- National Teams
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about Ben Mockford (born in 1989), the former Great Britain Under-20 who was forced to sit out last year after transferring from Iona to St Francis (NY) where he currently is currently ballin’. The 6’2″ lefty guard is back on court, having a strong season with the 13-10 (10-2 in the NEC) Terriers, averaging 11.7 points (second on the team), 2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, whilst leading the conference in three pointers made and being amongst the leaders in scoring (21st), and three point field goal percentage (12th). He is also amongst the nation’s leaders in three pointers made, currently ranked 26th (was as high as 8th in the early stages of the season). A couple of weeks ago Ben took a quick timeout to go 1 on 1 with Hoopsfix. Check it out below:
Hoopsfix (HF): Wassup Ben, can we start with you giving us a brief rundown of your career?
Ben Mockford (BM): I started off playing for Shoreham Sharks (a local club team), then eventually made Brighton Bears team at Under-13 (2 years early). Played for Brighton up until Under-18. Played on trial team for England in Cherbourg but then got cut after that. After Under-18 I then went to Oak Hill Academy, and played GB Under 20 that summer. I then went prep at Apex for a year and committed to Iona, then played GB U20 again that summer. Spent a year at Iona and transferred out to St Francis, where I’m at now! Been quite a journey!
HF: What age did you first start playing basketball and why?
BM: First started playing at 5 years old for Shoreham Sharks. I was actually getting into football, but my brother started playing basketball and I always wanted to be like him, so I started playing, and haven’t stopped since.
HF: And at what point did you start thinking you were actually pretty decent?
BM: For me I always knew I had it in me, but probably I really knew was my final year of Under 18 for Brighton Bears. Had a real good year, put up some good numbers and team went to Final Fours. So yeah, that’s when it really clicked for me.
HF: How did the jump to the US first happen and why did you choose to leave the UK?
I had a connection with Coach Smith out there at Oak Hill, he watched multiple DVD’s of my games and decided to welcome me onto the team. I wanted to further my career in basketball, play against the best players I could, and going to Oak Hill, you can’t not play against the best day in day out.
HF: How did you find the transition?
BM: It was tough. It wasn’t like I was attending any regular American high school. I was thrown in to the best of the best right away. I was playing against NBA ready players from the jump. But that’s what I wanted, you can’t help but get better there. It took time but I adapted, got better and learnt from the situation I was in. If you can handle it, it only makes you tougher.
HF: How would you describe the state of basketball in the UK? What do you think the biggest challenges the UK faces going forward?
BM: To be honest I haven’t been around it much since I came to America, but it is definitely on the rise, and we are producing more and more talent every year. It’s not the case where players are just getting to the US now and being a part of a team, UK players are starting to make an impact out here and making a name for themselves. A big part of it is promoting the players and sport (shout out to Hoopsfix!). I think the biggest problem is that our best talent leaves and plays elsewhere. You can’t blame them because our country isn’t on that level yet, but if our men’s leagues get better, as far as competing at a high level in Europe, then we may see a big change in UK basketball.
HF: When talking about the biggest differences between the UK and the US, what were the things you noticed?
BM: Athleticism, work ethic and the will to win and be successful. Four or five days a week I was in the gym with Brandon (Jennings, current Milwaukee Bucks point guard) at 5am. Shooting, playing one on one, working out. Just every day trying to get better. But athleticism is definitely the number one. Everyone is that bit bigger, stronger, quicker.
HF: On the topic of Brandon,what was it like playing with and going up against him every day whilst attending such a prestigious school as Oak Academy?
BM: A lot of people have their different opinions, but for me it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Playing against NBA talent day in day out, you have no choice but to get better. As for Brandon, he helped me a lot, even to this day. His work ethic, drive to succeed is crazy. I would go up against him everyday, and it was tough, to the point where you wanna give up, but you can’t, it only makes you stronger and better. Then he kinda took me under his wing, and we worked real hard that year, getting better any little which way you can each day. One of the biggest things I learnt from him was confidence. You cannot be great at this game without confidence. I really believe it’s 60% confidence and 40% skill. If you combine the two, the sky is the limit.
