Oliver Hylands: Basketball’s future looks very bright in Leeds

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It seems like just yesterday that I was preparing for this first ever BBL campaign, now before I’ve even had a chance to notice, we are just seven games away from the end of the season.

When I think about it we have been non-stop since the word go, with the additional practices, games and appearances that come with professional sport. However with just my second weekend off since September, now seems like a good time to look forward to the future, not just my future but the future of basketball in Leeds.

Friday was a perfect opportunity to look at what developments are taking place. Before our game against Newcastle Eagles, Leeds Force were fortunate enough to host the Leeds City Primary School Finals. With the best young talent from across the city battling it out for the crown of best school in Leeds, it was one of our own players, Latrell Davis, who took the spotlight and led Adel St John to win the competition. Almost forgetting just how young he is, Latrell has been competing with our under-14 National League team despite being just nine.

Seeing him compete against children his own age really highlights his development since joining the club. It is success stories like this that continues to inspire our work within the community.

With the help of Sport England and the BBL Foundation, Leeds Force are the latest club to launch Project Hub. The project is a BBL initiative to create community clubs across regions where BBL teams operate. With the success of our existing work across the region to date, we have been supported to develop nine to 12 community clubs across West Yorkshire. Multiple sites have already been identified for the project and the first sessions held at Beckfoot and Horsforth School have been a huge success. With several more community clubs planned to launch over the next few months, please check our website for more details.

Once the Primary Finals were finished, it was our time to take the stage against the Newcastle Eagles. To say they have been in impressive form as of late is a slight understatement, with only one loss since September the team were strong favourites. They didn’t disappoint the many travelling supporters and opened the game in impressive fashion, quickly jumping out to a 10-0 lead. After a sluggish start on offence, three triples got them on the score board, however we struggled to control to the offensive talent of the Eagles and they raced to a 28-13 lead. The second quarter was much the same, with the experience of Newcastle giving them a comfortable lead going towards the half-time break. A huge play, with some incredible ball movement gave Ricky Fetske the chance to finish the play while being fouled. He made the additional free throw but we still went into the half with a 22-point deficit. Despite a spirited run from the Force team in the third quarter, Newcastle once again extended their lead to a 31-point game.

Facing a huge margin going into the final quarter, the hundreds of Leeds fans were treated to a thrilling end to the game. Putting together a 25-12 run to start the quarter, the young talent from the Primary School tournament were given a taste of the fighting spirit and potential that this young franchise holds. The game ended with a late burst from Newcastle to extend their lead, but the crowd had already seen what the Force team can do. If the event on Friday has done anything, I hope it has inspired the hundreds of kids that have and continue to come through our doors to the ever growing community clubs. The future is certainly bright for basketball in the City of Leeds. The foundations that are being laid will help sustain the growth and development that this great sporting city deserves.

Andrew Hambleton.

Andrew Hambleton joins Leeds Force ahead of new season