CU Academy recruits adept Spanish coach to add ‘style’
Darren Johnson wants to see his basketball academy players learn to play with the ‘fluidity’ of the Spanish game, and has brought in experienced Angel Navarro to help achieve that.
The 63-year-old from Valencia has joined the County Upper School’s basketball programme as a full-time coach, bringing with him more than 30 years experience at a professional level.
He spent eight years as a head coach in the Liga Endesa (Spain’s top league division) and nine years in the league’s second tier, the LEB Oro.
But he has more recently followed his professional-playing daughter, Rebeca, in her relocation to the UK, and spent last season in the same team as her, as head coach at WBBL side Leicester Riders.
This season will be a significant change of pace, and skill-level, for a coach more used to dealing with professionals – but this was a key reason for his recruitment, according to Johnson.
“He has very high standards and is going to be constantly pushing for improvement – and has the knowledge to show how,” Johnson said.
“There is a fluidity to the Spanish style of play that I’m looking forward to seeing introduced here at County Upper.
“There’s a focus on reading the game as it changes rather than more drill-based training, it’s about speed and reacting – it’s 100 per cent exciting to have him here.
“I’m always learning myself and I’m confident he will help to make me a better coach over the year too.
“He has so much experience at a top level and we are very lucky to have him.”
Navarro said he already has a lot of ideas about how to improve the academy as he hopes to create a club strong enough to produce players good enough to fight for basketball scholarships at US Colleges.
“Britain should be one of the best countries in the sport with the amount of people playing, but it isn’t,” he said.
“There are not many people that make it to the top level, there are a lot more from Spain but I don’t think there are as many clubs.
“I think it is because there is no competition for under-12s. It means players do not start learning skills until they are 12 years old, and that is old to only start – imagine if football in this country was like that.”
He said one of his first goals will be to look at how to get younger players involved in the game at the dedicated academy and the local area as he looks for a long-term solution to the problem.
But he will also be focusing on the players already at the academy, as he looks to boost the numbers.
“There is a lot of potential in Bury,” he said.
“I feel very lucky to be here, I see lots of things that I can do to improve the club.
“There are also players with big ambitions, that’s a very good thing, and I want to help them improve and be able to fight for a chance to play in the US College system.
“I can help them to be more prepared for this, it takes a lot of very hard work to achieve and I can tell them that.”