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Opera North - The Little Greats

Nottingham Hoods: Our City's Big League Basketball Club

18 December 15 words: Samuel Boyle
We had a natter with the star players of our local basketball team, rising to the top of the hoop charts
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photo: Stephanie Webb
 

What’s the history of the Nottingham Hoods, and how has the club progressed since it was established six years ago?
Kirk: The club was originally the Ilkeston Outlaws, which was playing in Division 4. Lee, the owner of the club, had the vision of bringing it to Nottingham because even though it was an Ilkeston team, it was affiliated more with Nottingham than Derby. He set up the Hoods, and in our first year we won the league. It was a fantastic year and built a buzz around the club which has grown year on year.
Kieran: The club’s progressed massively since I decided to come back and play for my hometown. For example, we’ve now got Luke Mitchell who’s an England international at under-18 level.

What’s the difference between the English Basketball League and the British Basketball League?
Kirk: The BBL is its own separate league to the EBL. The BBL is a franchise, the professional league. So if you put it into football terms, that’s like the Premier League – but you can’t be relegated or promoted. The EBL includes the rest of the leagues nationally. Within divisions, there’s not a huge difference, but between them there is. In Division 1, the teams will be much better drilled. But then between EBL 1 and BBL there is quite a gap in talent, because the BBL is professional.

The Hoods have got a real sense of community, with a ladies team and a junior, ‘mini’ team – just how important is it for the club not to be only about the men’s basketball?
Kieran: It’s massive, it creates a sense of involvement. Once you have that, the fans take a genuine pride in supporting you. That involvement has also helped the senior men’s players as it gives them that sense of appreciation. We go to the mini games and junior games as players, and they love us to bits – we’re their sporting idols.

At a time when funding for basketball is decreasing, how important are clubs like the Hoods in ensuring participation goes up?
Kieran: The likes of us and several within our leagues are taking the chance to get communities involved by giving children subsidised rates. One thing I realised as a senior player was that you don’t always have access to a court. If I want to practise by myself in the week and improve my game it costs me £3 a pop, and if you want to do that every day, to a serious level, then that’s going to be expensive. So for clubs like this, it’s really important to get participation increasing.

So you think Nottingham really is a basketball city?
Kirk: Definitely. I remember growing up watching the Nottingham Knights who used to play in Bilborough. I’m talking back in ’98, and you used to have 900 fans out there. They packed out the Harvey Hadden, so we’ve always had a good sense of basketball in the city.

How did you each get into basketball?
Kieran: I had a family friend who played wheelchair basketball in a few Paralympics for Great Britain, so basketball was there from the start. I was always interested and messed around, but starting playing seriously at about twelve.
Kirk: My uncle gave me a video when I was about three called Come Fly with Me and I used to watch that more or less every day. I just wanted to be like Michael Jordan. My mum was never into football so basketball was all I knew, and when I got to senior school I got a chance to play.

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photo: Stephanie Webb
 

Often when people think of basketball they think of the NBA megastars, but just how much of a team game is the sport?
Kirk: Once you learn about the sport, you see how much teamwork matters. Last year in the NBA, for example, LeBron James – who is the best player in the world – couldn’t carry the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the league because he needed other players to step up and make the plays. That’s the beauty of basketball: there are so many roles to play.

If money was no object, where would be your fantasy home venue for the Hoods?
Kieran: I’d play at the Ice Arena. Facility-wise and the number of people it can seat, you can’t really get better than that!
Kirk: If I had the money and I could build an arena anywhere, the place I’d choose is in Hyson Green at the Boys’ Club, which in the local basketball scene is Nottingham’s mecca. It’s great to go and play there, but it’s really small and old, like a school gym.

And if you could play alongside any basketball player from around the world who would it be?
Kirk: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves. I’d love to be around him, because of his intensity, the way he approaches the game, his philosophy. I think he’d be great to learn from.
Kieran: Can I talk about a Hoods player? I love playing alongside Daniel Wong. He’s the most underrated player I’ve ever met. Last year he was just destroying everyone, he must weigh about twelve stone and only be 6’2” when everyone else he marks is 6’10” and seventeen stone, but he out-rebounds them, out-muscles them and his work rate is beyond measure. You can’t put a price on his efforts.

Sounds like you guys at the Hoods actually like each other, unlike some sports teams!
Kieran: Definitely. I’ve known Kirk well since I was in year seven at school. I used to skateboard when I was a kid and I was watching a video the other day where I’m stood talking to this guy and it turned out to be Kirk, on his rollerblades! I’ve known so many of the guys for many years.

We also noticed on your website that the Hoods are sponsored by McDonald’s – is that a regular diet for Hoods players?!
Kieran: It isn’t our regular diet, but I was there doing some promotional work the other day and they gave us a free McDonald’s. It’s probably not the best diet for an aspiring athlete…

The club has a number of other sponsors, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre. How important are those partnerships to the club?
Kirk: All the sponsors we get other than McDonald’s are small, local businesses, so it’s helping them get exposure and in turn it’s helping us. A sponsor might pay for their logo and that money can pay for a player to come play for us.
Kieran: We’ve also got friends who do artwork for posters, and friends who are willing to give a voluntary hand that not every other club will get. If we didn’t have that, I don’t think we’d be in this position. We might be winning games, but the fan base wouldn’t be as good and we wouldn’t have the community inclusion.

Finally, what are your hopes for the rest of the season?
Kieran: Personally, I’d like to win everything. I understand what goes alongside that is preparation, and we’ve practised hard. We’ve got the talent and I can’t see why we can’t go the rest of the season undefeated. Looking at the other scores, with the right effort and mindset, we shouldn’t lose a game.
Kirk: If we can stay healthy and keep the team we’ve got, then we really should be looking at winning the league. I’d be disappointed if we finished outside the top three. We should definitely be looking to go up to Division 1.

Nottingham Hoods website

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