Portobello High School Games Hall will be a hive of basketball activity this weekend as the Scottish junior men step up preparations for next month’s European B Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Tomorrow night, Scotland’s under-18s will play the highly-rated Swedish under-17s, after the 4pm curtain-raiser between the Scottish under-16s and Liverpool outfit Mersey Tigers.
The same teams will meet again on Saturday, with the cadets on at 3pm and the juniors again testing themselves against the Swedes at 6pm.
“We want to fill the place to bursting on both days,” says team manager Amy Wright, who hopes her juniors can attract a sponsor both for the team and their expensive preparations.
Of all the Scottish teams heading to European Championship tournaments this summer, by far the toughest task is that facing the under-18s, who, having failed to win a game in their last venture at this level, are determined to do better this time.
Unlike previous years, when the preparation games have been mainly abroad, management this time decided to invite teams to Scotland and, with eight or nine of the squad with Capital connections, it was decided that Portobello was the best place to stage the games.
Explaining that they had put the whole promotion together themselves, including junior men’s and women’s games against England under-17s next weekend, head coach Doug Reilly paid tribute to assistant Jim Wright for his work in persuading Sweden to come to Scotland.
“Jim contacted the Swiss, Romanians and Swedes, and the Swedes jumped at the chance,” said Reilly. “Their under-18s would have been too strong and wouldn’t have come but this will be a vital part of our tournament preparation.”
Reilly has already conducted 16 training sessions, building up from one per month to now every weekend. He added: “This is the first stage of our game preparation phase and should provide an excellent staging post. We’ve put in place the defence game plans and set plays we believe will enable the players to perform at the Euro B tournament.
“The games against Sweden and England will provide us with a reality check and hopefully highlight areas that need further tuning before we depart for Sofia.”
Reilly, who pointed out that the Sweden Under-18 team they played in last year’s tournament contained four seven-footers, added: “Our perennial issue is lack of size and this year is no different.
“Everyone, players and management team, must be fully prepared, physically, tactically and mentally for the rigours of a ten-day tournament played at several levels above what they are used to.”
As well as the games there will be contributions from two top coaches at Portobello, Henrik Swenson of Sweden, on personal fitness development, and renowned English javelin coach John Thrower, on strength and conditioning.
Scotland Under-18 team: Rudy Farmer, Brendan Mullan, Sam Stott, Malcolm Winning (all Boroughmuir Blaze), Douglas Leslie, Keiran McAdam, Findlay Wood, Sam McArthur (all Edinburgh Kings), Fraser Malcolm, Kenny Makusha (both Falkirk Fury), Gregor Gray (Tynemet College), Eddy Matthews (Newcastle Eagles); Coach: Doug Reilly.