Reading Rockets Speak About Future
Report from Reading Rockets
After a unique season in English basketball history when they swept all domestic honours in senior men’s EBL competition and posted a perfect 36 – 0 record, Gary Johnson, the Reading Rockets chairman together with head coach Dave Titmuss and development director Matt Johnson have spoken about their plans for the club and explained why the timing is not yet right to enter the BBL.
"We’re really excited about our plans," said Johnson. "The past twelve years represents only the beginning of the Rockets journey. We’re now a big and established club with a growing reputation for producing players who understand what it takes to excel."
Johnson’s son, Matt, who launched and now coaches and oversees the Rockets academies and age-group programmes, said:
"In the next ten years we will be reaffirming our core purpose and passion which is to develop and guide young British male players into professional careers.
"We want to establish a pathway for youngsters to pursue their ambitions, whether they see their future at the Rockets, other British clubs or playing abroad. This means that when we are allocating resources year-on-year we’ll always invest first in performance coaching and the creation of an elite, athlete-focused environment where young players can maximise their potential.
"Apart from competition, we provide the players with coaching in technique and skill acquisition that reflects the modern game; also they receive strength, conditioning, speed and quickness training; nutritional advice and monitoring; mental readiness work, testing, video analysis, physiotherapy, injury prevention, player career guidance, and pastoral care.
"For us, success will be measured first and foremost by the quality of the players who consistently come through our system."
Gary summarised what the Rockets will look like in the future. He pointed out that the Directors always tried to think in terms of what could be, rather than what might exist at the moment.
"We want to play in front of capacity crowds in a purpose-built facility that is ‘The Home of Reading Rockets.’ One is currently on the drawing board.
"In terms of competition, as well as being represented in EBL Division One or Two, the Rockets want a professional team in the BBL comprised largely of our home-grown players. This team will generate profit to invest into our elite young player development programmes, not, as is often the case, the other way round.
Commenting on the current BBL, Gary added that he would like to see the league’s leadership adopt a similar philosophy to protect and enhance the ‘British Pro Basketball’ brand and create an environment where the majority of the GB team play in their home country.
"And as the BBL becomes commercially more successful I expect things to really take off and the Rockets certainly want to be a part of that exciting future," said Gary.
"In fact, we’d like to be one of the clubs that not only wins silverware in a strong domestic professional league but also blazes a trail in major European competition.
"Of course funding is one ingredient that is essential to bringing these aspirations to fruition and we’ll be working hard at increasing our income streams and nurturing commercial support especially with partners who identify with our purpose and values. We’re also in the process of establishing a ‘Friends of Reading Rockets Development Fund’."
The Rockets senior team will remain in the EBL next season but enhance their schedule with tournaments and ‘friendly’ games against European and BBL sides.
Head coach Titmuss, who since joining nine years ago is credited with driving the club’s reputation for excellence, accepts that the average basketball fan might wonder why Reading does not opt now for the BBL.
"It’s a case of sticking to our long term aims and keeping things in perspective," he said.
"We’re very proud of our record since being promoted to EBL Division One, but what we achieved this past season had never been done before; it’s not like it was something that we’ve been doing every season for a number of years, in fact that was the first time we’d won the league.
"And you couldn’t accuse us of stacking our roster with EU players or naturalised Americans. Our team included four current juniors, two of whom were 16 year-olds; a 19 year-old and two 20 year-olds, who had come through our junior programme. There were two American imports, one of whom did not start, two senior players who have been with the club for four and six years respectively, and a third who was in his first season with us.
"There is great satisfaction in working with young talented players and giving them the best chance they have of fulfilling their potential. We want to be better or as good as any young elite player development programme, anywhere.
"Next season competing in Division One with a young team will bring a whole new set of challenges. But that’s what is important to us and exciting about the programmes we run."