HF: Why did you choose to go to Apex for a post-graduate year before going to college?
BM: I wanted a year to play in America where I could really show what I can do (he averaged 31.5 points and six assists while shooting nearly 50% from behind the arc). At Oak Hill it was pretty much the Brandon Jennings show every night. So it was hard to really get going because our offence really consisted of him going to work on whoever guarded him! So yeah, I wanted to see what I could do in America.
HF: You originally committed to Iona and spent a year there before transferring, how was your year there and why did you choose to transfer?
BM: Even though my minutes were limited, Iona was a good year for me. I got better, worked hard and tried to keep my confidence up, as hard as it is when you’re not playing. Had a real good team and great coaching staff. Unfortunately, Coach Will got the head coaching job at Seton Hall and left. A new coach came in, so I decided to keep my options open. I could have stayed or transferred, but I feel it’s always best to play for a coach who recruited you. I met Coach Braica and the coaching staff down here at St Francis, the 2 guard and leading scorer was about to be a senior, so I decided it would be a great fit for me, and transferred out.
HF: How difficult was it having to sit out last year?
BM: It was only tough on game day. I still got to practise, get better and stronger. I love being in the gym, for some people it may be difficult, but for me it was easy, just more time to get in the gym and get better. Always turn a negative situation into a positive.
HF: Do you feel the need to make up for lost time this year?
BM: Not really, I sat out but didn’t lose the year. For me I feel like it’s my first year of getting to play good basketball in America. Oak Hill was tough with it being about Brandon, Apex wasn’t the greatest of competition, Iona I struggled with minutes, then I sat out and now I’m finally getting to play good minutes against good competition. So far I’m doing ok, I still feel a little rusty, a little up and down, but I knew this would happen. I know I have the potential and work ethic to do big things out here, it’s just a matter of time. It seems like my whole career, I have gone two steps forward and one back. Always trying to move forward and get better is key, anything can happen after that!
HF: What are your hopes for the rest of the season?
BM: As a team we need to keep improving each day and we are definitely doing this right now. We are young but talented and with that combination and guys willing to put in the work, you can only move forward! On a personal level I just want to keep getting better and be more consistent. Ever since I had 28 (against Sacred Heart on Jan 7th) teams have been really keying in on stopping me. I need to be able to still play my game even when this happens. I want to become more of a combo 1 and 2 guard. Teams guard me really tight and double sometimes, which means it’s much easier to create for my teammates. That’s one of my key goals moving forward as a player.
HF: What are your plans after college?
BM: I want to be a pro. Whether it be in the NBA, D-League or in Europe. You always have to aim high. I know and have seen people go to the NBA, D league or Europe at a high level. I know what it takes and how hard you have to work and it really is achievable. People give up too easy because it’s the ‘NBA’ or a ‘top’ pro level. Anything is achievable. You don’t know what the future holds, you have to believe, and I really mean that.
HF: You’ve represented your country internationally, how important is it for you to play on the national team?
BM: For me it’s the best. There is nothing like representing your country. There’s pride on every team you play for, but there’s just something about playing for your country that takes it to another level. Next step is to play for the GB Senior Men. All I need is a chance or an opportunity to rise and I will go after it with everything I’ve got. But yeah, pride is the main thing.
HF: Who are your biggest inspirations?
BM: It has to be my mum, dad and brother. They inspire me everyday some way or another. Whether it be a good conversation with my dad, a little quote from my mum or some advice from my brother. They have reached the top in each of their professions and have shown me how hard work takes you there. Now I’m finally playing, I’m hungrier than ever to be successful and make it. A big inspiration is the poem I have on my arm, called ‘The man who thinks he can’, check it out sometime!
HF: Thanks Ben!
BM: No worries man, appreciate what you’re doing!