This academic year will see City Academy in Birmingham City Centre become the first specialist basketball academy in the UK thanks to the launch of an exclusive partnership with the Birmingham Rockets.  The Birmingham secondary school will offer its students the chance to train with elite basketball players, enter national and international tournaments and ultimately the potential to compete for scholarships in the US.

Professional Birmingham Rockets coach, Ricardo D’Alva, will be employed by City Academy, part of CORE Education Trust, to provide elite coaching to students in school and also at the City of Birmingham Rockets Basketball Club in Nechells. Ricardo, who has also been recognised as a ‘Hometown Hero’ by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games for his work in grassroots sport, arrived in Birmingham two years ago, after moving to the city from Porto in Portugal. Having learnt his trade at his hometown club, Ricardo has been a valuable addition to the Rockets and has already helped hundreds of youngsters from across the city develop their skills and realise their dreams on the court.

Uniquely this coaching will be offered to Year 7s upwards, something usually only offered to Year 12s in the UK. This will give students as early as 11 years old a head start on their journey to becoming elite basketball players, if that’s a path they choose to pursue. With the team’s links to the renowned Houston Rockets, through legendary “The Dream’ Hakeem Olajuwon, the partnership is set to attract international attention. Indeed, year 9 German student and basketball player, Larry Duru from Dortmund, has chosen to attend City Academy from this year in order to pursue a professional basketball career alongside the Rockets.

Headteacher at City Academy, David Bailey, who himself secured a football scholarship in the states, said: 

“I want every one of my students to aim for the stars, no matter what their goals are. This partnership is one way they can pursue a lifetime ambition, if they are interested in a basketball career. My football scholarship propelled me into higher education, without it I would have pursued a very different path. It’s vital that my students get those kinds of options too. 

“We are proud to say we are partners with the Birmingham Rockets, I know this will present an abundance of opportunities for our current students and prospective students, in terms of wellbeing and fitness, but also the rare chance to follow their dreams from such an early age. We are delighted to welcome Ricardo into school, helping us to launch our formidable City Rockets team.”  

Rockets Managing Director, Rob Palmer, said: “Basketball has a unique ability to inspire young people from all over the world and develops many transferable skills important to personal development off the court too.”

“We are really pleased to have secured this partnership with a city centre based school that truly understands the positive impact our sport can have.”

“It is both a tremendous opportunity for students attending City Academy and for the club, to nurture some of the incredible talent at the school.”

“We look forward to seeing the benefits of Ricardo’s work with City Academy students and to their transition into club activities as they strive to realise their full potential both on and off the court!”

Rockets Senior Team Forward, Stephanos Kontopyrgos, commented: “I have been part of the club now for four years and have seen some amazing young talent emerge. As many children gain their first sporting experience in school, this is a positive collaboration which will no doubt see many City students develop their skills and discover what talent they have!”