Ryan Richards spurs Kent Panthers' growth in NBL Division 3 - Hoopsfix.com

Ryan Richards spurs Kent Panthers’ growth in NBL Division 3

Ryan Richards Kent Panthers

Ryan Richards suiting up in NBL Division 3 this season would not have been on many people’s British basketball bingo cards in the summer.

One of the few Brits to have been drafted into the NBA (in 2010 by the San Antonio Spurs), the now 32 year old has returned home to play and grow his own club, the Kent Panthers, that he took a stake in, in 2018.

The 7’1″ versatile big man is enjoying his time in Division 3 while it lasts; he’s just signed in Japan and will be leaving in six weeks once the visa comes through.

But four games in to his NBL D3 career and it would be going as you might expect, his performances being highlighted by a 40-point, 10-rebound, five assist effort last weekend in an overtime victory over Eastbourne Neptunes, including the clutch bucket to force the extra period.

“It’s the most fun I’ve had playing in a very long time,” Richards told Hoopsfix.

“To have people you want involved and creating a fan base, and creating something for kids in Kent to look up to. It’s really my main focus, creating a community where I’m from.”

Clearly, the mission goes beyond just on putting up numbers in the fourth tier of competition in England.

Richards’ ownership in the club is now split 50/50 between him and business partner Lee Westbrook.

“Starting from humble beginnings, we set out to create a basketball community here in Kent that was built on strong team values,” Westbrook said.

“Our goal was to offer something for the kids to look up to and look forward to, especially in some of the more deprived areas of Kent. Giving back to these kids and sharing both life and basketball experiences is crucial for keeping them engaged in positive activities.”

Kent Panthers has grown from 15 players to 150 in the five years Richards and Westbrook have been involved, with age groups from under-12s through to seniors, having five national league junior teams – this being their first year of having a men’s team, along with four development teams and multiple community hubs.

Additionally, Richards has launched his ‘Richards Elite’ platform, an assortment of elite camps and experiences for aspiring professionals, starting in Kent with the intention to expand across the country.

The fourteen year pro estimates he could play for another five or six years but remains unsure if he wants to, as his focus increasingly becomes to helping grow the sport in his home county.

“I just want to help as many kids as possible and hopefully another kid from Kent can have success that I’ve had. That’s it, not much more than that.”

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