The United Kingdom is known for soft breezes and grey skies, where each county possesses a beauty often best seen along the small carriage-ways lining the countryside. Due to month-long drizzles, the rolling countryside has the greenest of grassy hills, especially featured in the scenic Lake District and northern cities like Edinburgh. Yet, like those gray skies that blanket the land, the 'norms' of British society also blanket the growth of basketball there."> The United Kingdom is known for soft breezes and grey skies, where each county possesses a beauty often best seen along the small carriage-ways lining the countryside. Due to month-long drizzles, the rolling countryside has the greenest of grassy hills, especially featured in the scenic Lake District and northern cities like Edinburgh. Yet, like those gray skies that blanket the land, the 'norms' of British society also blanket the growth of basketball there.">

Atlantic Crossing

<p class="txt">The United Kingdom is known for soft breezes and grey skies, where each county possesses a beauty often best seen along the small carriage-ways lining the countryside. Due to month-long drizzles, the rolling countryside has the greenest of grassy hills, especially featured in the scenic Lake District and northern cities like Edinburgh. Yet, like those gray skies that blanket the land, the 'norms' of British society also blanket the growth of basketball there.

Everything in England seems to be deep rich green, and like the wheat bugs in the summer to the soft snows of Christmas, the history of the United Kingdom is everywhere. At nearly every junction that you can walk to, an almost ghostly feeling shivers down your spine. It's a sensation difficult to describe, akin to someone else walking in your shoes for the five hundred previous years. For those who love history, it's why the UK overwhelms you. You have that constant green scenery surrounding you, the historical side of virtually every building stretching into the past, and the beautiful breezes and soft grey skies covering you like a warm blanket.

Teenage athletes in the UK, who chance upon the sport of basketball, find the window of opportunity to be almost one hundred percent closed. Whether the motivation is just to practice the sport that they love, or to use their abilities as a way of furthering their education, the rope basically ends at age 16. And the reasons are simple. Education at a University, on the one hand, and athletic careers on the other, are separate paths. If you want to play a sport, you join a club. If want to go to a University, then you go to school. And schools do not allow the game of basketball to be a part of their program, not at any level.

This is not the case in the United States. Sport is intertwined with school all the way through the education system here, even to the grammar school level in some states, and it has been that way for over 100 years. Even through the lean years of the Great Depression, and even through academic scandals in the 21st century that threatened to diminish collegiate programs, sports and school spirit remain alive on fields and courts throughout America. And beyond schools, private and public clubs are also available from Pee Wee football to the Senior Golf Tour. It's these numerous opportunities that make America the primary destination for international athletes in the world of sports.

The defining characteristic of sport is competition. Athletics always tries to answer the basic question: 'who is better?' Accordingly, the young men who make the long journey from Britain to the United States in pursuit of a basketball career find very different paths, simply depending upon how good they are. Though that may sound obvious, the truth is that for many teenage English basketball players who are still in England, it's nearly impossible to understand the process until you go through it. For the ones that tackle the huge unknowns, the road is always difficult and winding, and even brothers of similar abilities end up at very different destinations, as we will see.

Through the background work done to build this article, it became obvious that in spite of, perhaps because of, the hoop dreams and academic challenges that these young British-natives face, these are some of the finest young people you could want to meet. Their dedication is impressive, and all of them I spoke with were both mature and driven. That's a compliment to their parents of course, but also to their supporters, and to each individual. It is also a statement to future players now waiting in and watching from England. The player's sponsors here in the United States have opened up their homes, families, and hearts. Several players interviewed for this article expressed deep appreciation for the families and supporters who have helped them along the road.

In Britain, Infant School and Primary School are usually finished by age eleven. At twelve, children start what the British call Secondary School, roughly equivalent to middle schools in the United States. By the time a student is 15 he or she has either completed or is close to finishing the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is the end of basic formal education. Approximately half of the GCSE graduates enter the work force. The other half begin work at Advanced Levels (called A-Levels) in an effort to get accepted at a University for a higher education, though these percentages can vary substantially from city to city.

Since there are no college basketball teams in the UK, an English player who wants to make a career of basketball has very limited options if he also wants to stay near home. The only practical answer has been to undertake A-Level studies while trying to keep up with a local private basketball club, however good or bad that club might be.

Some clubs operate season-to-season, including the popular British Basketball League (BBL). The BBL is primarily filled with former American college basketball players with such notables as Shaheen Holloway, Barry Bowman, Jamal Faulkner, Brendan Graves, Randy Duck, and Ed Gray, the latter three all former California Golden Bears. There are some British-born players in the BBL, but it is primarily composed of Americans.

To balance that situation, some BBL franchises have sponsored junior squads that are separated into age groups. A few teams in London exist as well, including the London Leopards and the London Towers. British-born players can also compete for spots on the Junior National team of England that plays internationally. Most of the young men that are mentioned in this article played on the National team.

