The finals of the Jr. NBA Basketball England League came to an end yesterday at the Nechells Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham with St. Bede’s Middle School securing victory in the co-ed league.
St. Bede’s, representing NBA franchise the Houston Rockets, overcame Bishop Vesey's Grammar School representing the New York Knicks and were crowned champions by former NBA player Vladimir Radmanovic, who is currently the NBA’s European Ambassador.
Fairfax School and George Salter Academy finished in third and fourth place, respectively.
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Prior to the finals, Radmanovic hosted a Jr. NBA Clinic, teaching children basketball fundamentals and the values of sportsmanship and teamwork.
The tournament, a secondary school basketball programme for boys and girls aged 11-12, was organised by the NBA in partnership with Basketball England and first began last November. It saw the participation of 30 Birmingham-based secondary schools, which battled it out in an eight-game season followed by single-elimination playoffs and yesterday’s league finals.
Each school represented one of the 30 NBA teams and received corresponding NBA team branded T-shirts for their games.
Matthew Russell, coach of the winning team representing St. Bede’s Middle School, spoke after his victory saying: “I feel over the moon. It’s fantastic to be involved in events like these and the support from the NBA and Basketball England has been fantastic.”
On how his team prepared for the final event, coach Russell said: “We started last year doing a few basics and then this year we concentrated on the shooting and the kids have improved a lot, enough to win it today.”
Former NBA player Vladimir Radmanovic spoke after presenting the winning team with their championship rings: “Seeing all these kids having fun with the game of basketball today was great. The support they get from the NBA and Basketball England is unbelievable and you can really tell the kids appreciate being a part of the Jr. NBA League programme.”
The initiative is part of the NBA’s aim to grow the game of basketball in the UK where the sport isn’t as popular as it is in other countries in Europe.
With England being the only country to host an NBA regular season game every year, the league is keen to harness the talents of kids in one of the biggest markets in the world.
Speaking to GiveMeSport earlier in the day, Radmanovic said England must create a good professional league and utilise talents from overseas in order to inspire kids to play basketball and raise the profile of the sport in the UK.
“There has to be a good league in this country where international players can come and take it to another level,” he said.
“England has the capability to make basketball big in the country, you only have to find a way to start a game of basketball in a way that’s supposed to. It’ll take some time but once you have a good professional league, kids in the UK will be playing basketball a lot more and they’ll take their talent to another level as well.”