British Basketball is in a perilous state.
Despite representing one of the fastest growing, and most played, participation sports in the country, crippling funding cuts have led to fears within the federation that Great Britain’s international teams could be excluded from international competition.
Men’s, women’s and youth teams alike are all on high alert. Indeed, the impact of this could reverberate throughout the nation as UK Sport continues to prioritise low participation sports such as bobsled over one that is played by 175,000 people aged 14 to 25 every week. Cutting off your nose to spite your face if you will.
However, in one small enclave of East London lies a basketball dynasty so ingrained in the British landscape that they will seemingly be unaffected, as the best and brightest from up and down the land, and the continent, continue to flood in.
The Barking Abbey school, based in Barking, is a hotbed of sporting talent, with young football and netball prospects applying in droves every year. However, it is their basketball academy that is the jewel in the crown.
Overseen from the outset by academy director Mark Clark, who is also the performance director at British Basketball, the academies close administrative and coaching ties with the national setup seen scores of youngsters called up to age group squads since the academies in 2007. Indeed, over 40 of those have moved on to become full senior internationals, and the school has sent more than 20 of their graduates into the American NCAA Division 1 system.
Adam Samuel found out just why the Barking Abbey Basketball Academy has been such a runaway success.