I was thinking of taking a look at the boys’ hockey teams this week, but then it started snowing and it’s not that easy taking pictures with gloves on. Looking for a warmer option, my Upper Sixth Form tutees thought I should focus on their prowess at curry-eating. Despite the brilliance of Orla ‘Poppadum’ McCormack, Sophie ‘Chutneys’ Cormack, Clemmie ‘Masala’ Baynes, Tara ‘Korma’ Swords and Nifemi ‘Jalfrezi’ Runsewe in devouring a fine selection from Abdul and his team at Café Saffron, I felt that as we are yet to arrange any fixtures, I had better seek a more actively competitive sporting outfit.
Still searching for warmth, I remembered that the gym is covered and I discovered that there was plenty of heat being generated by some very committed and hardworking basketballers. It was there that I turned up to see how the Shrewsbury Sharks have been getting on.
I am a big fan of the names adopted by many Basketball teams. Coach Josh Crutchley plays for the Shropshire Warriors, which conjures up images of ancient chieftains leading their armour-clad troops into battle on snow-topped hills. In fact Josh confessed that he plays without armour and seldom on snow-capped hills. “I have never worn armour or carried a spear on court,” Josh told me. Nevertheless, he is still very much a warrior, as no quarter is given when he is on the court.
Josh’s fellow coach is Geoff Parry, who is a retired solicitor renowned for his performances in court as well as on the court. He referees in the National League and has a natural interest in the laws of the game. “I like to see justice done in court and on the court,” he would have told me had I asked him the right question. He represented Wales in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1972. He omitted to mention the name the Welsh team were known by at the time; maybe they didn’t have scary nicknames in those days, but if they had I am guessing it would have been ‘the Dragons’ rather than ‘the Leeks’ or ‘the Daffodils’. Geoff has played a lot of basketball in Shrewsbury for Shrewsbury.
The School teams have been playing well under the leadership of these two fine coaches. The Under-18 Boys’ team, ably led by Upper Sixth Former Marcus Cheung (SH), have won most of their matches and only lost heavily to Newcastle-Under-Lyme, who are a specialist basketball school.
I asked Marcus if he would like to thank anyone for his prodigious form. He told me the School House matrons have looked after both his physical and mental health extremely well and helped him prepare for what has been a gruelling season. “Matron Tania Jones has taught me how to talk a good game and Matron Nadine Jones has helped me work on my evil stare,” Marcus confessed, before adding, “Please don’t let them know I told you this”. Your secret’s safe with me, Marcus!
Marcus talked me through the rest of his team. He believes that Fifth Former Anthony Siu is the star of the team. “He is a talented point guard.” I wondered if that might lead to a career on the railways but apparently I was on the wrong track. Coaches Geoff and Josh both told me at the same time that Anthony has the potential to make it as a professional basketball player. So watch this space, as I am not sure if we have had a professional basketball player before!
Marcus continued to tell me that Adrian ‘I-think-I’m-the-coach’ Lam is a good defensive organiser, Tom ’shooter’ Xue is good at scoring baskets and is not an assassin. Alvin ‘never-misses’ Jinn scores lots of three pointers and Harry Bae has great potential. (He is in the Third Form.)
Then there are the three brothers Sisov, Igor, Gleb and Klim. Gleb and Igor are known as the ‘big units’ and are difficult to get past, and their younger brother Klim is not much smaller.
The Under-16 team has also been successful and is regarded as a conveyor-belt of talent by both coaches. “The under 16s are regarded by us as a conveyor-belt of talent,” they both told me.
The girls’ team has been successful too. Michelle Lam is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the world by Captain Betty Chau. “Michelle is awesome,” Betty told me. Michelle told me that Betty is one of the world’s best captain’s in women’s basketball. “Betty is awesome,” she told me. The fact that both ladies are in The Grove and are good friends has nothing to do with their deep admiration for each other; they are just both slightly afraid of each other.
The newest star in the ladies’ firmament is Nejla Hidic. Nejla is a summer signing from the Bosnian League. She is a very strong player who has played for the boys’ team, and I was very impressed by her confidence and in awe of her power and pace around the court.
Nejla told me that she really loves the atmosphere in the Basketball Club. The boys and girls train together and there is a great sense of camaraderie and togetherness, she told me. Nejla would like to see more strength in depth in the girls’ squad, and if there are any girls reading this article, please think of joining the Basketball squad.
Hannah Cheng is another keen player, who admits that she sometime gets confused with netball, which she has recently taken up. Viktoria Kazachkova is another young player who has caught the eye of Captain Betty. “Viktoria shows much promise, as does Silvia Pacheco Lozano and Karina Ho. Nifemi Runsewe could be good but she has started eating too much curry.”
On that note, it was time to go for supper, safe in the knowledge that basketball at Shrewsbury is vibrant, competitive and fun. I must just go and throw some hoops – and not just the spaghetti variety!