Players such as Harry Powell, Patrick Mackie, James Noel, Marc Pratt, Liam Hughes, Luol Deng, Andrew Sullivan, Neil Fingleton, and Daniel and Richard Midgely - plus a few other individuals who we did not connect with for this article - chose to journey across the Atlantic to America. Most finished their GCSE's in England and with some good fortune found their way to the US in order to not only play basketball, but to finish their academics in US high schools. They all had to make these tough decisions during their teenage years.

A side note: American high schools, the 10th through the 12th grades, are roughly equivalent to the English A-Levels, though in England these years are devoted to a a stronger curriculum in just three specific student-chosen courses. That nothing is directly equivalent led to major academic rulings pertaining to two Modesto Christian players in 2001 (Pratt and Midgely).

For the above-listed players, in spite of the difficulties, moving to "The States" was a solution. Whether most Americans realize it or not, the United States is the home of basketball. After its creation in Springfield by Dr. James Naismith one hundred eleven years ago, basketball spread from the peach basket to over 30 NBA teams, 300 Division I college teams, and nearly uncountable high school teams. Both women's and men's teams exist, both professional and amateur. The financial figures would be impossible to tally. There are so many teams, so many divisions, and so many leagues nationwide that the game is now bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. If Dr. Naismith had any notion that the game he created would grow to its current state he'd have slid a quick patent in for his invention. Over 400 million people now play the game worldwide.

In contrast, the fan-base in Britain for basketball has been described as "somewhere above billiards but below snooker" in popularity. The reason for the distance between hoops and fame has been blamed on the BBL's inability to advertise, as well as English media's timid reluctance to print anything on the subject. Despite the astonishing overall rise of hoops in Europe, England has fallen way behind in this regard. There's no failure in that whatsoever, but it has created an even bigger hurdle for some of the best young players wanting to stay in the UK and improve. And that has become the main concern for the parents of English basketball players - the unpopularity of the sport that makes it a tougher road for their children.

Harry Powell's hoop dreams started at the age of 12 after watching Michael Jordan on television. It was an NBA finals game, and the replays of "His Airness" doing the unthinkable with a human body fascinated Powell. "That really was it for me", Powell said. "When I saw MJ, I became determined to play that sport. It was amazing to see the things he did." Powell found a few teams to play for during his early teen years, and later caught on with the junior team of the London Towers. Now 18 yrs old and a 6'4, 230 lbs senior swingman for Modesto Christian, Harry came to the US on September 9th, 2001, flying straight from London to San Francisco. His current senior teammate at Modesto Christian, another London-native, Andre Glenn, was also on that flight. They arrived in California a bit late for school on the 10th, so their first day at Modesto Christian was spent watching planes crash into the Twin Towers on September 11th. "It's impossible to forget flying so close to that date, and the images we saw that day", Glenn said. "In many ways, we understood the opportunity in America much better after September 11th." Glenn stands 6'6", 205 lbs and is being looked at by a number of WAC and WCC teams for his solid interior play. East Coast colleges from as far east as Lehigh College have approached Andre. Powell has drawn interest from Fresno State and other WAC schools. Another native Londoner, Patrick Mackie, also plays on the Modesto Christian squad along with Glenn and Powell. Mackie is just starting his junior year.

Challenges that Glenn and Powell have had to deal with range form humorous to athletic to weather related. "The biggest change from London to California would have to be the weather," Glenn sais. "It doesn't stay hot like this all year long, with just 3 days of rain." They have learned the vast difference in American sports played right at school, with Powell even taking up American football. "It's fun, I'm enjoying it," Powell said, learning how to play defensive end. "One of the more humorous things to happen to me was when I asked for a rubber at school, and the teacher barked back at me. It took a moment to sort out, but I explained that I meant an eraser."

Now in Corvallis, Liam Hughes is one-step ahead of both Glenn and Powell. He spent three years at Modesto Christian, coming over from the town of Hullbridge, near Essex. At 7'2, 260 lbs, Hughes stands out. After hearing from an assortment of schools, Liam chose Oregon State. He's now in Oregon, excited about playing for second year Coach Jay John in the Pac-10 Conference.

Two other players that came to Modesto Christian directly from England were Marc Pratt and James Noel. Pratt was actually the first English player to arrive in Modesto in August 1999, and after an exceptional high school career with the Crusaders, signed with Greg Graham's Boise State program in Idaho. Marc didn't play for the Broncos last year, but he will be playing this year at a Utah JC, after which he'll head back to Boise. Noel is currently attending Modesto JC and still plays with some of the current Christian players.

Andrew Sullivan is recognized by some in London as the 1st English basketball player to make the jump to a US High School at the age of 15. Other individuals had left England to play in the States, but usually not before going to college. Sullivan, an outstanding athlete, chose St. Augustine Prep in New Jersey in 1996 after leaving London's playgrounds. After finishing his prep career with such accolades as 1st team All-State and South Jersey Player of the Year, Sullivan signed a letter-of-intent with the Villanova Wildcats in nearby Philadelphia. His collegiate career ended last year after averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds per game. Robert Archibald moved with his entire family to Missouri from Paisley, Scotland before the start of his high school senior year. Academics are set up differently in Scotland though, as Archibald attended Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline. Archibald was one of the most impressive young players in Europe as well, being named the MVP of the Nike Euro Camp in 1997. After graduating in the US from Lafayette High School in Missouri, Archibald accepted a scholarship to play at Illinois University. He finished up in Champaign just 18 months ago, and the 6'11 center spent some of last year working with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA.

