HOME SCHOOL THE NEW OPTION FOR BEST TEENS

After years of watching its best teenage prospects flee to high schools and academies overseas to hone their skills, plans have been drawn up to provide a network of finishing schools in the UK.

By 2014, reveals British Basketball’s head of youth pathways Warwick Cann, four Regional Institutes will be in place across England, with a further centre of excellence of Scotland.

It follows the launch of the first, based at Barking Abbey School, spurred by the objectives of the sport’s T-16 programme which aims to ensure GB qualifies by right for the Olympic Games in 2016 and beyond.

Offering talented young players an opportunity to combine study with practice is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, says Cann (pictured above with Julie Page and Ros Mason).

“It’s an accepted high performance model,” he outlines.

“The Institute of Sport in Australia, INSEP in France, they all operate on the basis that you help the student-athlete without complicating their life. You could take kids away from home but is that the best idea at that age when they need that family support?”

Barking Abbey, which has already established itself as a talent nursery under former GB women’s coach Mark Clark (pictured right), was the obvious choice, the Australian adds.

With further investment from England Basketball, the school plans to offer its sports scholars up to 15 hours per week within its timetable. “They’re training and learning as part of the curriculum in daylight hours instead of having to do extra out of school,” Cann outlines.

Some will still opt to cross the Atlantic, a well-trodden route which has seen players like Luol Deng and Matthew Bryan-Amaning opt to finish high school in the USA before heading onward to college. Others will follow in the footsteps of Joel Freeland and Dan Clark and choose to head into mainland Europe in search of basketballing wisdom.

This will, Cann states, provide an alternative option. However the mooted concept of creating a purpose-built British school of basketball will, for now, remain a dream.

“The issue is always money,” Cann confirms. “We’ve got some challenges with courts with the school and we’d like to improve that. But we’d like to grow out of the existing bricks and mortar there because of critical mass. It’s a good established programme. We can support it. Strategically it’s in the south-east.

“If we’ve got a limited budget, and we can’t build our own stadium, we’ll focus on the difference we can make. And that’s coaching, training, competition, athlete support.

“It’s trying to build on existing infrastructure rather than building something new.”

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