Basketball entrepreneur Donald Sampley from Mount Summit, Indiana, has cited the “purity of Scottish basketball” as the main reason why he wants to launch a BBL franchise in the Capital next year.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Sampley, a quietly-spoken 40-year-old kinesiology and health science graduate of Missouri Baptist University who has already lodged a bid for a Meadowbank-based franchise with the board of the British Basketball League, revealed why he has chosen Edinburgh: “Why Scotland? Well, when I visited Scotland for the first time in 2010 I fell in love with the country and during that trip I had the opportunity to train with a couple of clubs and work a camp with the (Glasgow) Rocks.
“The kids at the camp and the players at training had one thing in common: they all played with passion no matter their skill level. It was basketball purity that I’d not seen in a long time; we are losing that purity here in the States and it’s very disappointing. So after being inspired by the Scottish players and meeting coaches who’ve dedicated their lives to the sport like Danny Costello and Tom Campbell I knew I had to be part of the future growth of Scottish basketball.
“The way to grow the sport is to add another BBL team, a team that is dedicated to the Scottish players, a team that will reward those players with serious playing time and honest critique.
“I am very passionate about this,” asserted Sampley, who initially hoped to launch his team for the season 2013-14 but now feels he needs more time to put some of the essential ingredients in place.
Thanks to his American backers, one of whom is believed to be an ex-patriot Scot, Sampley has secured the initial funding to cover his start-up operations and BBL deposit (believed to be at least £100,000) but he is also keen to unearth some Scottish investors.
“I’d welcome support from Scottish backers; we’ll need to have sponsorship support and partnerships with the local universities, the city council, local businesses and corporate brands as all the other BBL teams have.”
Sampley’s plans have always involved the team playing at Meadowbank Sports Centre and also the development of a basketball academy which would produce many of the home players he would hope to use.
He has already developed a similar model in St Louis and talks were quite far advanced with at least one of the local colleges to take this forward but recent radical restructuring of the local college scene has not exactly helped his cause.
He is however determined to make his vision work, though a pragmatic approach may be necessary to build a team of sufficient standard in the early stages.
“We plan to recruit eight Scottish players and two imports and our training will be flexible for those already involved on a career. Our dedication is to basketball development in the Edinburgh area and throughout Scotland, and our mission is to grow the sport from youths to adults with our “Pathway to the Pros” programme.
“This offers skill development camps that will help our pro coaches identify prospects for the Edinburgh BBL team so fans will be able to see the very best young players Scotland has to offer playing in the UK’s top league.”
Sampley is being coy about the name of the new team which he says will be announced once the franchise bid has been approved and he admits he has still to talk to many clubs.
“I’ve reached out to a few clubs and have already developed relationships from playing for Troon. Once I’m in the country I plan to spend a lot of time meeting with clubs from all over Scotland.”
Although the Glasgow Rocks have not commented on the bid, the chance to have a rival club only 45 miles away would surely be welcomed by them because, not least, of all the promotional possibilities the derbies would bring.
These are exciting times for the BBL which will bring its Trophy Finals to Glasgow Rocks’ home court at the Emirates Arena later this season and as many as six new franchise bids have been talked of in the current round including one from Belfast.
Provided the right boxes have been ticked, the likliehood is that the BBL would welcome the new bid from Edinburgh where of course the Rocks were based until they moved west a decade ago.