Report by Stuart Hodge
If you’re going to wait 20 years, you might as well do it right.
And do it right the Caledonia Gladiators did.
On Sunday, our men’s professional team became the biggest sports story in the country and announced the club’s arrival to all those who hadn’t yet heard in the most emphatic fashion imaginable.
The moment David Sloan’s 3-pointer swished through the net, a torrent of emotion ran through every single Gladiator. Not just those who sprinted onto the court in that colossal scrum which will go down in legend or who were sobbing on the sideline, but all our fans who witnessed it – live or on TV.
Head coach Gareth Murray said: “This is what I’ve been trying to get for 20 years but I just never managed to get it across the line as a player. But now, as a first-year head coach, it’s great to get it done, on our home court.
“And that what’s what finals are about. There’s one shot to win a game and you’ve got David Sloan wide open, one of the best scorers in the league.”
It was a perfect moment, a massive chunk of Scottish sporting history and already a British basketball story for the ages being written right before our eyes. But for those inside the club, the BBL Trophy triumph over the Cheshire Phoenix is no more than the culmination of the first chapter of what is planned to be a very long story.
Murray said: “For me, what’s different now compared to before is there’s a future to think about. There’s a real plan of where we want to be in five years, where we want to be in 10 or 15 years. Before, we were pretty much year-to-year, whereas now there is a clear pathway of the steps we want to take with a long-term vision for the club.
“We have aspirations to be playing in Europe, there is an aspiration to be one of the best academies in the world. There’s the reality that we’re going to have 6000-seater arena with five training courts, where all the pathways and the whole community can be under one roof, all in our one club.”
The vision is about creating the Scottish basketball players of the future. Individuals who can emulate Kyle Jimenez and Fraser Malcolm by stringing 3-pointers in a major final or inspiring a group to glory like club captain, Jonny Bunyan.
Upon taking over the club, Steve Timoney stated: “We will continue to invest in a pathway that stretches not only in Glasgow but to every corner of Scotland. We will look to identify young males and females and provide the facilities and expertise to develop them from the first bounce of a basketball to becoming elite athletes, potentially playing for club and country. This will provide a rich source of sustainable homegrown athletes for our club.”
That next wave of Caledonian superstars is already coming through with the likes of Will Kemp and Jack Hencher on the bench yesterday and Zoe Sharpe, Sally Campbell, Kerry McGhee and Emma Kerr featuring prominently in the women’s professional team this season.
The future is brighter than ever for young ballers in Scotland and coach Murray believes the platform is there to take that even further now after his team delivered one of the biggest results in the club’s history.
He said: “Now we’re headline news. What better advert to try and encourage more people to play basketball than a game like that?
“Wherever it is, we want more people playing basketball across Scotland, there are going to be hubs throughout Scotland where kids can get involved and be part of that pathway and eventually, maybe come to the academy, maybe become a pro player – but it’s a whole culture of trying to get more people involved in basketball, to create more people playing basketball, to create more people coming to enjoy the basketball show.
“We have the resources now to be known as the only professional basketball team in Scotland, we have the resources now to get the club’s name out there and I think this is another big step. We’d just announced the arena and now winning the trophy is going to show there is a legacy, there is a pathway for you, coming your way, to be part of these Caledonia Gladiators in the future.”