- National Teams
Manchester Magic chief Joe Forber has been left asking questions of the domestic player development pathway after his club has seen their top junior players opt to head overseas, giving the team limited options for next season.
In 2011 the club opted withdraw from Division 1, and build from the ground up with their Division 3 side, focusing on their own homegrown juniors.
Success swiftly followed, securing promotion in successive years until they returned to Division 1, but now their top four junior players are at an age when a decision on their future has to be made, and like so many (if not all) of the top young players with the option to do so choose, they plan to head to the US.
Whilst we may have a federation who celebrates just how many British players head overseas, in the rest of Europe many national bodies see it as a measure of failure that they cannot develop their own players.
Circumstances like that of Manchester Magic are all too common, and having a situation where none of the best British talent actually plays in Britain no doubt hurts the development of the sport.
Are there any solutions to the problem?
Forber asks the questions:
“So we thought we had it all weighed up at the Magic – we would change policy by not using Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Australians, etc., to make ourselves look good in Division 1.
“We would begin a new philosophy by concentrating on a student-athlete system which would enable our top Junior players to continue into the Senior team by making student-athlete scholarships available at the University of Salford. This would satisfy our young players who were planning to go to University and wished to play serious basketball. So far, so good – we have gone from Division 3 to Division 2 to a highly competitive team in Division 1 in 3 seasons.
“I am aware that we currently have one Spanish player and one American, neither of whom was actively recruited by the Club. However, I am also aware that, of a 16 man roster at the beginning of the season, 10 of them had come through our Junior programme.
“Well, unfortunately, we need to think again. What do we do when our top four Juniors are all intending to go to the States (with high expectations that they will do so)? We therefore have no Club Juniors to take up the Scholarships, so no progress with Senior team development, based upon our current philosophy. We cannot even get suitable ambitious players from outside the area to take up the generous offers available to be student-athletes at our Club.
“Now I don’t expect any sympathy for the Magic – it is just conceivable that some people out there might even be pleased.
“However, I am penning this, not to highlight our Magic problems, but to ask the wider basketball community out there whether they have a view as to whether anything can be done to change this drain of our best players. Or, indeed, should we be trying to do anything?
“I have to say that, as our Club has been responsible for sending many players to the States, it has, in many cases, been highly unsuccessful where progress in basketball has been concerned.
“Culturally and as a life experience, it may have been of great benefit to the players, but many have some back without any significant improvement in their skill levels and certainly not in a position where they can make a living out of the game by being a professional sportsman. (There are obviously exceptions to this at the Magic but they are few and far between. I do not regard playing for the kind of salary on offer at many BBL Clubs is being a professional sportsman).
“Indeed, I am somewhat at a loss to explain why some of our players have finished their College careers and then retired from the game!
“I would like to ask the wider basketball community out there:
- Are there any solutions to this?
- Are we offering our young players enough to stay in this country?
- Would a change in competitive structure keep them over here?
- Is there anything else we could change to keep them over here?
- Do we just accept that this movement of players will continue for the foreseeable future, because it may be in the interest of the youngsters and therefore not try to change it?
“I should say that it is my view that it is our Club’s responsibility to help, in any way possible, our players to fulfil their ambitions. We are therefore actively helping the 4 players concerned to pursue College careers in the States.”
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Image Credit: England Basketball