Jr. NBA Players Light Up The Regal in Wizards v Knicks Dress Rehearsal

Two lucky schools were able to play out the NBA London Game 2019 a little early this year as a pair Jr. NBA Basketball England League teams representing the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks put on a fantastic show at one of London’s top courts this afternoon.

With Alcester Grammar from Warwickshire representing the Washington Wizards and Queensbridge School from Birmingham donning the famous jerseys of the New York Knicks, the players were able to show off their skills at The Regal in Lambeth, London. With its stylish black design and signature gold rims, the court proved to be a fitting venue for what was a cracker of a game.

In attendance were a host of stars from across the globe, coaching the teams and passing on invaluable tips, advice and support throughout the day. With 5 time WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne plus Washington team mate Natasha Cloud, 4 x NBA All-Star Latrell Sprewell, 2011 NBA champion Caron Butler, 7’7” tall former Washington Wizard Gheorghe Muresan, WNBA coaching legend Mike Thibault plus 1978 NBA champions Phil Chenier and Bob Dandridge all pitching in, the Jr. NBA players couldn’t have been in better hands to showcase their talents. The teams also enjoyed mixing with a star from closer to home with Watford FC’s Troy Deeney dropping by to offer his support and get involved in the action.

“That was a blast!” Delle Donne said after the final buzzer. “The kids were super excited to play and playing with tons of energy, and we came away with a W as well! You’ve got to continue to keep these kids involved at the grassroots level, hopefully we can act as role models for them and pass the game on to the next generation.”

The game finished 27-16 to Delle Donne’s Knicks, though Queensbridge had to overcome a slow start. Trailing 8-4 after the first quarter, there must have been some inspiration words from the WNBA great, as well as follow assistant Latrell Sprewell and teacher Dave Spicer. As the 2nd quarter progressed the tide turned and by half time, New York were up by 3. That lead stretched the rest of the way as Sprewell and Washington assistant Caron Butler enjoyed some friendly banter.

“We were having some fun there!” said two time NBA All-Star Butler. “That’s what it’s all about. When you get an opportunity to teach kids lessons about basketball, and how to have fun during competition, that’s everything. Latrell is an all-time great, he’s from Wisconsin, I’m from Wisconsin also, we had some good moments there today.”

Basketball England Board Member Steve Bucknall said, “It’s so great that we have the Jr. NBA programme and that it’s continuing to grow. It helps players get into the sport but also pushes them on to bigger and better things if that’s where their passion takes them. The NBA is of course a very important part of my life and today’s event at The Regal was an incredible experience that’s sure to have inspired everyone involved.”

The game was staged as part of the activities relating to the NBA London Game 2019 between the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks, providing another fantastic opportunity for Jr. NBA participants to enjoy incredible experiences through basketball.

Jr. NBA Basketball England Leagues are designed to leverage the excitement of the NBA to inspire participation, and the programme aims to promote the shared NBA and Basketball England values of teamwork, leadership, fitness and healthy living through league games, Jr. NBA youth clinics, and league Finals events.

In 2018, Basketball England expanded their Jr. NBA offering significantly, moving from five to 13 leagues across the country. Over 4,500 children aged 11 and 12 are now participating in the programme annually, with plans already in place to expand to sixteen leagues by 2020.