Neil Fingleton was a McDonald's All-American in 2000, committing to national powerhouse North Carolina the previous winter. The 7'6 center from Durham, England was a bright spot for British basketball, becoming the first British-born McDonald's All-American. Fingleton is also the tallest college basketball player in the nation and the soon to be junior is still hopeful of being a polished player, though he transferred from UNC to Holy Cross after red-shirting his freshman year in Chapel Hill. Fingleton decided to finish up his education here in the US after attending a summer basketball camp in Boston, playing his senior year right next to the Holy Cross campus. The Crusaders have been on a wonderful run the past few years to the NCAA Tournament, and Fingleton is hoping he can contribute even more this year.

Richard Midgely is perhaps the best-known English player in the western United States. A sophomore at the University of California, Richard's path to Berkeley has been as unique as the town itself. "It really all started because I wanted to do something with my family on Saturday nights", said Kevin Midgely, Richard's father, speaking from his home in Burgess Hill, England. "We went to the motorway a few times. But someone I knew mentioned this 'basketball' game that a team in Worthing played. They were called the Worthing Bears, so we went to watch them one night."

That game got it started for the Midgelys. The drive to Worthing was just 20 minutes to the south, approximately 60 minutes from London. With 100 other hoops junkies packed into the small gym to watch the Bears play, the crowd "oooh'ed and ahh'ed" throughout, even singing songs during the game. At that time, Worthing was led by 6'7 PF Herman Harried who later played at Syracuse. Harried was certainly the Midgely family's favorite player, and his ability to consistently hit the mid-range jumper and rebound the ball made him the overall fan favorite. In fact, in a recent poll on the Bears website Harried was named the franchise's Most Valuable Player on their all-time team. The Worthing Bears became the Brighton Bears in January of 1999, making a short move to a bigger gym.

After watching a handful of Worthing games, the impulse to play basketball became enormous for both Daniel and Richard. Their parents enjoyed the sport, and a few years after watching games, the Midgely backyard garden turned into a mini-basketball court. Like many other young boys in England, both Daniel and Richard played soccer as well, but the draw to play basketball was already in them. As they advanced into secondary school the Midgelys began to meet knowledgeable men around the sport. Both Tony Awcock in nearby Hayward's Heeth and the late Joe White were instrumental in their development. Daniel played ahead of Richard because of his age, though as the years passed both brothers found themselves on the same squads at different times. Richard's scoring abilities in youth games became legendary, and with 11 titles on different age-group teams during his amateur play, he became one of the notables in the youth leagues.

The family continued to attend games in Worthing from time to time, and the crowds became bigger. But the contests in which Richard and Daniel played became even more involving for the Midgely family. Kevin served as scorer and helped the organization in a variety of ways. As Daniel neared the end of his basic formal education, a high school in Louisiana approached the Midgelys about an opportunity that would allow both Daniel and Richard to continue playing basketball. Despite the interest, Kevin Midgely felt that the school was not in both of his boys' best interests and so declined. "It was a hard decision to make at the time, and clearly the road for both of them would have been very different had they both gone to Louisiana," Kevin says in retrospect.

So Daniel started on his A-Levels, while Richard worked to finish his GCSE. It was during that time that Richard truly flourished on the court, and a number of American schools began to contact his coaches and parents. One New Jersey school's offer stood out because Richard's uncle lived nearby. In response, the Midgelys toured each US school that offered, and when back in England they analyzed the pros & cons of each, with the final decision left to 15 year old Richard.

"Some other parents thought I was out of my wits for letting Richard choose the school, but I felt at the time that he really knew what he wanted. It was truly his decision," said Kevin Midgely. "He surprised us all when he chose Modesto Christian in California, because it was actually near the bottom of our list. The religious side of the school isn't something that we had a problem with, but it's just that as a parent you do not welcome the feeling that you are pushing your own child into a religious situation. As Richard now knows, it was a lifetime choice that he made. It was much more than just a career choice."

Richard left England in August of 1999, and began living with the Anderson family in Modesto who sponsored him. "The gratitude that I feel for the Andersons' is overwhelming," Kevin said. "There's nothing I could do in this lifetime to thank them for what they've done for Richard. They are incredible people."

During his first season, Richard teamed with backcourt British mate Marc Pratt on an explosive Modesto Christian squad that included the likes of David Paris (now at Cal), Chuck Hayes (now at Kentucky), and Jeff Porter, Head Coach Gary Porter's son.

