The London Lions competed in the inaugural Jr. NBA European Finals on June 21 – June 24 in Valencia, Spain, a top-level competition that hosted six U-15 boys’ teams and six U-15 girls’ teams (players born in 2008 or younger). The teams competed in a championship-format tournament of 24 total games, NBA skills challenge and a 3-point contest. As part of their growth and development, the players were given the chance to participate in an NBA media day and life skills sessions with an NBA Ambassador.
The London Lions sent an U-15 boys’ team and an U-15 girls’ team to the finals to participate amongst some of the best players of their generation. The top 12 players were selected for each team after trials and were led at the finals by London Lions captain and Commonwealth silver medallist Shanice Beckford-Norton, Alex Sarama and coaches from the Lions’ recent International Coaching Development Programme.
By providing a chance to compete in one of the most prestigious stages in Europe for youth players, the Lions hope to further develop young players and coaches and highlight the opportunities to pursue a career in sport in the UK. This comes alongside a landmark study from the Lions showing that 21% of Brits say they want to pursue a career in sports, but 44% say they were not made aware of opportunities at school.
The Lions launched a first-of-its kind programme International Coaching Programme earlier this year in which aspiring coaches from the UK had a fully paid three-month learning trip to another leading club in Europe. By exposing the aspiring coaches to different European styles, the Lions hope that this can be passed on to academies and young players around the UK – ultimately developing the sport and evolving players, coaches and clubs. This comes as data from the Lions highlights the importance of sports coaches as 18% of Brits say a sports coach was one of the biggest positive influences in their life growing up alongside 37% of parents saying their child’s sports coach has helped their child develop in ways they could not.
Alongside this, the Lions have teamed with University of East London (UEL) and New City College (NCC) to deliver basketball programmes and aim to inspire the next generation by reaching out to schools and inviting them to their men’s and women’s fixtures. The team have also partnered under the ONE TEAM umbrella with Safe Haven to deliver numerous clinics as well as offering their coaching staff to support in their weekly sessions, in order to inspire the next generation of basketball stars.
Coaches from the Lions’ International Coaching Programme and the JR. NBA European Finals comment:
“Incredible opportunity to coach against European teams along with highly developed and skilled players & coaches. It’s great to understand and see how the Jr. NBA are developing the game in Europe. It’s exciting that London Lions are a part of the opportunity and growing the game of British basketball and giving further exposure for players and coaches. I have taken away many special moments on the trip. Looking forward to continuing to grow as a coach through the Lions’ pathway.”
“It was an amazing experience to coach such talented players and watch some of the best kids in Europe competing at a high level. Being a part of the players journey, working with and competing against other talented and experienced coaches taught me a lot, as well as, motivated me to keep growing in my own coaching career.”
“Real eye opening experience as a coach, to test ourselves against and to learn from some of the greatest basketball nations, with the opportunity to network with coaches from all around the world. An unforgettable journey!”