Basketball: London City Royals ready for BBL debut
PUBLISHED: 08:35 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:35 18 September 2018
The London City Royals are bouncing into the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre for the new British Basketball League season.
And head of basketball operations Nhamo Shire promises an electrifying, exciting and not-to-be-missed BBL experience.
Shire masterminded the summer’s most successful basketball initiative of the last decade, Midnight Madness, and Reach & Teach – which runs the Community Basketball League, the ‘club’ with the most registered members in the country.
He said: “The missing piece for us, for a long time, has been having a professionally-run, viable opportunity at the top end.
“We want to give some of our best developing young players, whether it be domestically, or coming back from America, or even playing in Europe, an opportunity to come home; play in front of their friends and family, and play in front of their home nation in a high-end, professionally-run situation.
“We want to develop British stars and market them to help increase the visibility of basketball as a whole and utilise them to inspire the next generation. We want to drive home the message that playing professionally at home really is a viable option now and build something that is comparable to what they can get in Europe or elsewhere.”
The Royals roster includes European stars Ashley Hamilton and Matt Bryan-Amaning, to take on the likes of Leicester Riders, Manchester Giants and Glasgow Rocks.
Last season Hamilton helped Spanish side Manresa achieve promotion to the Spanish Liga ACB, commonly viewed as the premier domestic league outside the United States.
Shire, who is aiming for the top, believes that bringing Hamilton home to Crystal Palace on a multi-year deal proves to fans that the Royals are serious about changing the narrative in the BBL and elevating British basketball.
“We feel we’ve done something historic here, confirming Ash for the full season ahead, our first in the BBL,” he added.
“His ability and pedigree sends a strong and positive message to our fans that we are serious about building a highest-quality, truly exciting team who deliver jaw-dropping entertainment at The Palace.
“Though Ash is locally grown, he’s internationally known and globally respected and for good reason.
“His athleticism, agility, ball-handling ability, passing skills, defence and leadership skills are all just tremendous and of course, he can score with the best of them, under and way over the rim.
“Being able to bring him home is great for us, but also such a positive statement for British basketball.”
Former GB international Hamilton aims to be the “glue” that binds a talented squad together, adding: “I started playing at Crystal Palace when I was young, when I was 16. To get the chance to come back 12 years later, at home in London in front of my friends and family, well, it’s going to be a good year.
“I’m an energetic player. I’m 29 now, so I’m experienced, my IQ is up as well as my skill level, I’m a leader, I’m an aggressive defender – whatever the team calls for I’m out here to win.
“We have a great collection of players so far, there’s going to be more coming in, I just need to be that glue so we can take it to the next level.”
Coach Jay Williams has just taken his exciting new squad to Serbia for warm-up matches against elite opponents, Red Star Belgrade and KK Partizan, who both play in the top levels of the European League.
Guards AJ Roberts, Ed Lucas and Elvisi Dusha and forwards Bryan-Amaning, Hamilton, Orlan Jackman and Will Neighbour are also on the squad, which begins their league season at Bristol Flyers on September 22, before their home debut against Surrey Scorchers at the Crystal Palace National Sports Stadium a week later (September 29, 7.30pm).