Richard's first season was capped by a trip to the Northern California Division IV Finals in which Richard made what might be the most memorable shot of his high school career. In the NorCal semi-finals, Modesto Christian matched up with St. Mary's of Berkeley. St. Mary's somehow kept control of the game despite Chuck Hayes 29 points and 21 boards, and being on the road as well. But it was Richard's two free throws with 13 seconds left that pulled MC within 3 points, then after a missed lob by St. Mary's, it was Richard's clutch off-balance three-point shot from near the top of the circle that bounced around the rim and dropped in to tie the game at 68-68. The final play was actually designed to go to Jeff Porter, but Midgely somehow found the ball in his hands and dribbled in the shot. He was fouled as well, and the Crusaders won the game in OT. Richard said at game's end that it was the greatest contest he'd ever been a part of.

In an almost eerie coincidence, Richard capped off his freshman year at Cal with a similar shot against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This time however, the ball didn't bounce around the rim; it was nothing but net. Obviously, the NCAA Tournament is a bigger platform than the NorCal Div 4 semifinals, and Midgely's shot was watched over and over again on ESPN and CNN/SI for nearly a week. Again the final play wasn't designed for Richard, but that didn't stop him from coolly knocking it down. It was probably the biggest shot for Cal Basketball in a decade. Richard finished his first year in the West Coast's elite conference as one of the top newcomers, nearly leading the Pac-10 in three-point shooting at 45%. He made the All-Freshman team, and Cal head coach Ben Braun had nothing but glowing words for the mental approach and preparation by his young freshman.

For Daniel Midgely, the road has been bumpy, and very different than for his younger brother. Daniel stayed at home in the UK playing with the Towers while continuing to study his A-Levels. He blossomed into his own person without his brother there, and during his gap year (the year which can be taken by a future University Student between the passing of their A-Levels and entrance into a University), Daniel devoted 12 months to improving his game on the court. He took a non-paid opportunity in the BBL to practice his game, and with the help of a firm called 'College Prospects of America', found a stateside school that was right for him. Daniel is about is to start his third year at the University of Maine at Machias, and should be a starter at this NAIA school that plays in the Sunrise Conference. "Daniel has persevered through many things and his self-confidence is amazing," his father said. "He's always remained 100% positive about his career. I couldn't be more proud of him."

With the upcoming presence of Ndudi Ebi (pronounced "EN-dee EBB-ee") in the NBA, and of Luol Deng at powerhouse Duke University, British basketball is in for a jolt. Ebi and Deng were listed as two of the top 5 players in the country this last recruiting year.

Though Ebi was born in London, he moved to Nigeria and then to Houston by the time he was 6, so his British bloodlines are faint. His move to the NBA was a shocker this past summer, as the 18 yr old Ebi seemed like a lock for the Arizona Wildcats. However, he was a first round draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2003 NBA draft. Deng, who was born in Sudan, relocated to England when his father was granted political asylum in 1993 after working in the Sudan government. The Deng family in general learned the game from Manute Bol while in Egypt, as both Deng and Bol are members of the Dinka tribe. Luol played internationally for England in 15 and under teams when he was just 13 yrs old, showing off his incredible skills by tallying huge numbers. Most of his teammates knew him as Michael then though, not Luol. His brother Deng played in the BBL for a short time, and his other brother Ajou played collegiate basketball at the University of Connecticut and at Fairfield. To a degree, Luol carries with him the pride of British basketball since he is easily the most recognized player from the Junior National teams. His scoring prowess and overall game might make him the best British Basketball player ever.

Each player we spoke with for this article has his own reasons for taking up basketball. But for all, it has only been through hard work and great sacrifice that they've been able to play basketball in the US. Their supporters have sacrificed to make them feel welcome here and as part of a family. There are a number of players not included here (just too many stories to document), but every one is unique. I was repeatedly told about players in the UK that were excellent but who just could not consider leaving the UK. In some cases, it was family considerations that dissuaded them from taking up the sport.

A rise of basketball to national prominence will probably never happen in the UK. There is little chance of frantic soccer players changing their ways, or the BBL emerging into an equal of the NBA. Even for young basketball players, their peers surely will mock the game until it becomes mainstream. Despite those limitations, the game will expand - it's only a matter of time. Eastern Europe is the example.

Through the efforts of John Amaechi, one of Britain's finest basketball ambassadors, British basketball does have its allies. Amaechi played college ball at Penn State, taking up the sport after dropping rugby in the US. After a stellar career in Happy Valley, John was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Amaechi became the first British player to start an NBA game. The Amaechi Centre in Trafford (near his hometown of Manchester) is open to young players who would like advanced coaching. The Centre opened up in September of 2002, less than a year ago.

Former Junior National players like Richard Midgely and Luol Deng will also strongly influence the future of English basketball. With both still just underclassmen level in college, more time will pass before the fully develop their skills. Nevertheless, the players interviewed for this article have high hopes that more players will emerge from the UK. They also hope to bring the sport greater fame in their home country, and to help make the transition easier for future players. The sport has been great for the few that have found their way to the US, and perhaps 10 years from now, amateurs will have more options in the UK to stay and play in their home country. If not, they can at least read about the paths taken by some English players that preceded them. Every player interviewed voiced the hope that other young men would have an easier transition.

