IT HAS been an outstanding season for the junior programme at Worthing Thunder Basketball Club.
The club’s under-14 team were crowned national champions earlier this month, the under-15 side reached the final fours weekend and finished in fourth place, while 16 players are representing the club at regional level.
Three of those players – Georges Tchuako, Tia Freeman and Cameron Hildreth – are part of the England selection process and Thunder head coach Daniel Hildreth believes the club are looking at a bright future.
He said: “The junior programme for us is all about player development.
“Reaching the final fours is more important than winning or losing when you get there. The experience is something that the players can take with them and remember for the rest of their lives.
“We feel that individual development comes hand in hand with team success and the most important thing is that the players keep developing and getting better.
“It is a credit to the programme that year in, year out, the club is having individual and team success and we’ve got a number of players who could progress into the men’s team.
“A number of the men’s team are former junior players at the club and Selby Hind-Wills was still part of the junior programme, with the under-18 squad, when he played for the men’s side last season.
“Players in the junior programme know that they can progress into the men’s team here if they put in the work and have the right attitude and the future of the club is looking very bright.”
Tchuako, who was a member of Thunder’s under-15 squad last season, made two appearances for the men’s team towards the end of the campaign, scoring four points in the win against Newham Neptunes.
He is hoping to be named in the England under-15 squad for an upcoming tournament in Sweden.
Freeman has made it to the final stage of selection for the England under-15 girls’ squad and is also hoping to take part in the same tournament in Sweden.
Cameron Hildreth, aged 12, has attended two England under-14 development training camps, which are designed to prepare potential national players of the future.
Two free throws from Cameron Hildreth saw Thunder’s under-14 team crowned national champions in Sheffield.
The team’s coach, Mark Richards, said: “We have only lost one game in two seasons and are now national champions. They have all worked so hard to be here and I think our experience from last year really helped towards this victory.”
Thunder’s under-15 team created club history last month when they reached their third national finals in a row.
After finishing fourth as under-13s and then runners-up last year, they finished fourth again this season.
Coach Karl Youngman said: “It is the first time Thunder have had a team reach consecutive finals, as it takes a lot of hard word and commitment to get to just one.
“The future is very bright for this group of players and for the club as a whole.
“It wasn’t our day, but that’s sport and you just can’t predict it. I know the boys will be wanting to make it four appearances in a row and they have every chance to do it.”