Boroughmuir Blaze’s first Scottish Basketball League title success in 38 years may have pleasantly surprised some people. But this was no sudden conflagration – rather a patient project, a slow-burner for over a decade.
It owes its success to a number of factors and a lot of support from coaches, administrators, parents and players. However, the man who lit the spark is a former Wellington Capitals New Zealand national league point guard Simon Turner, who once travelled to a European C tournament with a Scotland team but did not play a game, though he did earn four caps for Scotland on another occasion. He had arrived in Scotland in 2003 and the following year embarked on a project which he himself insists is nowhere near fulfilment.
“It’s taken us twelve years to get here and there’s still a long way to go in our development,” insists Turner, who coaches the senior men but is quick to point out that the club now has ten national league teams and a flourishing women’s section with senior, under-18 and under-16 teams which is “far ahead of schedule”.
Altogether, the club now has over 200 registered players, making it one of the biggest in the country. There was a period in the 1960s and 1970s when Boroughmuir Basketball Club totally dominated Scottish basketball. They won the Scottish League title nine times including six in a row from 1973 and the Scottish Cup ten times including nine in a row from 1968. Their players, including Bill McInnes, Tony Wilson, Jimmy Carmichael, Mel Capaldi and Dave Patterson provided the backbone of the Scottish team and a cutting edge to the Great Britain team.
But, as the years took their toll and some players moved away and others retired, the club became less prominent and even dropped out of the National League altogether for one season though still playing in the Lothian League.
Few among the current Boroughmuir Blaze club were even born when the fast-breaking Muir were in their heyday but they might recognise some of the style of the current outfit.
“We value quickness above height and our teams get fit through playing that style throughout the club,” maintains Turner. “We’re quite European,” he adds. And, to reinforce their fitness, they have former Swedish player Rob Jansson taking these sessions.
Scottish international point guard Eoghann Dover, who is also a physiotherapist, is coaching five-year-olds in basic skills at the club base at the Crags Sports Centre, the former Edinburgh Council South Side building which Turner says has played a “massive role” in their training and development.
“We’ve 100 primary kids training here every week and 35 at primary camps every holidays – we’ve a huge number of kids coming through.
“We’ve been getting better each year. We’ve been in the national league and more and more young Blaze players are coming through to make the senior team.”
Given the way they clinched the title with a convincing win over Glasgow University, you might expect Turner to be upbeat about their prospects of going on to win the end-of-season Play-Offs but he insists: “I think St Mirren will be the favourites.”