Special thanks are due to Kevin Midgely and Claire Swift who explained the basics of the English school system. We must also thank Greg Lambert, an assistant coach at Modesto Christian, who provided the history on how the school became a central part of the lives of the young men from England who have developed under the tutelage of Gary Porter and his staff. Additionally, I must thanks Greg for his patience in helping me build this article.

I must also mention my disappointment with the Cal Sports Information Department's unwillingness to allow Richard Midgely to directly voice his thoughts on these subjects. In spite of that, Richard was helpful in guiding my research, and he voiced his approval of the work after it was completed - knowing that it is a story that will be read by many both here and in England.

©Copyright September 2003, GoCyberBears.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

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","mobileBody":"

Everything in England seems to be deep rich green, and like the wheat bugs in the summer to the soft snows of Christmas, the history of the United Kingdom is everywhere. At nearly every junction that you can walk to, an almost ghostly feeling shivers down your spine. It's a sensation difficult to describe, akin to someone else walking in your shoes for the five hundred previous years. For those who love history, it's why the UK overwhelms you. You have that constant green scenery surrounding you, the historical side of virtually every building stretching into the past, and the beautiful breezes and soft grey skies covering you like a warm blanket.

Teenage athletes in the UK, who chance upon the sport of basketball, find the window of opportunity to be almost one hundred percent closed. Whether the motivation is just to practice the sport that they love, or to use their abilities as a way of furthering their education, the rope basically ends at age 16. And the reasons are simple. Education at a University, on the one hand, and athletic careers on the other, are separate paths. If you want to play a sport, you join a club. If want to go to a University, then you go to school. And schools do not allow the game of basketball to be a part of their program, not at any level.

This is not the case in the United States. Sport is intertwined with school all the way through the education system here, even to the grammar school level in some states, and it has been that way for over 100 years. Even through the lean years of the Great Depression, and even through academic scandals in the 21st century that threatened to diminish collegiate programs, sports and school spirit remain alive on fields and courts throughout America. And beyond schools, private and public clubs are also available from Pee Wee football to the Senior Golf Tour. It's these numerous opportunities that make America the primary destination for international athletes in the world of sports.

The defining characteristic of sport is competition. Athletics always tries to answer the basic question: 'who is better?' Accordingly, the young men who make the long journey from Britain to the United States in pursuit of a basketball career find very different paths, simply depending upon how good they are. Though that may sound obvious, the truth is that for many teenage English basketball players who are still in England, it's nearly impossible to understand the process until you go through it. For the ones that tackle the huge unknowns, the road is always difficult and winding, and even brothers of similar abilities end up at very different destinations, as we will see.

Through the background work done to build this article, it became obvious that in spite of, perhaps because of, the hoop dreams and academic challenges that these young British-natives face, these are some of the finest young people you could want to meet. Their dedication is impressive, and all of them I spoke with were both mature and driven. That's a compliment to their parents of course, but also to their supporters, and to each individual. It is also a statement to future players now waiting in and watching from England. The player's sponsors here in the United States have opened up their homes, families, and hearts. Several players interviewed for this article expressed deep appreciation for the families and supporters who have helped them along the road.

In Britain, Infant School and Primary School are usually finished by age eleven. At twelve, children start what the British call Secondary School, roughly equivalent to middle schools in the United States. By the time a student is 15 he or she has either completed or is close to finishing the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is the end of basic formal education. Approximately half of the GCSE graduates enter the work force. The other half begin work at Advanced Levels (called A-Levels) in an effort to get accepted at a University for a higher education, though these percentages can vary substantially from city to city.

Since there are no college basketball teams in the UK, an English player who wants to make a career of basketball has very limited options if he also wants to stay near home. The only practical answer has been to undertake A-Level studies while trying to keep up with a local private basketball club, however good or bad that club might be.

Some clubs operate season-to-season, including the popular British Basketball League (BBL). The BBL is primarily filled with former American college basketball players with such notables as Shaheen Holloway, Barry Bowman, Jamal Faulkner, Brendan Graves, Randy Duck, and Ed Gray, the latter three all former California Golden Bears. There are some British-born players in the BBL, but it is primarily composed of Americans.

To balance that situation, some BBL franchises have sponsored junior squads that are separated into age groups. A few teams in London exist as well, including the London Leopards and the London Towers. British-born players can also compete for spots on the Junior National team of England that plays internationally. Most of the young men that are mentioned in this article played on the National team.

Players such as Harry Powell, Patrick Mackie, James Noel, Marc Pratt, Liam Hughes, Luol Deng, Andrew Sullivan, Neil Fingleton, and Daniel and Richard Midgely - plus a few other individuals who we did not connect with for this article - chose to journey across the Atlantic to America. Most finished their GCSE's in England and with some good fortune found their way to the US in order to not only play basketball, but to finish their academics in US high schools. They all had to make these tough decisions during their teenage years.

A side note: American high schools, the 10th through the 12th grades, are roughly equivalent to the English A-Levels, though in England these years are devoted to a a stronger curriculum in just three specific student-chosen courses. That nothing is directly equivalent led to major academic rulings pertaining to two Modesto Christian players in 2001 (Pratt and Midgely).

