Basketball: Wells will not shirk from BBL challenge

Zak Wells

Zak Wells

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Young centre Zak Wells says the uphill task Leeds Force are facing on their introduction to the BBL justifies his decision to join the club in the summer.

Wells, 21, is one of a clutch of young British basketball stars trying desperately to make a name for themselves in the sport.

He spent a year playing professionally in Spain two seasons ago to further his education, and played against Leeds in the National League last year for Hemel.

It was there that he caught the eye of Force’s director of basketball Matt Newby, who acted quickly in the summer to recruit the Great Britain Under-20s centre.

Wells has been a prominent figure in all three of Force’s games to date, with the fact that Leeds have been beaten in each emphasising just how tough the challenge is on their induction into the professional tier.

And in a perverse way, the nature of that challenge merely underlines just why Wells wanted to be a part of the BBL in the first place.

“There aren’t too many young British players in the BBL, certainly below 20, so that shows it’s a good level of basketball,” said the Hertfordshire-born prospect.

“At that age you’re just kicking your heels on the sidelines.

“But the BBL is an up-and-coming league and young players should be aspiring to be a part of it.

“I did, and now I’m finding out how tough it really is.”

On the team’s start, Wells said: “It’s been a bit rocky so far.

“We are struggling with injuries and haven’t been able to field a full-strength team yet.

“We knew it was going to be tough, but we’re not shirking from the challenge because we’re confident we haven’t showed our best yet.”

This is the second time Wells has worked in a professional environment.

His season in Spain, playing outside Barcelona for Girana St Joseph’s, was one he looks back on now as crucial in his development.

“It was a great place to live and it was a fantastic experience,” said Wells.

“My family came out regularly to support me which was great and it was a pity that it ended when the team ran out of money.

“I learned a lot in Spain about being a good professional; eating right, training right and getting the most out of what you put in.

“I enjoyed it that much I hope to one day play abroad again.

“I believe my experiences there helped earn me the opportunity to come to Leeds and I was impressed with the organisation from the very start.

“I totally got what Matt Newby wanted of me and what he wants of the programme.

“I want to become an elite performer and I believe I can achieve that here.”

On the differences between a semi-professional operation that he and Leeds were last year, to the full-time environment they are still adapting to, Wells added: “The main thing for me is it’s nice not having anything else to worry about. My sole focus is on basketball, improving myself and improving the team.”

Wells will be in the squad for tonight’s game with Manchester Giants in the first round of the BBL Cup, one of three competitions Leeds are eligible for.

Force hope to have both Will Hall, another promising British player and James McCann, a high-profile summer recruit from the US, available.

Tip-off is 7.30pm. Tickets are available on the door.