World Club Basketball Tournament: Story of survival at heart of international pro-am

The seventh World Club Basketball Tournament (WCBT) starts this weekend on the 9-10 September at Summerfields Leisure Centre in Hastings.

The charity pro-am tournament will see 10 teams from Lithuania, Japan, USA and the UK, including Eastbourne Neptunes and Northamptonshire Titans, descend on the South Coast to compete for the WCBT crown.

One of the clubs, New York Court Kings, will also host a free coaching clinic for children and young people on the Sunday.

Eric Douglin (left) and his wife Mandi at the Sussex Sports Awards

Community engagement and raising money

For the founder, Eric Douglin – an information security analyst based in Bromley – the tournament first and foremost is about community engagement and raising money for Kidney Research UK and Bowel Research UK.

A local league player, who set up Bexhill Giants in East Sussex to quench the thirst of his three basketball-mad sons, Douglin was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006 and eventually received a kidney transplant from his wife Mandi in 2010.

Then in 2021, he underwent lifesaving surgery for a bowel rupture.

“The intention of the WCBT initially was to raise funds and awareness for kidney research, then my bowel ruptured through diverticulitis, so I thought I would do the same for Bowel Research UK," said Douglin, who has twice won Volunteer of the Year at the Sussex Sports Awards. 

“I see the tournament as a vehicle for guys to come over and play and be competitive, but also to have open conversations about these diseases, organ donation and the charities involved. And they can see me as someone who has survived these difficulties.

“It does put a particular spin on the tournament, and those participating know there's a reason behind their attendance. Players know that their registration fees go towards raising money, as do the spectators. It’s a good feeling.

“It gives me a sense of awareness that I've done something good. Because my wife gave me her kidney, I can contribute my something to the sport and the charities who helped me.”

Coaching clinic: Fun with the New York Court Kings

The origin story

Originally, from Penge, South East London, Douglin’s first experience of watching basketball was at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre, where he saw teams from Spain and Russia compete in an international round-robin tournament known as the World Invitational Club Basketball Tournament – little did he know that decades later he would be using it as a template for the WCBT.

Always wanting his Giants junior teams to experience basketball culture outside the leagues of England, he would take his players to the Netherlands and Spain to expose them to the playing styles of the continent, helping them become better and more disciplined.

With that mindset, he also arranged for his boys – turning into men – to play three exhibition games against international teams touring the UK: Team USA Select, Toronto Knights, coached by former Worthing Bears’ Head Coach Sean Loucks, and Lake Michigan Admirals.

The success of the exhibition games saw all three teams request return visits the following year, so in 2015, he decided to host a tournament over one weekend and invite all those teams, with the added aim of raising money for kidney research.

Thus, the WCBT was born.

The success of the tournament’s concept has seen it franchised in Washington, USA and Lanzarote, Spain all under Douglin’s tutelage. He says his long-term vision is to be a consultant for people wanting to set up and run international basketball events.

“I’ve made so many friends from it and others have made lifelong friendships too. People have made connections all around the world," said the 60-year-old.

“It's very competitive, but it's a friendly atmosphere. UK spectators get to see something they don't normally see: 10 quality club teams from around the world all competing in England.

“I’ve tried to ensure that people feel pride in representing their club and country and play hard basketball. But that the tournament never loses its real meaning.”

Hoop Goons return to compete at this year's WCBT

Star-studded line up 

WCBT 2023 will see Cardell Butler of And1 fame stepping on the court to represent the Kitsap Admirals, as part of their European tour, and Shuji Takei, who is the motion actor and skills director for the successful Japanese anime movie the ‘The First Slam Dunk’, will also be in attendance.

Leicester Riders' star Remi Lascelles and former Manchester Giant Phil Brandreth will also feature on a very experienced UK police basketball team.

Tickets for the 2023 World Club Basketball Tournament are still available and are £5 for adults and free for U14s.



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