For the above-listed players, in spite of the difficulties, moving to "The States" was a solution. Whether most Americans realize it or not, the United States is the home of basketball. After its creation in Springfield by Dr. James Naismith one hundred eleven years ago, basketball spread from the peach basket to over 30 NBA teams, 300 Division I college teams, and nearly uncountable high school teams. Both women's and men's teams exist, both professional and amateur. The financial figures would be impossible to tally. There are so many teams, so many divisions, and so many leagues nationwide that the game is now bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. If Dr. Naismith had any notion that the game he created would grow to its current state he'd have slid a quick patent in for his invention. Over 400 million people now play the game worldwide.

In contrast, the fan-base in Britain for basketball has been described as "somewhere above billiards but below snooker" in popularity. The reason for the distance between hoops and fame has been blamed on the BBL's inability to advertise, as well as English media's timid reluctance to print anything on the subject. Despite the astonishing overall rise of hoops in Europe, England has fallen way behind in this regard. There's no failure in that whatsoever, but it has created an even bigger hurdle for some of the best young players wanting to stay in the UK and improve. And that has become the main concern for the parents of English basketball players - the unpopularity of the sport that makes it a tougher road for their children.

Harry Powell's hoop dreams started at the age of 12 after watching Michael Jordan on television. It was an NBA finals game, and the replays of "His Airness" doing the unthinkable with a human body fascinated Powell. "That really was it for me", Powell said. "When I saw MJ, I became determined to play that sport. It was amazing to see the things he did." Powell found a few teams to play for during his early teen years, and later caught on with the junior team of the London Towers. Now 18 yrs old and a 6'4, 230 lbs senior swingman for Modesto Christian, Harry came to the US on September 9th, 2001, flying straight from London to San Francisco. His current senior teammate at Modesto Christian, another London-native, Andre Glenn, was also on that flight. They arrived in California a bit late for school on the 10th, so their first day at Modesto Christian was spent watching planes crash into the Twin Towers on September 11th. "It's impossible to forget flying so close to that date, and the images we saw that day", Glenn said. "In many ways, we understood the opportunity in America much better after September 11th." Glenn stands 6'6", 205 lbs and is being looked at by a number of WAC and WCC teams for his solid interior play. East Coast colleges from as far east as Lehigh College have approached Andre. Powell has drawn interest from Fresno State and other WAC schools. Another native Londoner, Patrick Mackie, also plays on the Modesto Christian squad along with Glenn and Powell. Mackie is just starting his junior year.

Challenges that Glenn and Powell have had to deal with range form humorous to athletic to weather related. "The biggest change from London to California would have to be the weather," Glenn sais. "It doesn't stay hot like this all year long, with just 3 days of rain." They have learned the vast difference in American sports played right at school, with Powell even taking up American football. "It's fun, I'm enjoying it," Powell said, learning how to play defensive end. "One of the more humorous things to happen to me was when I asked for a rubber at school, and the teacher barked back at me. It took a moment to sort out, but I explained that I meant an eraser."

Now in Corvallis, Liam Hughes is one-step ahead of both Glenn and Powell. He spent three years at Modesto Christian, coming over from the town of Hullbridge, near Essex. At 7'2, 260 lbs, Hughes stands out. After hearing from an assortment of schools, Liam chose Oregon State. He's now in Oregon, excited about playing for second year Coach Jay John in the Pac-10 Conference.

Two other players that came to Modesto Christian directly from England were Marc Pratt and James Noel. Pratt was actually the first English player to arrive in Modesto in August 1999, and after an exceptional high school career with the Crusaders, signed with Greg Graham's Boise State program in Idaho. Marc didn't play for the Broncos last year, but he will be playing this year at a Utah JC, after which he'll head back to Boise. Noel is currently attending Modesto JC and still plays with some of the current Christian players.

Andrew Sullivan is recognized by some in London as the 1st English basketball player to make the jump to a US High School at the age of 15. Other individuals had left England to play in the States, but usually not before going to college. Sullivan, an outstanding athlete, chose St. Augustine Prep in New Jersey in 1996 after leaving London's playgrounds. After finishing his prep career with such accolades as 1st team All-State and South Jersey Player of the Year, Sullivan signed a letter-of-intent with the Villanova Wildcats in nearby Philadelphia. His collegiate career ended last year after averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds per game. Robert Archibald moved with his entire family to Missouri from Paisley, Scotland before the start of his high school senior year. Academics are set up differently in Scotland though, as Archibald attended Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline. Archibald was one of the most impressive young players in Europe as well, being named the MVP of the Nike Euro Camp in 1997. After graduating in the US from Lafayette High School in Missouri, Archibald accepted a scholarship to play at Illinois University. He finished up in Champaign just 18 months ago, and the 6'11 center spent some of last year working with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA.

