London 2012: John Amaechi criticises British Basketball League
John Amaechi upbeat about Team GB's chances at London 2012 but declared the British Basketball League as "not fit for purpose"
British basketball needs a radical overhaul regardless of the performance of the national team at the Olympics, according to former NBA star and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist John Amaechi.
Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng will spearhead the British challenge in London this summer, but Amaechi has warned that any British success in the capital should not hide the major flaws threatening the game in the UK .
According to the 41-year-old, basketball coaching in the UK is light years behind the rest of Europe while the professional league is ‘not currently fit for purpose’.
And Amaechi has warned that any Olympic success will be wasted unless urgent action is taken to improve the health of the game in Britain .
“British basketball at pro level is the worst in the world bar none,” said Amaechi, who was speaking at the launch of Coca-Cola and Special Olympics GB’s Unified Sports programme, which aims to provide competitive sports coaching for people with learning disabilities.
“There is a lack of professionalism and it serves no purpose in developing players. I can’t even watch the British Basketball League any more, there is just no coaching involved and no structure on the court.
“I would get rid of the league and start all over again with new parameters and new strategy.
“You want to avoid having five or six Americans on each team, and you want to be in a position to build up the league with British talent.
“The problem is that just walking down the street you can see the potential there every 100 metres but it’s not being used.
“The danger is that even if the British team is successful in London, and I don’t expect them to embarrass themselves, the legacy of that will be wasted.
“Apart from the 100m final the basketball will be one of the most watched events so people who watch will hopefully want to get involved in the sport.
“But they will find themselves in one of three scenarios, either there will be no basketball clubs near them, the quality of coaching in those clubs will not be good enough, or it will be too expensive for everyone to play.
“For me what is worse than people not being interested is that you managed to appeal to them and they then discover they cannot play the sport.
“The problem is it’s an opportunity missed and I don’t see anything changing.”
Great Britain’s team at last year’s Olympic test event included just one player plying his trade in the UK, with the majority playing in European leagues, while All-Star Luol Deng, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Ben Gordon, who has yet to make his debut, all have NBA experience.
Amaechi visited Tower Hamlets College in east London, just a short journey from the Olympic Park, to oversee the first Unified Sports coaching session, which will now be delivered at schools and leisure centres across the country.
Since his retirement the former Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and New York Knicks star has dedicated himself to developing new talent but is concerned the problems within the British game are not limited to the pro level, with coaching all the way down to the grassroots not good enough in the UK.
And he feels unless action is taken to resolve these issues the British game is in danger of falling into terminal decline.
“The coaching qualifications at the moment need complete rehashing,” he told national press agency Sportsbeat.
“People are getting the level one and two qualifications to add to their CVs but they don’t care about the sport and are just going through the motions.
“These qualifications need to force people to actually have the skills which they can then pass on.
“There is no continuing professional development and it’s why the standard of coaching is not good enough.
“I’d love to be involved in trying to put that right, but it’s difficult. I have my centre in Manchester which welcomes people from lots of backgrounds but we make no money.
“Not everyone can come up to Manchester and we’d need centres like that elsewhere but that isn’t an option at the moment.
“Changes should have been made already and it’s probably too late to take advantage of London but something has to be done.”