City of homegrown heroes: Giants coach Jeff Jones calls on British basketball youth to come to Manchester

Manchester Giants may not be the best basketball team in the land and they certainly aren’t the richest, but what they do have is a community-based philosophy they’re extremely proud of.

The Giants have still started the season brightly, winning their last two fixtures to sit sixth in the 13-team table after their opening loss, while they’ve racked up 251 points to be the second best offence.

However head coach Jeff Jones says the BBL club have a long-term goal in mind, unlike some of their rivals who spend exorbitant amounts on foreign talents in search of wins.

“Our project has always been a long-term one. We want to win but we want to do it the right way,” he told MM.

“It’s never been about just trying to have a good team and hoping somebody comes in and subsidises us like a lot of other teams are being subsidised.”

To that end the Giants’ policy is to build a team around a British core, giving opportunities to young home-grown players they may not get elsewhere.

Jones said: “We’re all about British talent, we’re all about developing it and I’m hoping other British kids will realise that if they come to Manchester they’ll get an opportunity to play.

“That’s why the most we’ll ever have is two or three foreigners on our books at any time.”

The coach highlighted the example of new boy Connor Murtagh, who came into the side and played a pivotal role in the Giants’ 76-72 win over Sheffield Sharks at the end of last month.

“Connor is a perfect example,” Jones enthused.

“Connor left the Manchester Magic because they didn’t value him, and now he’s coming in for us and getting 12 points for us in the game against Sheffield.

“He did a great job and he played a vital role in that game, and that’s why we’re doing this.

“We’re doing it for young British players and the city of Manchester and to give local kids an opportunity.”

Manchester Giants also have an extensive community outreach programme in place, which they expect the players to be wholeheartedly involved in.

The recent signing of Birmingham-born Martyn Gayle hinged on whether or not he would be prepared to participate in this.

The guard will undoubtedly bring a lot to the club with his on-court performances, but equally important is his work in the community, says Jones.

“We have a very extensive community programme and there’ll be some work for Martyn to do.

“We don’t pay players just to play, they have to help build the club too.”

That’s exactly why Jones sees veteran centre Mike Bernard staying with the Giants for many years to come.

The 36-year-old may be approaching the end of his playing days, but he certainly has a role to play in developing local talent with the club in the coming years.

Jones said: “Whether or not he’ll play beyond this year, I hope Mike will be around for a long time.

“He’ll be an integral part of the club moving forward, whether it is as a playing member or working for our foundation.”

Main image courtesy of Jack Hinds, with thanks.

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