Delight for Oaklands Wolves as college hosts first National Basketball League games in England after lockdown

PUBLISHED: 11:48 21 October 2020

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

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All eyes were on Oaklands College as the first National Basketball League games in England took place following the extended coronavirus break – and all involved were delighted with its success.

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISONOaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

Having met all of the guidance in Basketball England’s return to play strategy, the St Albans college was given the honour, one which thrilled their head of basketball, Michael Ball.

He said: “It was an honour to host the first official basketball games in the country and I want to say thank you to everyone here at Oaklands College who behind the scenes made the event possible.

“It was wonderful to welcome so many basketball friends back on court and see teams playing once again.

“It will continue to be a challenge as we move forwards but the sport has done a fantastic job of supporting each other and making sure that we can deliver a safe environment to compete in.”

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISONOaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

Charlie Ford, chief operating officer of Basketball England, said: “After seven months away from competitive basketball, it was great to see NBL teams back on the court at the weekend.

“Everyone in the game has pulled together to follow the new COVID-19 processes and protocols that we have established ensuring our return is conducted in the safest way possible.

“We would like to thank all of the clubs, educational establishments and staff who worked tirelessly over the weekend in the live streaming of the L Lynch Trophy games.”

The day started with a U14 girls’ friendly game between Oaklands Wolves and Richmond Knights before two L Lynch Trophy games.

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISONOaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

The first saw Hemel Storm overcame a determined Reading Rockets before the Wolves played their first ever men’s game at the Division One level.

And although they lost to the experienced Thames Valley Cavaliers, there were some really positive signs for the young side, who played last season under the famous Leopards title.

Head coach Thomas Baker said: “Firstly it was great to see basketball being played again and early on we showed we can compete at this level.

“I thought it was an excellent job by everyone involved at Oaklands in terms of getting the court ready and it was a great for us to be able to showcase the facilities we have at Oaklands.”

Oaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISONOaklands College hosted the first National Basketball League games in England following the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: LIZZY HARRISON

Toby Gastaldi-Davies, one of eight players out of the 11 in the team who are either current Oaklands College student athletes or alumni, said: “We came out fighting and playing our way and it resulted in a strong first half from us.

“However, Thames Valley came out swinging in the second half leading ultimately to us losing.

“We should be proud of how we played early on and the score doesn’t reflect our first half, but we must compete throughout the game.”

A new addition to the squad, American Jordan Santiago, added: “It was great to finally put a Wolves kit on and compete on our home floor. We showed great effort and can sense we are starting to build something special.

“If we can stick to our style of play and show some grit on the defensive end, we’re going to turn some heads in this league.”


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