All things come to an end eventually. If I was able to tell a young 12yr old me, who walked into the after school basketball club at Poynton High, that by doing that one small act would lead him on an amazing adventure across the globe to study abroad, represent your country, play professionally abroad and have successes domestically over a 14 year pro career, he’d never believe me.
Going in to the 2019/2020 season, as my 14th year in professional basketball, I had the mindset that this season was likely to be my last one. I may not have been able to complete this final season and finish on that high due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I still reflect on my career with pride. I’ve achieved 20 trophies across my 9 seasons in the BBL, having represented 3 different clubs and captaining my final 2 seasons.
The decision to retire did not come easy to me. I’d put these thoughts off for years as I could never bring myself to visualise hanging up my shoes, however over the last few I’d put my efforts into training and launching my business, Solvere Therapies, specialising in holistic, complementary treatments as my transition. This gave me the confidence to see that there was another path out there for me. Having also recently explored other opportunities which may still come in to fruition, I plan to pursue this, I therefore feel that this is the right time to step away from the game that has given me so much.
I’m a big supporter in the importance of Sports for our own development. Yes the game of basketball has given me a career which I’ve loved every minute of, but more importantly I’m thankful it’s also helped mould my core beliefs and moral compass. The sport of basketball has been and can be a powerful tool for our development and learning. It’s taught me about participation, inclusion, human values, acceptance of rules, discipline, health promotion, gender & race equality, teamwork and leadership. It’s given me the tools and belief to be successful in anything I set my mind too.
I’ve been fortunate to play for some great coaches and people, I’m sure I’m not the first and definitely won’t be the last. I’ve always tried to take a little something from each coach which would help me develop my game and career. I want to say thank you to all the coaches who have played their part, but I’d like to give a special shout out to a few that have had a bigger impact on me. My early years of development at TBC (Trafford) Graham Williams & Jeff Jones who saw my raw potential, Coach Baker at Catawba College taking a chance on a tall English kid he’d never seen play before, then my professional career; I believe all three will finish in top 10 coaches in BBL history. All have taught me something new, challenged me and given me an opportunity to play for them and their ball club. Thanks Tony G, Fab and Rob P.
It was an achievement for me to play for the Eagles and the Riders, two of the top BBL franchises who’ve set the standard for other BBL teams to aim for. Both are well structured organisations with focus on the wellbeing of the players on and off the court. They also have successful Charitable Foundations that offer opportunities and educational support for the wider community, which I had the privilege of contributing towards. Now with their own arena’s, they have a base to develop basketball further from grassroots level through to elite and I wish them luck with this.
I want to say a huge thanks to all the fans for their support and loyalty during the highs and lows of the seasons. It’s been an honour to have been able to pull on your jersey and represent your city. A special shout out to the Greenbank Ultras, Rochelais fans, OOTA and Rider Nation, your support up and down the country and across Europe means everything to me.
When you look back over the years of all the teams you’ve played on it’s hard and unfair to pick a handful of teammates to give special recognition too. Every team mate I’ve had has influenced me in who I am today. Your hard work and dedication to your craft meant that you pushed me to not be satisfied. The losses we’ve endured and the victories that we celebrated, not forgetting the trophies we won have all been special in their own right. What I will take away from my career is friendships and a bond that can never be taken from us, we may have only played one season together or more but we will always be able to remember our time together. Thank you!!
If anyone knows me well, then they know family and friends are everything to me and my wife, Nic. With any free time in my schedule you’ll always find us driving up and down the country. People talk about athletes having to make sacrifices to be successful and that’s true, but I want to thank all my friends and family for the sacrifices they’ve made, for the plans that got cancelled, to the birthdays that I missed and the Christmas’s that got cut short. You always understood and carried on supporting. Thinking back to the emotions of getting to a final are always of pride and excitement for me, but these occasions are also events I shared with you all. To be able to look into the crowd and see our crew in the team colours and face paint and ready to endure the tense moments of a final and celebrate victorious at the end will forever be a lasting memory.
I want to give a special mention to my Wife, Nic and also my mum, Sue. Every young aspiring player knows that we wouldn’t have been able to play any sport without the help of our parents. I want to say thank you mum for everything you’ve done for me. The car journeys up and down the country, hours of sitting on wooden benches in cold sports halls at the weekend, to the late night practices and open runs in the summer as a teenager. You’ve always been there and never complained or moaned. I thank you for the time you sacrificed for not only me and Stu with our careers but also our sister Becci.
Nic, thank you for your understanding and supporting me throughout what is an unpredictable journey a basketball player lives. You moved to France, travelled to the other side of the world for me, supported me in European competition and not forgetting travelling up and down the UK. You’ve always been a positive influence in my life. You’ve been a great sound board when things haven’t been good or have been challenging, you’ve pushed me and believed in everything I do without asking for anything in return. I thank you with all my heart and look forward to enjoying our next chapter in life together.
There are also a few people/organisations who have helped me along the way that I’d like to say thank you to. Mark Considine my agent, it’s been a pleasure to work with you for the last 9 years. Your knowledge and experience in the industry is a credit to you. Your efforts in securing me the right job at the right time enabled me to develop and benefit from a successful career.
Within the teams that I’ve played for; Manchester Magic, Sporting Gijon, CB Almeria, Everton/Mersey Tigers, Newcastle Eagles, La Rochelle and Leicester Riders, there are volunteers and sponsors that don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve, that I believe enrich our lives and the clubs through offering their free time and support to the sport. I know that these clubs wouldn’t be able to run without people like yourselves so I want to say thank you. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have met some special sponsors over the years, who I’ve worked closely with, and have provided me with a wealth of knowledge and experience outside of basketball which I’ll take forward in my future career. Thank you Esh Group and Mather Jamie.
Through reflecting over my career, I can see how much basketball, as a sport has grown. The league is definitely trending in the right direction; its more competitive, there are more supporters, teams now have their own arenas and clubs are venturing into European Competitions, but there’s still plenty more to achieve. Whilst Covid-19 has us hanging in suspense, I’m positive it won’t be long before the growth continues, and I look forward to watching it evolve.
I finish with this “Dream big, work hard, stay focused and surround yourself with good people”