Tucked away in the sports hall while the wind howls and the rain lashes down outside, a group of intelligent students who had read their long-term weather forecast warm up before another enjoyable and lively Basketball training session.
One half of what has fast become known as the ‘Right Pair’, Josh Crutchley, is supervising the Shrewsbury Elephants training session, whilst the other, Geoff Parry, is away scouting on their next opponents. The next opponents happen to be the National Champions from Newcastle-under-Lyme, but there is confidence in the Shrewsbury Seagulls team after a record six-game winning sequence. Like the mighty Brighton and Hove Albion, the Shrewsbury School Basketball Team are unbeaten this season!
With great respect to past Shrewsbury Buzzards basketball teams, there is a new intensity in the squad this year. It may be coincidence, but perhaps the appointment of two full-time coaches has something to do with this. Josh Crutchley loves coaching and playing basketball. He played for the Birmingham Panthers in the British Basketball League and wants to put something back into the game and share his passion for the game. “I have come to help the Shrewsbury Phoenixes rise from the ashes,” he tells me. I asked Josh who his favourite players were and apart from Michael Jordan, he named Allen Ezail Iverson.
As I am sure you know, Allen is an American now retired professional basketball player who played for four different teams during 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association. He played both the shooting guard and point guard positions. If, like me, you are up on your basketball trivia you will know that his children are called: Isaiah Rahsaan Iverson, Tiaura Iverson, Dream Alijha Iverson, Messiah Lauren Iverson and Allen Iverson II. I am very much hoping that at least some them will come here to be educated. As a teacher of Philosophy and Theology, the chance to teach Messiah is quite exciting!
Apart from his children, Allen Iverson was known for his pace around the court. I imagine that pace and the ability to jump is an advantage in basketball. Josh told me, “Pace and the ability to jump is an advantage in basketball.” It began to dawn on me why I had never been involved in any matches when I was at school.
I asked Josh why the Shrewsbury team were having such a good season and he felt it was down to the fact that the team listen to their coaches and work hard defensively. “We did have to explain that bricking up the door to the opposition changing room with the opposition still in it was a little excessive, but I like their dedication,” Josh said.
Geoff Parry is the other coach. He played for Wales and has been a very experienced member of the basketball community for a long time. He was looking forward to pitting his tactical wits against Shawn Jamieson, the opposition coach – who Shrewsbury Sharks Club President Mr Hughes found a little intimidating when they met before the game. “He is bigger than me,” said Mr Hughes (see picture - right).
I am sure you will all know that Sean Jamison played for the LA Clippers in the NBA and that he has also played for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Geoff was realistic about our chances against the Newcastle Knights. “They beat us 90-10 last year, but after scoring our first 90 points total against New College Wellington last game and having beaten Concord for the first time ever this season, it will be interesting to see how far we have come.” It certainly will, Geoff. And in the first quarter of the game it was clear that the Shrewsbury Dragons were not being overawed by their eminent visitors.
I was not surprised to see this, as team captain Adam Leung (M) was very upbeat about his team’s chances of success. Adam told me, “We will win because that’s what we do”. I wondered how important he felt his role as captain was. Adam replied, “It is all down to the captain. He does everything. That’s what my Housemaster and inspiration Dr P told me.” I was intrigued that Adam saw his housemaster as an influence on the court but Adam was quick to tell me that Dr P is good at dribbling and dunking. “You should see him with a cup of tea and a digestive in his hand,” he stated with a wry smile.
Adam’s brother Felix has moved to Churchill’s. He told me that, “Mr Hudson came in for him to bolster the House basketball team. He loves his basketball and is endlessly shooting hoops when he should be writing reports.” Mr Hudson was unavailable to comment when I went to look for him. His secretary was expecting him back to write reports but she did mention his Nike’s were missing. “Probably shooting hoops again,” she said. Rumours that Felix is only in the team because his brother picks the team are false, Felix assured me.
Sergey Vartanov (SH) is an Armenian member of the team. He informed me that Mr Besterman was keen to win the House trophy like School House always used to! Sergie is one of the more vertically challenged members of the squad but he insisted that smaller players but can mix it with the big boys.
Wan Tao He is a SH summer signing, as Mr Besterman desperately tries to strengthen his squad. He is tall and is enjoying his basketball. Influential play maker Ken Lai had to miss the cup game as he had turned his ankle whilst watching Arsenal on TV. The coaches agreed that he would be a ‘big miss.’ Travis Ho was a last year’s big new signing and helped Ridgemount to win the House cup. He is a calm and mellow player who likes to slow the game down and then electrify the crowd from nowhere. The police are keeping an eye on such shocking tactics.
Aaron Zhou and Harry Zhang are important and talented members of the squad who are in prime form at present. As is Gladys Lam, who is a regular starter for the team. One of several girls who trains with the team, she is the girls’ team captain and something of a star! Betty Chau is also something of a star and has had to change her name as she was getting so much fan mail she could not cope! Eva Zhang is a Third Former but has found the inclusiveness of the squad very welcoming, as has Koby Ferdinand-Okpala, another SH player, who says that he put down basketball by mistake on his sports options form but is now delighted he did!
There were a lot of smiles on the faces of the Shrewsbury Shrews. They may have ultimately lost the game, but 111 – 45 was a huge improvement on 90-10 as there was only a 20 point difference going into the last quarter, when sadly the influential Ivan suffered a game-ending injury. But we are still the best team in in Shropshire. I sense the future is rosy for the Shrewsbury Swans.
As you may have noticed in reading this, there is some doubt as to what name to call our basketball team. If you have a favourite from the ones I’ve used, please let me know and we will introduce the favourite one. Or you may have your own suggestion. Please add them to my list below. The Shrewsbury Mice, Bears, Badgers, Bison, Stags, Otters, Ostriches, Crocodiles, Pythons, Adders (some of the players are good at maths), Bees, Bananas.