High hoops and even higher hopes
Meet Dan Clark, 22, the 6ft 10in Greenwich-born basketballer who was prolific for Team GB at Eurobasket
Sunday 18 September 2011
How did you start?
I didn't have much choice. My family is steeped in the sport.My dad Mark coaches the Great Britain national women's team and my mum Claire played for GB and England. My sister Ella, 19, is an England Under-20 international. I have always been around the game. Apparently there is a photo of me somewhere in a cot with a basketball.
How did your career develop?
I played for Ware in Hertfordshire as a youngster and at 14 I decided to take a bit of an adventure and signed for the Spanish professional club Estudiantes in Madrid as a junior after I had been spotted by one of their talent scouts while playing for the national team. I was one of the taller boys – 6ft 6in even then – so I stood out a bit. It was daunting at first but they found an English school for me and I did my A Levels there. I am still with the club, playing in the first team. I think I was the first young British player to take the European route. Most go for scholarships at US colleges.
Any regrets about going abroad?
None at all. It gave me the opportunity to learn another culture and language and improve my game. In Spain there is the same form of development system in basketball as there is in football here, with youth teams. They have something called mini-basketball from seven or eight which brings kids into the game. In our club we have about 40 junior teams. The club started as a school team (Estudiantes means students) and built from there. Some big football clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona also have their own basketball teams. It would be wonderful to have something like that to help develop the game here.
What grabs you about the sport?
Apart from playing I am a fan too. It is a fast, entertaining game and I love watching it. There's always something happening. It is captivating, so easy to follow.
What is your role?
I'm a power forward, a sort ofall-purpose player, doing a bit of shooting but helping out generally.
Any other sporting interests?
I played rugby when I was younger – in the second row, obviously – but when I was 12 or 13 I had to decide between sports, and I chose basketball. It was the right choice.
How do you train?
Weights and speed work mainly. It's a bit different from sports like football where it is basically continuous running. It is sprint, sprint, sprint. There's not much time to jog up and down.
Why aren't Great Britain better at basketball?
It's a mystery. I suppose you should start at the grass roots, where coaching is not what it should be. But one of the main reasons is the overall lack of knowledge about the game. It doesn't have a huge fan base. In Spain we get crowds of 12,000 to 15,000 but here it's nothing like that – and spectator numbers are falling. I think it is a combination of funding, not developing personalities, and lack of publicity. We need to get the public more involved. People here may have heard of Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls but there's not much real knowledge about the game at all. It's a real shame because I would like to see it encouraged more as a professional game. As a nation we could benefit from having a great basketball team. There's talk of an NBA franchise in London after the Olympics, which would be real boost for the game.
How important are NBA players such as Luol Deng and Ben Gordon to Team GB?
It is always good to have great players on the team. They give you that added confidence on court. Hopefully they will help us to the next level.
What does London 2012 mean to you?
To have the opportunity to appear in the Olympics on my home patch in east London would be a dream come true. I'd wake up every day having to pinch myself. But most important is that it will be a shop window. Basketball will be one of the bigger sports at the Olympics with some great stars. The crowds will appreciate just how popular it is around the world, and could be here. It is up to us to capitalise on that by giving a good showing.
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