Neil Fingleton was a McDonald's All-American in 2000, committing to national powerhouse North Carolina the previous winter. The 7'6 center from Durham, England was a bright spot for British basketball, becoming the first British-born McDonald's All-American. Fingleton is also the tallest college basketball player in the nation and the soon to be junior is still hopeful of being a polished player, though he transferred from UNC to Holy Cross after red-shirting his freshman year in Chapel Hill. Fingleton decided to finish up his education here in the US after attending a summer basketball camp in Boston, playing his senior year right next to the Holy Cross campus. The Crusaders have been on a wonderful run the past few years to the NCAA Tournament, and Fingleton is hoping he can contribute even more this year.

Richard Midgely is perhaps the best-known English player in the western United States. A sophomore at the University of California, Richard's path to Berkeley has been as unique as the town itself. "It really all started because I wanted to do something with my family on Saturday nights", said Kevin Midgely, Richard's father, speaking from his home in Burgess Hill, England. "We went to the motorway a few times. But someone I knew mentioned this 'basketball' game that a team in Worthing played. They were called the Worthing Bears, so we went to watch them one night."

That game got it started for the Midgelys. The drive to Worthing was just 20 minutes to the south, approximately 60 minutes from London. With 100 other hoops junkies packed into the small gym to watch the Bears play, the crowd "oooh'ed and ahh'ed" throughout, even singing songs during the game. At that time, Worthing was led by 6'7 PF Herman Harried who later played at Syracuse. Harried was certainly the Midgely family's favorite player, and his ability to consistently hit the mid-range jumper and rebound the ball made him the overall fan favorite. In fact, in a recent poll on the Bears website Harried was named the franchise's Most Valuable Player on their all-time team. The Worthing Bears became the Brighton Bears in January of 1999, making a short move to a bigger gym.

After watching a handful of Worthing games, the impulse to play basketball became enormous for both Daniel and Richard. Their parents enjoyed the sport, and a few years after watching games, the Midgely backyard garden turned into a mini-basketball court. Like many other young boys in England, both Daniel and Richard played soccer as well, but the draw to play basketball was already in them. As they advanced into secondary school the Midgelys began to meet knowledgeable men around the sport. Both Tony Awcock in nearby Hayward's Heeth and the late Joe White were instrumental in their development. Daniel played ahead of Richard because of his age, though as the years passed both brothers found themselves on the same squads at different times. Richard's scoring abilities in youth games became legendary, and with 11 titles on different age-group teams during his amateur play, he became one of the notables in the youth leagues.

The family continued to attend games in Worthing from time to time, and the crowds became bigger. But the contests in which Richard and Daniel played became even more involving for the Midgely family. Kevin served as scorer and helped the organization in a variety of ways. As Daniel neared the end of his basic formal education, a high school in Louisiana approached the Midgelys about an opportunity that would allow both Daniel and Richard to continue playing basketball. Despite the interest, Kevin Midgely felt that the school was not in both of his boys' best interests and so declined. "It was a hard decision to make at the time, and clearly the road for both of them would have been very different had they both gone to Louisiana," Kevin says in retrospect.

So Daniel started on his A-Levels, while Richard worked to finish his GCSE. It was during that time that Richard truly flourished on the court, and a number of American schools began to contact his coaches and parents. One New Jersey school's offer stood out because Richard's uncle lived nearby. In response, the Midgelys toured each US school that offered, and when back in England they analyzed the pros & cons of each, with the final decision left to 15 year old Richard.

"Some other parents thought I was out of my wits for letting Richard choose the school, but I felt at the time that he really knew what he wanted. It was truly his decision," said Kevin Midgely. "He surprised us all when he chose Modesto Christian in California, because it was actually near the bottom of our list. The religious side of the school isn't something that we had a problem with, but it's just that as a parent you do not welcome the feeling that you are pushing your own child into a religious situation. As Richard now knows, it was a lifetime choice that he made. It was much more than just a career choice."

Richard left England in August of 1999, and began living with the Anderson family in Modesto who sponsored him. "The gratitude that I feel for the Andersons' is overwhelming," Kevin said. "There's nothing I could do in this lifetime to thank them for what they've done for Richard. They are incredible people."

During his first season, Richard teamed with backcourt British mate Marc Pratt on an explosive Modesto Christian squad that included the likes of David Paris (now at Cal), Chuck Hayes (now at Kentucky), and Jeff Porter, Head Coach Gary Porter's son.

Richard's first season was capped by a trip to the Northern California Division IV Finals in which Richard made what might be the most memorable shot of his high school career. In the NorCal semi-finals, Modesto Christian matched up with St. Mary's of Berkeley. St. Mary's somehow kept control of the game despite Chuck Hayes 29 points and 21 boards, and being on the road as well. But it was Richard's two free throws with 13 seconds left that pulled MC within 3 points, then after a missed lob by St. Mary's, it was Richard's clutch off-balance three-point shot from near the top of the circle that bounced around the rim and dropped in to tie the game at 68-68. The final play was actually designed to go to Jeff Porter, but Midgely somehow found the ball in his hands and dribbled in the shot. He was fouled as well, and the Crusaders won the game in OT. Richard said at game's end that it was the greatest contest he'd ever been a part of.

