I recently got the chance to sit down with Huddersfield Heat’s GM & Head Coach Eduardo Perez y Medina. Perez, hailing from the sunny island of Gran Canaria, moved to Huddersfield to further his education at the age of 17 before being part of the formation of the club in 1991. Since then after years in the local league structures and claiming National titles in D4 North and D3 North, the club find themselves preparing for their first ever season at the Division 2 level.
I got the chance to sit down and discuss all things Heat with the Spaniard, so here we go…
Ed, you enter your 22nd year at Huddersfield Heat (11th as Head Coach). What has it taken in all that time to get the club from a small local league club to now competing in the EBL Division 2 for the first time?
Hi James, 22 years wow that’s a long time! Well we’ve spent a lot of time at the club working behind the scenes to get all the off-court structure in place and in a position where we felt we could really push forward with our on-court ambitions. We now feel that we’ve got everything running smoothly and can get started with working on what we want our basketball club to be.
We’ve been incredibly lucky over the years to have some truly fantastic players playing for the club who, to be honest, could have been playing at a much higher level. Players like Jason Swaine and John Huggett will always be recognised as having played a huge role in where the club has got to so far.
Now that you’re here, what are the club’s plans for the future?
Our vision always has to be for Huddersfield Heat to be as big as it can be. Why should we be content with mediocrity? We have our own way of thinking and hard work first and foremost is our main objective. One day we hope to be one of the best clubs in the UK and a major part of this is the development of a successful youth programme. Up until now we haven’t had a junior presence due to the lack of an adequate facility or the funding to support one. We hope to have substantially addressed this issue within the next 12 months which will provide greater scope for a junior system at the club.
Can you tell us anything more about the rumours of the club’s involvement in the development of a purpose built facility in Huddersfield?
There certainly is exciting news in the pipeline but all I can reveal at present is that an official announcement will be made by the club at the end of September.
Last season you finished top of EBL Division 3 North and lifted the National Shield in the clubs most successful season to date. Was this your proudest time as a coach and what are you doing to prepare for the bigger challenge of D2?
We assembled a good squad last year and set ourselves high targets. We put in the necessary work and had a wonderful season as a team. Although we fell short in the playoffs we learned a lot as a team and I personally learnt a lot which can be taken forward. It was an extremely proud moment for me to lift the National Shield in the club’s first appearance in a major final and a moment I will always cherish.
In terms of the tough season ahead, we have worked hard to assemble a network of contacts in Spain and have brought in four very high calibre Spanish players for the new season. With the current economic climate in Spain, we feel that we offer a different route and a different challenge for players wanting to be part of a growing team with the real potential to win. The Spanish influence at the club makes it a home away from home for these players.
We have also brought in top British talent as well as hopefully wrapping up the signing of a talented American forward in the coming weeks. We are very confident in the ability of this team but know that Division 2 is full of very good teams and we have to respect every single one! We are prepared to do the necessary work and stick to our principles in order to give ourselves the chance to meet the high targets we set ourselves for this season.
We feel that in terms of players our roster is very much set now and we have players for a wide variety of situations and guys from last year’s successful team deserve a chance too.
You’ve mentioned your new signings Ed… I’d like to know a little more about these guys if you don’t mind?:
Mark Rangeley, your top scorer from last season returns. He’s been criticised in the past for making the wrong decisions and taking too many shots. Throughout these criticisms though remains a talented young player so was bringing him back important to you?
Yes definitely, bringing Mark back was key to my plans for this season. He’s a fantastic guy and brings a real sense of fun to the team. In terms of his game he has a very good skill set, I consider him to be quite a natural scorer and he’s an extremely versatile guy who can play right through positions 2 to 4 with no matchup problems.
He is still very young and we’ll be working hard, and know he’s been working hard in the off-season to improve his decision making and we feel he is now on a journey to become the best player he can be. More will be asked of him this season, he’ll be up against better guys, but we are extremely confident in his ability and know he’ll be great for us this year.
