The summer of Fiba Youth Hoops keeps marching on after the U20 European Championships in Germany and Bulgaria, and now it’s the turn of the U18 tournaments in Latvia and Skopje. As usual in Eurospects, we like to keep a close eye on all things related to British youth basketball, its progress, developments, and national youth teams’ adventures. So following a brilliant campaign by the U20 team, securing its Division A status one more year, we check on the U18 GB squad, a versatile and athletic well-drilled unit, built upon guys playing in USA, Spain, and as well in the EABL ( the premier U19 English competition ), and which includes familiar names such as South Dakota commit Nathan Robinson, Kareem Queeley, Jacob Round , Mate Okros, Hosana Kitenge, or former Canterbury 2 nd year guard and EABL POY in the East Conference Jonathan Brown.
No other player in the EABL has improved and grown his game quite as much as Jonathan Brown this past season, which has granted him a place in the prestigious Deng Camp UK Top 20, and a move to Barking Abbey for the next academic year. The London academy is the main EABL powerhouse, and consistently sends players to USA with a scholarship every year. Standing at 6’3, bouncy and athletic, Jonathan is the definition of a modern guard: fluid and versatile to play several positions in the backcourt, with a great feel for the game, and with a rich offensive skill set while also having natural defensive tools to work with.
We chatted a bit with him about his past season, his game evolution, the summer challenge with the GB national team, and what the future has to offer. Meet one of the British ballers to watch in the coming years meet Jonathan Brown.
Define your season, your progress as a player, and how happy you are with the outcome
I feel I made a big progress from my first season at Canterbury, where my role was more about to play 6-8 minutes of intense defence. I feel all the hard work over the season and the off season paid off, so I became a better shooter, driver, passer, and defender, allowing me to do better as the season went by. I am happy with the outcome; I was able to lead my team to the EBAL final four, and Canterbury finished 2 nd in the East Conference, which shocked quite a few people considering how many players had left the team from the previous season. I was awarded the EABL East Conference POY too.
How do you see your game? Are you a versatile type of guard? Where do you feel more comfortable playing, PG or SG? And what do you need to get better at?
Yes, I personally see myself as a versatile guard, and I feel I can guard from 1 to 3, and at times the 4 th , while I like to work and create shots in the offence for my teammates and myself. I personally feel more comfortable playing SG, but I do enjoy playing PG also. To become a better overall player I think I need to work and develop a more consistent jump shot and refine my decision making in PnR, working in my passing too and timing my runs in open court.
Here in Eurospects we follow closely another EABL standout guard like Ade Adebayo. You both have been rivals over the season, but will be teammates next year. What do you think of his game and how do you see him as a player?
Yeah, it was a fun rivalry this season, and yes, the next one we will be teammates for both Barking Abbey and Kent Crusaders. I personally think Ade’s game is really solid; he’s very athletic and a great defender, really good in transition, and can break down players in the open court finishing with both hands at the rim. I like also his high basketball IQ.
Leaving in England, why did you choose basketball over other sports when growing up? And who are the coaches, players and biggest influences for you?
Well, growing up I was always into football, but then my teacher in secondary school told me to try a new sport, and I did, I went to the basketball try outs. Then I just kept going. My coach back those days was Alan Keane, who invested a lot of time in me, so eventually I dropped all other sports and just pursued basketball. Naturally Alan Keane, who was there first, has been one of my biggest influences, and then during my time at Canterbury, the strength and conditioning coach Antonis Kesisoglou, the physio Mark Dayson and coaches Jesse Sazant and Billy Beddow.
The EABL: thoughts on the competition, growth and rivalries
I think the EABL is the best competition within the school system in England, and allows kids to experience what it’s like to play against the best players of your age in the country week in and week out. I wouldn’t say there are any rivalries yet, but sure everybody is gunning to stop Barking Abbey and get one win against those guys, as they are seen like the best of the best in the country.
The future: Would you like to study and play in USA? And how important are academics in your choice?
Yes, my aim is to study and play in the US collegiate system. At the moment I am thinking of Division I or II, but I know I have a lot of work to do to get there, on and off the court. Academics are a very important factor, because if for whatever reason basketball doesn’t work out I’d like to have an international recognised degree that allows me to pursue other professional routes.
Great Britain U18 summer campaign: thoughts on the tourney, rivals, your group of players, and expectations
This summer is going to be a very tough but exciting one with us U18s competing in Division A. We are going to be tested in ways we haven’t, with players that are on Draft boards. We’ll need discipline and a 100% professional approach and environment. I think we are a very athletic and hardworking group and we need to use that in our advantage. We also have a very solid group of players with previous national team experience (Round, Robinson, Kitenge, Okros…) which hopefully will help us to stay up in Division A. I wholeheartedly feel is possible.
British Basketball funding debate: why is so important? How can basketball and sports help youth and communities?
The basketball funding debate is one that should be a no brainer. Obviously basketball needs founding, and should have it because allows children and youth to get involved in something great, to get active while learning how to work within a team, and to stay in a straight and healthy route. Also if young kids can see people that come from its same circumstances make it and play at a good level, they will feel the motivation, and will start earlier to work and compete, and ultimately the quality of the sport will improve nationally, and more and more kids will see it not only as fun but also as an achievable goal to strive for.