If anyone epitomises the journey Leeds Force have been on, it is Oliver Hylands.
The 25-year-old from Kent is nearly as old as the basketball programme, has fulfilled all manner of roles to help keep it running, and has become an integral part of Leeds’s first season in the BBL.
The ungainly forward may not be the most eye-catching of players, but the job he does on the court mirrors the tireless work he does off it.
Hylands started playing for then Leeds Carnegie as an 18-year-old in 2008, two years after the programme began, when he came up north to study at Leeds Metropolitan University.
“I started playing for the second team when I arrived and got involved helping with the administration side of things and little jobs here and there,” said Hylands, who is now a forward/operations manager with Leeds’ first ever BBL team.
“When I graduated uni Matt (Newby – basketball director) employed me full-time as his operations manager.
“I did a bit of everything; the financial side of the community programme, some of the delivery at game time, sorting out the equipment etc. Anything that needed doing really.”
Throughout their rise up the national pyramid to their acceptance into the BBL – which in part owed much to the strong community programme he helped build – Hylands has continued to juggle numerous roles at the club.
“Nowadays I focus more on just the financial side of the community programme and have given up some of the other duties because I have to also focus on my job as a player,” said Hylands, who is one of four survivors from the club’s National League days.
“I still help our commercial manager Mark Mills around game time and I’m building a new website for our community programme, so I’m still busy.”
His role off court has reduced because he was not expecting to be involved so much on the floor.
But over the years Hylands has been a byword for hard work and has earned the respect of Newby and the coaching staff.
“The amount of playing time I’ve had has come as a little bit of a surprise for me as well,” he admitted.
“I was just a second team player, but I worked and worked at my game.
!I understand my role and don’t stray outside what the coaches want from me.
“I’m the big guy who sets screens, gets people open and is there to stop the opponents’ big guy playing.
“It’s the hard grunt work that’s perhaps not seen from the stands, and not as glamourous.
“Guys like Branimir Mikulic and Will Hall are the guys we want scoring, and it’s my job to help them get into positions to do that.”
He hopes to be heavily involved again tonight as Leeds look to improve on a record of one win and nine defeats that is not as drastic as it appears on face value. Tonight’s opponents at Leeds Beckett University (7.30pm) Durham Wildcats offer the team a chance to gauge their progress, as it was against Durham back in September that they began their BBL journey.
“We lost by a considerable margin in that first game up but we are a completely different team now,” added Hylands.
“We have acclimatised to the league and it’s only a matter of time before we are surprising a few people.”