"Basketball in the UK Needs Fresh Ideas"-Des Williams - Hoopsfix.com

“Basketball in the UK Needs Fresh Ideas”-Des Williams

Fresh Ideas

Does basketball in the UK need fresh ideas?

In the last few months, I have had a few emails from Des Williams (bio at the bottom of the article), discussing the state of the game in the UK; he has some very interesting insights and has provided me much to think about. Anyway, I thought there is no point discussing this stuff behind closed doors so wanted to publish this piece he sent me last week to perhaps serve as a talking point for everyone. Take a read and share your thoughts at the bottom with a comment!-Sam

Basketball in the UK needs fresh ideas. There are people in place that are there only because they were at the very first basketball game in 1891 with Dr Naismith. A wholesale clear out of some of the faces in the sport and a trimming of the “Old Boys Network” is needed if the game in the UK is to move forward.

I look at the real basketball people like Joe Forber, John Collins, Betty Codona et al and ask myself “Why aren’t they up there pulling the strings and taking the game forward”. The answer I get is that maybe they’ve heard it all before and have been banging the drum for so long about the state of the game that the “new” generation of basketball people have started to ignore them…. I think that’s folly of the highest order.

My beloved sport is currently stuffed with fakers, hangers-on and the terminally marginally qualified because, well … it really looks good on their CV and in some cases really pays well. These people are full of talk about the 2012 Olympics and T16 and are distracting us from the real issues around the game, their incompetance. They are the main reason why the sport is being held back.

Every year I hear the same old comments about the game needing to be expanded, England Basketball needs to promote the game more and the old chestnut “we need to make the game inclusive to all”.

Warwick Cann, Performance Pathways Coordinator for British Basketball and England Basketball said “This is another important stand of our T16 strategy, and it is a further illustration of how we are trying to improve the basketball pathway within the UK. The sport has a unique opportunity through the Olympics in 2012 to kick on, however there must be a structure in place to make this happen and fundamental to this is having as many top level coaches as we can…..”

Hello, newsflash Warwick, we’ve all heard the same thing for years and you’re advocating for us to listen to it all again till 2016. The game is now the third most played sport in the UK behind Fishing and Football. It’s been that way for the past 30 years!

We cannot do anything more about expanding the sport so change the record.

Let me start at the top of the sport. England Basketball are the governing body of the sport and I’ve fallen foul of them in my time. Yes, they have faults but when you’re responsible for the governance of 2.5million basketball players, you’re going to make mistakes along the line. EB have no desire to be involved in the day to day running of a club, just like FIBA or even FIFA. Simple concept to understand and one that some fail to comprehend and because they have nothing better to moan about see EB as the scapegoat.

Then there’s the National Team Age Group set up. We have no National Academy and that surprises me a great deal when you look at the Board of British Basketball and some of its staff in key positions. If it’s about funding then maybe someone should look at the expenditure incurred flying coaches etc across the pond on “scouting missions” and maybe fund the role of a National Academy Director instead.

Setting up an National Academy is easy to do and funding for it is reachable. Maybe its not being done because to do it would mean highlighting the weaknesses of the people for all the cheap talk.

The BBL is set up with a board of owners that are are responsible for overseeing the “pro’s” and working alongside EB, so why isn’t there a similar board of owners for the National League Divisions.

Our National Team is full of players plying their trade overseas and why not. Good on them for making a career out of their skills. But what about the ones that don’t make it abroad? I know of a number of players that have returned to the UK and then left the sport altogether after failing to secure spots on BBL teams.

In my line of work, I’ve come across a BBL team offering a GB player with reasonable stats in a four year Div I College £6,000 for the season. I’ve had a client except £9,000 for the season just so that he could get on a roster, play, train and then look for work in Europe. I find that very sad and heartbreaking especially when the offer to the client was made via a Coach who “helped him get out to the States” and is paying a Div II american £22,000.

The greed factor is omnipresent, and, unquestionably, that extends to anyone that thinks they can turn a profit. It’s just a little more visible right now in basketball.

If basketball in the UK is serious about changing, it’s time to step up and do something more dramatic and meaningful. It’s time for something that will honestly produce a shifting of the tectonic plates. And as it happens, there already exists a template for that. It’s in just about the last place you’d look…….. Major League Baseball.

Firstly, we need to set up a draft system around the BUCS competition and then market it aggressively throughout the UK. Is this then highlighting the value of education and sport and ticking a box?

Then the BBL teams should be encouraged to invite players that study in the UK on to their rosters. This could then reduce the need for imports and free up the salary cap for home grown talent.

If a player comes out of school, he is free to sign a pro contract with a BBL team and take off for the hinterlands of the farm system (ie: the National Leagues or a renamed Div I D-League). However, if he enrolls at a four-year college or university instead, he shouldn’t allowed back into the draft until he turns 21 or completes his third year. This would mean staying within the BUCS and playing in the National Leagues, honing his skills even further before the push into professional sports. All the while the sport is being marketed through drafts, camps, clinics, trials etc and filtering down to younger players about the need for an education etc.

The idea achieves three mutually agreeable objectives:

-It sends the non-college types straight into their professional lives.

-It fills the college ranks with quality players which not only makes the BUCS game better but also provides a ramp to the farm-system for those who will ultimately be drafted.

-It highlights the best players in the UK and so their selection to the National Teams easier to monitor.

Baseball isn’t basketball, and not everything translates, but this much is absolutely true: The quality of basketball, at its higher levels in the UK has seldom looked poorer than it does right now.

I’m advocating a revolutionary path and I don’t have the perfect answer but at least it’s a suggestion that’s positive and constructive.

Des Williams played for Hemel Juniors and Milton Keynes Cadets before leaving for the USA. On his return he played for Stevenage and a brief stint with the Birmingham Bullets before suffering a career ending injury.

He put into practice what he’d learnt from coaches like Lou Carnesseca, Dave Titmuss, Roger Moreland, Dave Fisher, Dick Barrett and took on the role of Academy Director at Leicester Riders, producing players that went on to play BBL and for the National Teams of England, Scotland and Wales.

One of the original architects of the Hackney Community College Basketball Academy, alongside the great Joe White and Herman Wilson, Williams has dedicated his coaching career to the developing of players into top flight athletes. He reformed the Birmingham Bullets for this specific purpose and is well on the way to achieving his aims.

Image Credit: Qisur


  1. Pingback: The State of the Game-Roy Packham — Hoopsfix.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *