County Upper pick up victory in their first ever home league match
County Upper senior player Aiden Saunders has revealed the club tapped into the basketball community to attract top quality players to help them in their inaugural season in Division Three East of the NBL.
The 30-year-old Londoner said he was one of a number of players who had formerly competed in the US Collegiate system, including American Ryan Wilson, coach Elliot DeFreitas and even coach Darren Johnson.
Saunders won a Conference Championship at the University of Texas Permian Basin while also competing for years in the top levels of the college basketball leagues.
Last year he played semi-professionally for Thames Valley Cavaliers alongside DeFreitas – having returned to the UK after years in the US, before being tempted by County Upper’s offer to coach and teach the next generation while also getting to compete.
That experience, he said, had been key to the team getting off to a great start, as they followed up their narrow opening fixture win last weekend with a seven-point victory at home on Saturday.
County Upper beat the University of Nottingham 86-79 at their first home match of the league season, led in scoring by Saunders with an impressive 35 points.
He said: “It’s the perfect fit to be involved with the academy, I didn’t really want to play this year but I was convinced by the opportunity to show the next generation. I think leading by example is a great way to teach, they will see the energy and passion it takes to play at a high level.
“It was great to get that first home win, there’d been a lot of excitement about it and we’re hoping to build more and more buzz around the team.
“We want to win every game, that’s the goal, and we know we have a very good side. We have all the pieces to do it, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go for it.
“I’m here to help re-structure the club to have even more of a pathway from U12 all the way to adult level and that will take as long as it takes.”
Coach Johnson added: “Having someone who has played in the US college system as well as semi-professional, and who is currently playing for our men’s programme is not only a great bonus for our men’s team but also the Academy and our players. Having an experienced player as a positive role model willhelp with our player development as well as our men’s team’s success.
“We can use Aiden’s experience in multiple ways throughout our development pathway and allow all players to watch games giving Aiden the opportunity to lead by example.”
The men’s team will now have a weekend off, returning on November 9 for back-to-back home games.
* Meanwhile, the U16 girls made it two from two in the Conference Central, dismantling Reading Rockets 92-35.
They were quick out of the blocks in the first quarter as they gained a quick lead 22-7. Taking their foot off the accelerator in the second quarter, CU traded baskets with the away team and went in 36-20 at half time. The second half started much the same as the first as County Upper built a 31 point lead 61 - 30.
The final quarter saw CU lock up Reading on both ends of the court as they finished scoring 31 points while only conceding five points.
They were led in scoring by Grace Spooner with 32 points and supported by Jemima Kent and Kayleigh Brown with 26 points and 20 points respectively.
The U16 Girls will next be in action on Saturday, away to play Bracknell.
* The U16 Boys fell to a 52-78 defeat at home in their East Conference game at home to Essex Rebels on Saturday.
They started strongly, but could not hold on. Logan Frost finished with 11 points for County, but the team’s top scorer was Max Baker with 22, while Essex Rebels were led by 20 from T Kotoni.
They are at home on Saturday, against Essex Rebels II (3.15pm).
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More by this authorHannah Dolman