In an almost eerie coincidence, Richard capped off his freshman year at Cal with a similar shot against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This time however, the ball didn't bounce around the rim; it was nothing but net. Obviously, the NCAA Tournament is a bigger platform than the NorCal Div 4 semifinals, and Midgely's shot was watched over and over again on ESPN and CNN/SI for nearly a week. Again the final play wasn't designed for Richard, but that didn't stop him from coolly knocking it down. It was probably the biggest shot for Cal Basketball in a decade. Richard finished his first year in the West Coast's elite conference as one of the top newcomers, nearly leading the Pac-10 in three-point shooting at 45%. He made the All-Freshman team, and Cal head coach Ben Braun had nothing but glowing words for the mental approach and preparation by his young freshman.

For Daniel Midgely, the road has been bumpy, and very different than for his younger brother. Daniel stayed at home in the UK playing with the Towers while continuing to study his A-Levels. He blossomed into his own person without his brother there, and during his gap year (the year which can be taken by a future University Student between the passing of their A-Levels and entrance into a University), Daniel devoted 12 months to improving his game on the court. He took a non-paid opportunity in the BBL to practice his game, and with the help of a firm called 'College Prospects of America', found a stateside school that was right for him. Daniel is about is to start his third year at the University of Maine at Machias, and should be a starter at this NAIA school that plays in the Sunrise Conference. "Daniel has persevered through many things and his self-confidence is amazing," his father said. "He's always remained 100% positive about his career. I couldn't be more proud of him."

With the upcoming presence of Ndudi Ebi (pronounced "EN-dee EBB-ee") in the NBA, and of Luol Deng at powerhouse Duke University, British basketball is in for a jolt. Ebi and Deng were listed as two of the top 5 players in the country this last recruiting year.

Though Ebi was born in London, he moved to Nigeria and then to Houston by the time he was 6, so his British bloodlines are faint. His move to the NBA was a shocker this past summer, as the 18 yr old Ebi seemed like a lock for the Arizona Wildcats. However, he was a first round draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2003 NBA draft. Deng, who was born in Sudan, relocated to England when his father was granted political asylum in 1993 after working in the Sudan government. The Deng family in general learned the game from Manute Bol while in Egypt, as both Deng and Bol are members of the Dinka tribe. Luol played internationally for England in 15 and under teams when he was just 13 yrs old, showing off his incredible skills by tallying huge numbers. Most of his teammates knew him as Michael then though, not Luol. His brother Deng played in the BBL for a short time, and his other brother Ajou played collegiate basketball at the University of Connecticut and at Fairfield. To a degree, Luol carries with him the pride of British basketball since he is easily the most recognized player from the Junior National teams. His scoring prowess and overall game might make him the best British Basketball player ever.

Each player we spoke with for this article has his own reasons for taking up basketball. But for all, it has only been through hard work and great sacrifice that they've been able to play basketball in the US. Their supporters have sacrificed to make them feel welcome here and as part of a family. There are a number of players not included here (just too many stories to document), but every one is unique. I was repeatedly told about players in the UK that were excellent but who just could not consider leaving the UK. In some cases, it was family considerations that dissuaded them from taking up the sport.

A rise of basketball to national prominence will probably never happen in the UK. There is little chance of frantic soccer players changing their ways, or the BBL emerging into an equal of the NBA. Even for young basketball players, their peers surely will mock the game until it becomes mainstream. Despite those limitations, the game will expand - it's only a matter of time. Eastern Europe is the example.

Through the efforts of John Amaechi, one of Britain's finest basketball ambassadors, British basketball does have its allies. Amaechi played college ball at Penn State, taking up the sport after dropping rugby in the US. After a stellar career in Happy Valley, John was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Amaechi became the first British player to start an NBA game. The Amaechi Centre in Trafford (near his hometown of Manchester) is open to young players who would like advanced coaching. The Centre opened up in September of 2002, less than a year ago.

Former Junior National players like Richard Midgely and Luol Deng will also strongly influence the future of English basketball. With both still just underclassmen level in college, more time will pass before the fully develop their skills. Nevertheless, the players interviewed for this article have high hopes that more players will emerge from the UK. They also hope to bring the sport greater fame in their home country, and to help make the transition easier for future players. The sport has been great for the few that have found their way to the US, and perhaps 10 years from now, amateurs will have more options in the UK to stay and play in their home country. If not, they can at least read about the paths taken by some English players that preceded them. Every player interviewed voiced the hope that other young men would have an easier transition.

Special thanks are due to Kevin Midgely and Claire Swift who explained the basics of the English school system. We must also thank Greg Lambert, an assistant coach at Modesto Christian, who provided the history on how the school became a central part of the lives of the young men from England who have developed under the tutelage of Gary Porter and his staff. Additionally, I must thanks Greg for his patience in helping me build this article.

I must also mention my disappointment with the Cal Sports Information Department's unwillingness to allow Richard Midgely to directly voice his thoughts on these subjects. In spite of that, Richard was helpful in guiding my research, and he voiced his approval of the work after it was completed - knowing that it is a story that will be read by many both here and in England.

©Copyright September 2003, GoCyberBears.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

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