Home is where the heart is, admits Glasgow Rocks forward Kieron Achara.

However the Great Britain captain claims the next generation of basketball hopefuls must push outside their comfort zone if they are to follow in his Size-15 footsteps and forge a path towards the sport’s grandest stages.

Achara, named the BBL’s Player of the Month for March, pushed door after door open to go from Stirling to a scholarship to the United States before plying his trade in Spain and elsewhere as well as featuring at the 2012 Olympic Games.

With a new performance hub at the disposal of British basketball due to open at Edinburgh’s Oriam centre in the autumn, the practice facilities on his own doorstep will be as advanced as any in the world. But the 32-year-old has urged his would-be successors to aim higher than the domestic scene and confront the challenge of cracking the GB teams head on.

“I improved because I was playing with better players and being coached by better coaches,” he said. “When you get thrown in there, there are two things that can happen: you thought you were amazing but you realise it’s tough and you give up. Or you develop that mindset when you learn there are setbacks but you don’t give up.”

Upon re-joining the Rocks three years ago, Achara took a group of teenage prospects under his wing and he will put his own money where his mouth is in July with a talent camp in Stirling that will expose Scotland’s best and brightest to coaches from overseas.

“This is all about preparing players for a higher level,” he says. “It’s not about three days of their holidays. It’s about understanding what hard work is. It’s about getting that it’s not all about making a Scotland team but it’s about always aiming higher.

Achara wants more GB players back at home (Mansoor Ahmed/BB)

Achara wants more GB players back at home
(Mansoor Ahmed/BB)

“Even if that’s doing well in school or another sport, it’s about getting the most out of life. You’ll get more successful people, better players. I firmly believe in Scotland, we can produce top-level athletes, Division 1 scholarship players in the US. They just need to see the way to do that.”

He will bring a psychologist into his camp to train impressionable young minds. Education, for both children and parents, might open up the world. His contacts book is at their disposal. Some will make the next leap and bolt for foreign climes. Others will remain behind.

Even with investment, he notes, the system is far from glitch-free. And with unified GB teams taking over from the home nations from 2017, the route to the international stage will be harder than ever before.

The very best, Achara predicts, will still rise above. “But when you get thrown in there, there are two things that can happen: you thought you were amazing but you realise it’s tough and you give up. Or you develop that mindset when you learn there are setbacks but you don’t give up.

“We can have Scottish kids going into the GB programme who don’t make it straight away but with time, and competing against a higher level, they can improve.”

Yet more can be done to strengthen their case. It is expected teams in the BBL will soon be asked to emulate their counterparts in mainland Europe by fielding youth teams and constructing an infrastructure that can let raw talent flourish.

It is an expenditure that will pay out a return, Achara forecasts.

“Even in the BBL at present, you can still sell that you will be developed as a player. It’s an investment for the player because they can look to move on in the longer-term and a lot of clubs have missed that trick. If you can give players a living wage, or one that allows you to be professional, you’ll have more players wanting in.

“We have kids going to university at 18, getting their degree, and then wondering if they should get a job, or play part-time, or find a way to do it. That’s not professional basketball. In other countries, you don’t have players turning down contracts to play. They know you can go back to your career afterwards. But the money here from a real job is too good to turn down.”

Only then, Achara insists, might those who have inevitably been forced to head overseas in search of the kind of full-time regime the sport covets may find themselves tempted to return home.

“It’s a shame for British players because if you know you can earn a decent wage so you can play the game you love without worrying about how you pay the mortgage, you will play to the best of your abilities. And the youth players need to know they’re getting developed to the point they can move onto a higher league.

“When you have a conflict about affording a holiday or having a family, you don’t get a full commitment. But if you get a good wage in the UK, the chances are you won’t want to move on anywhere. They’ll be happy to stay in the BBL. Whereas now, players jump back and forth. They wonder all the time whether to try somewhere else. That shouldn’t be happening.”

For more on the Achara Basketball Camp, click here

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