Basketball players in Portsmouth are shooting for success

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The sounds of trainer-clad feet pounding the floor and the bounce of a ball echo around the sports hall.

It’s Wednesday evening and, although the sun is still shining ouside, the sport of basketball is keeping people indoors.

Micky Byrne, chairman of the Portsmouth City Basketball Club. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131646-423)

Micky Byrne, chairman of the Portsmouth City Basketball Club. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131646-423)

Each week players young and old gather at Portsmouth Grammar School to play summer league matches for Portsmouth City Basketball Club.

Micky Byrne, 71, lives in Portchester and is the chairman of the club, as well as coach for the Portsmouth City Smugglers and Portsmouth City Lady Smugglers.

Having played basketball since he was a child at boarding school in Germany, Micky has always loved the sport.

He says: ‘I played for the Portsmouth Royal Navy team, although I’ve been playing the sport since I was about 10. I came to HMS Collingwood and I played for many years for Portsmouth Pirates, who were a local team, and then eventually I went into coaching.’

Soon afterwards at the start of the 1990s, Micky became the England coach for basketball for eight years, although he still coached the Solent Suns team.

He says: ‘We played all over the place and won a gold medal and silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. I was still around with Portsmouth at the time and I was involved with them for a long time.

‘It’s now a full-time job for the GB manager, but it wasn’t then. I was also involved with the GB team in 1992 but we didn’t qualify for the Olympics.’

The Portsmouth City Basketball Club was formed in 1980, but was re-constituted in the summer of 2008 to amalgamate a number of separate programmes from within the city.

In 2009 it was awarded the 3* England Basketball Accreditation as well as Sport England’s Clubmark Award.

The club now has a number of teams and youth teams in the city who are all playing in the local league, the Solent Basketball Association League.

Micky says: ‘It stretches from Weymouth to the Portsmouth club, and it 
goes all the way up to Basingstoke. There are four men’s divisions and one for the women.’

The PCBC has four men’s teams in the Solent league as well as two women’s teams. There are also junior teams from under-12 upwards, as well as new girls’ teams and links with two local college academies in Portsmouth, the Solent Kestrels and Solent Suns Basketball Clubs.

Micky estimates there are maybe 400 young people playing basketball in the city, and he hopes they can nurture young players’ talent.

As the years have passed, Micky has noticed an increase in interest for the sport. He explains: ‘There’s a lot of interest coming through now from various ages. There’s a lot of basketball coverage on the TV now. Matt Birch is the sports development officer and he’s done a lot of work for basketball in the city too.

‘The programme works for them because more of the players start when they are about 11 years old, and they come back after university because they’ve had a good basketball education.’

The best players from the girls’ under-15s team all play for the Solent Suns, who play in the national league in the second division. Boys from under-15s, under-14s and under-13s teams can play for the Solent Kestrels.

Micky adds: ‘The girls who play at a good level all play netball too. They like the freedom that basketball offers them and you can go anywhere on court, you’re not restricted to one area.’

It’s the Hampshire Games today, which gives young players the chance to compete against each other and improve their skills. Around 3,000 young people from across the county will converge on Aldershot for the games.

Micky explains: ‘All the sports teams go there over the weekend, and there’s a lot of competition.‘

He adds: ‘Basketball can seem like a vicious game at times but I think it’s also good because you don’t have to go hard for the whole game.

‘There are five players but you can have seven substitutions in a match.’

The Portsmouth City Lady Smugglers won the Solent League this year, and many players who have been involved with the PCBC have gone on to play at a national level or at colleges over in America.

The club is always looking for more people to get involved – and the summer months are the perfect time.

Micky says: ‘The season normally runs from October until the end of May, but the Portsmouth league get together and run their own summer league. People come from far and wide to play in it.

‘Young players or adults who want to get involved should get in contact now, or at the start of the summer holidays. That’s when we start getting the gyms available and really anyone can get involved playing basketball.’

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Basketball is a sport played by two teams of five players on a rectangular court. The objective is to shoot a ball through a hoop which is mounted on a backboard at each end. Today it’s one of the world’s most popular and widely-viewed sports.

A team can score a goal by shooting the ball through the basket. This is worth two points, unless the players is behind the three-point line then it’s worth three. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but additional time (overtime) may be issued when the game ends with a draw.

The ball can only be moved down the court by bouncing it while walking, or throwing it to a team-mate. It’s a violation to move without dribbling the ball.

Basketball originally formed when, in early December 1891, Canadian American Dr James Naismith, an instructor at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day.

After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket on to an elevated track.


Adam and Zak Riabi are brothers both living in Southsea. They’re also keen basketball players and will take part in the Hampshire Games this weekend.

Adam, 14, plays for the Solent Kestrels, who are part of the national league, in the under-16s team and is also part of the Portsmouth Rising Ballers. The teenager got an England call-up for the Olympic development squad and his dream is to be part of the games in 2016. He says: ‘I was brought up playing basketball and I love it. I coach my younger brother because he wants to be better than me, and I told him that means training.

‘The competition is hard so you have to make sure you’re at the top of your game.’

His 10-year-old brother Zak also plays for the Portsmouth Rising Ballers, but is training with higher age groups.

Zak says: ‘I’ve been playing since I was about six – I can’t remember a time when I haven’t played. I love playing with my brother and trying to get better. It’s also nice to be part of a team.’


Megan Stroud, 28, has played basketball for the past decade after taking up the sport at the University of Portsmouth. Now living in Southsea, Megan quickly fell in love with the sport.

She plays for the Portsmouth City Lady Smugglers and the Solent Suns, who are part of the national league.

Megan says: ‘I liked the team spirit there and people seemed really into it. I’m now a lecturer at South Downs and I teach basketball too. I will keep playing until my body gives up.

‘Basketball is quite a close-knit community between the players and the people who are interested in basketball. You know most of the people in the area who are involved.’

Megan believes a lot more young people have also got involved with basketball recently.

She says: ‘I know players who are playing in America and it all started because the local level here has a great structure. It’s easy to progress up.’