester and Cheshire but none of them really seemed the right fit, I was tempted but I was really happy here.
“Being in the BBL at the highest level it seems more like a job than a game, when you are winning games and playing well it’s great but If you’re losing then your contract is at risk, it pulls the fun out of the game.”
This is one of the key reasons Gayle decided to stay at Rossendale where he led the league in scoring and won the Division 4 MVP award last season, averaging a jaw-dropping 34.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Gayle broke the 40 point barrier on a number of occasions, including a 55 point, 8 assist and 7 rebound effort against Bradford; he was easily one of the best players in the entire National League last season, despite being four divisions down.
Gayle is in it for the long term with the Raptors, hoping to be a big building block for the future.
“To be honest, I really like the idea of this club looking at the bigger picture. I know I might not have too many years left in me but if I can help this club push forward and bring it up to the higher levels it would be a huge achievement for me.”
“I think if I could finish playing and have brought this club to a high level of basketball I’d really like to get an opportunity to coach it. I coach at work and do a lot of work with kids as well and would love to try and work at a national level.”
There are few who would question Gayle’s basketball CV, having played with Manchester Giants, Worthing Thunder and most recently the Cheshire Jets. But he’s also had experience playing with one of the best point guards ever to play the game in Steve Nash.
Gayle played along side the now L.A. Lakers point Guard at the age of 20, when Nash joined the Manchester Giants over the Christmas period for extra practice during a trip to the UK.
“I was only 20 years old but when you play with somebody like him you realise just how good he is; every single play is thought out, he could read the game so well. He could do everything simple without a single flaw, you never received a pass which wasn’t in stride when it came from him,” Gayle recalled.
“You look at players like him and notice all the work that you have to put in to get to that level, but he wasn’t big headed at all about it. I asked him once ‘how is it guarding Kobe?’ and he simply said ‘I can’t’ It was good to see that he was so level headed.”
Gayle is ready to use all of his experience he’s gained, whether it’s from playing next to Steve Nash or just getting shots up in the gym preparing for an upcoming National League game to help Rossendale get as far as the can.
“I like the way the club talk to me about growing and I want to be a big part of that, and if I’m having fun being back on court again that’s a big bonus for me.”