I caught up with Salva Mendez a couple weeks back and he told me his thoughts on the coming season were “Enough messing around now James, we’re here! We are going to be the team to watch this season”. Are you glad to have this confidence back in the form of your firey Point guard?
Salva indeed is a supremely confident individual and has a lot of belief in the group of players we have put together. However, behind that confidence is an extremely hard working and humble player who has a clear objective… he wants to win! Bringing him back for this season was imperative to me as I feel that he was key to a lot of our success last season in the way he lead the team based on the strong hard working values he possesses! He brings the best out of other players! I never have a problem in confidence based on hard work.
You’ve announced that Chris Bigley, one of the most controversial characters in the British game has joined from the Mersey Tigers. Are you confident you’ll be able to handle him?
Look…Bigley is an incredibly passionate player who’ll be the first to admit he’s made some mistakes in the past, but I feel he’s matured greatly over recent time and he’s been signed for the incredible qualities he brings to the team! He’s played at the club before on a title winning team and knows the expectations of him and he’s a player that is very easy to coach…
Plus, we’ll have the biggest afro in the league which is always a bonus!
Great news for one young man in Wesley Skaines, the highly rated Point Guard prospect out of Sheffield who joins the team for his first season of Senior ball. How happy are you to have him aboard?
I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Wes when coaching at Eurocamp in Barrow over the last couple of years and think he is one of the most fantastic young men I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He’s great to work with and just lives and breathes basketball while being one of the quickest players I’ve ever worked with. He’ll bring loads of energy to the team and be a big sparkplug off the bench. Working with and against a player like Salva every week will allow him to learn so much and I think they’ll compliment eachother very well!
Tell me about the other players you’ll be bringing in Ed!
Richard Šulcs from Bradford Dragons is a player we’re extremely happy to have with us and I believe him to be one of the best in the EBL in his position. He is very tough minded and the kind of energetic and powerful player every team loves to have.
Three other players join us from Spain in former u16, u18 and u19 Spain international Guard Julio Sosa, Forward Miguel Molina who has in the past featured for Real Madrid under Coach Ettore Messina and big man Orlando Mendibil who featured for the Spain u18s before playing at ACB side Pamesa Valencia and CB Granada. They will all bring a wealth of talent and experience to our roster for next season.
So four Spanish imports and the potential of an American big man? Do you not feel that at the Division 2 level, you are neglecting quality British talent?
I have had strong basketball influences from both countries in my development as a player and as a coach, and therefore my coaching philosophy is in part based on the integration of these two very different styles and abilities of play. My philosophy has always been to be able to combine to the extreme intelligence and skill of the Spanish style of play with the ever increasing physicality and competitive fire of the British game.
I believe strongly in British talent which is why I made a point of bringing in what I believe are two very talented British players in Mark Rangeley and Chris Bigley and believe that they will be essential parts of our roster this season. We have also given a great opportunity to young British prospect Wesley Skaines as I believe in the importance of playing at this level for his development into a very talented player!
The imports we have brought in are of great quality and I feel that it allows our British players the chance to learn a different style of play and also rub off their abilities onto our imports. In a roster of 15 there will be 2/3 that are British and this is a ratio I feel gives us great scope to achieve our objectives this season if we work hard and stick to our philosophy.
Thanks for that Eduardo. Finally I’d like to ask you a little about Hoops Aid which your club is supporting this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Hoops Aid is a biannual charity exhibition game put on by Sportstraider and is aimed at getting kids into sport. It’ll be held this year on August 15th at the Copper Box in London. It also looks to help ex –forces personnel who have been injured in service get back into sport. It fits perfect with the values the club holds and it’s a great feeling to be able to help others as a club.
Thankyou very much for speaking to me today Coach Perez… One last question.
What do you think about the new level of coverage for the EBL on Hoopsfix?
Coverage is key for the development of Basketball in this country. To have another channel to do this and one of the reputation of Hoopsfix can only be positive. I hope it is well supported and that the clubs get on board to help support and contribute.
What do you think about the roster Huddersfield Heat are putting together for next season? Let us know in the comments below!