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  • As we say goodbye.......... by Julie Grant

    This season was always going to be an emotional one for me; Sam began at Titans as an 11 year old (I won't say a little 11 year old because I don't think he's ever been that) choosing to give up his 'football career' very early on when he was convinced by Pete (Junior Titans) to join with the words "do you want to play for your local football club or do you want to play for England?" Sam probably thought about it for at least 5 minutes and joined Titans' longest standing member, Kurtis Banks (who had been involved as an U11), Diarra Layne, Taiwo Hamilton, Zach Frost, Bradley Powell and of course, at that time they were playing alongside the girls, Hannah Bird, Frankie Patmore and Kenny Hamilton, as U12s, in a time when there was an U13s National League - it was a baptism of fire and they were triumphant in 2 games that season, both against Coventry by 1 point each time; the first (in the orange kit) and last game of the season. They really could have given up there and then but Barry's 'vision' for this team had begun.

    At the start of that season, Barry convinced me to become Team Manager saying that it was “just sending a few emails" ....... hmmmmmm, let me think about that one now.

    The team was joined by Tegan Millar and Jacob Cirtautas - who we spent most of the season trying to get to jump - and Titans U13s took the East Midlands Conference by surprise winning the league, moving into their first playoffs, winning the first game against Liverpool but losing out by a heart wrenching 3 points to London Lewisham Thunder in the quarterfinals.

    On we moved to the U14s season which saw the boy/girl split and the boys spreading their wings as far as Manchester; joined by Jake Chapman previously of Kettering Phoenix and Ben Nailer who had only played basketball for part of the previous season with rivals Thunder but who had played alongside Sam for East Midlands. We didn't win the league, but we did make it to the playoffs again; a mixed bag of emotions on this day - the toughest game we had ever played as a team against London Greenhouse Pioneers in London who beat us emphatically – although I have to say that they had the politest coach we had ever met – but it was only a quick tube ride to the Nike store and Taiwo came back with a better hair cut than when he went.

    On we moved to the first year of the U16s in the North Premier League and following another successful East Midlands Tournament, we saw the return of Zach and were joined by Josh Taylor, Ollie Dominique and Jude Carmichael.

    Sam was lucky enough to have his first experience of playing for his Country against Scotland on his 15th birthday – a day he will never forget, nor I – Pete was quick to tell the story above ;-) The Scottish National Anthem was played that many times that weekend, (U15s & U17s Girls and Boys) that when the Commonwealth Games were on in April, I could hum along.

    This was a year of learning for the U16s in the North Premier League and we finished in the middle of the table, which was not too shabby; a year of long long journeys where there was lots of singing, the longest journey to Newcastle, travelled in a day, where Jude kept us entertained on the journey home with his story of a hamburger … you had to be there …

    Barry also realised that the long road trips were a great opportunity for ‘a meeting’; open sessions, sponsorship, possibly a new kit all came from those trips – so much for just sending a few emails; I always came back with more work than I went.

    We again had players selected for the East Midlands Tournament (Ben, Sam, Ollie & Jude) and four players from East Mids selected into the National Squad; two from Titans (Sam & Jude).

    And so, we headed into this season full of hope (with a new kit from our new sponsorship) knowing that we were probably at our best. Joined by Jamal Jack and a young Tommie Olubisi (who we are hoping will continue with the U16s next season) we knew we were strong and although the dreaded injuries seem to work their way through the team, we had a good run, losing just 3 games; the highlight probably in the last game of 2017 against Manchester Magic when we did what no other team were able to do and beat them. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh They were' sore' for a long time and will never live that one down.

    Our winning ways had meant a runner up position in the North Premier League giving us a fast ticket into the second round of the playoffs and home advantage against Leicester Riders; a game that showed that sometimes it’s not the opposition that are the difficulty – it’s all about the learning experience - a game won to take us to the quarterfinals again.

    We had met with Ipswich in the Cup run earlier in the season and had lost by 1 point (the day before we beat Manchester Magic – did I tell you we beat them??????) and knew what we had to do. The crowd was amazing; a packed house at Weavers, with a noise level beyond expectations. It was a close game from beginning to end and in a mirror of all those years ago at U13s, we just lost out by 3 points; a gutting loss and the end of an era which saw the players shake hands with every supporter, home and away, and for them to receive such applause from all the crowd.

    What is the point of this blog? – it is to say thank you and good luck - to all the boys and girls that have been part of this journey, to all the parents that have supported the players, to the coaches that have supported Barry in his ‘vision’ and to the volunteers from every corner that have helped to create lasting memories.

    Where is our success? not just in reaching the heights of winning leagues and playing top level basketball, (did I tell you we beat Magic???) but also in helping and watching you all grow into fantastic young men and women, confident, focused, polite, ambitious, strong, funny and intelligent.

    We wish all our players more success than they could hope for in their chosen pathways, whatever that may be, and from a basketball point of view, will be watching:

    Sam and Jacob heading to Reading Rockets; Ben heading to Myerscough; Jude heading to Barking Abbey; Ollie heading to Leicester; Jake, Taiwo and Diarra heading to Derby, Jamal heading to Moulton, Kenny heading to Derby and Lauren and Hannah heading to Charnwood; our Alumni page is going to be busy!!!!

    Good luck in all of your exams – we are so very proud of you - we look forward to the next exciting group of young players creating opportunities for themselves within our basketball family.

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