Junior Performance Season In Review: 2023/24

The 2023/24 season was another busy one for us here at City of Birmingham Rockets with 10 junior teams competing in National Basketball League (NBL) competition.

It’s been a fantastic year of progress with players showcasing their abilities and continuing their development all while representing the club and the city of Birmingham up and down the country.

We would like to thank our fantastic team of coaches, team managers, volunteers and parents/guardians who have supported our Rockets teams this season!

We are delighted to see two of our teams progress to the postseason playoffs, with our Under 16 Boys Premier & Under 18 Women both preparing for their first round playoff games this weekend.

We’ll have more on those games shortly, but, for now, here is our review of the 2023/24 season across our Rockets junior performance programme…

Click here to see all the final league standings!

Under 12 Mixed

Coach Michael Price and Coach Tyrone Kinch enjoyed a fantastic year with our Under 12 mixed team – with the group going on to record a 9-4 record in the Regional III division.

Rockets were one of the top scoring teams in the conference, racking up 794 points in their 13 league outings.

The team went on a four-game winning run to finish the season with a pair of wins against Walsall Wizards followed by home successes against Tamworth and Stourport as our young Rockets side finished the season on a high!

Great work, everyone!

Under 14 Girls

The 2023/24 season saw the implementation of a new junior side with the introduction of our Under 14 Girls team – led by Coach Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon & Coach Amina Mahamud.

The team enjoyed a fantastic first season, with an 8-2 record good enough for a second placed finish in the Midlands Conference.

With the best defensive record in the division, conceding just 350 points in ten games, the girls have responded to their coaches’ instructions resulting in a positive year.

A final-day win over the table-topping Northants Lighting at Nechells Wellbeing Centre will give the team further confidence that they will be competitive should they be rewarded for their considerable efforts with promotion to the Under 14 Girls Premier Division when Basketball England releases the league structures for next season.

Under 14 Boys Conference

Our Under 14 Boys Conference side experienced a mixed campaign enroute to an eighth-place finish in the Midlands Conference division.

Coach Connor Gillespie and the team endured a tough start to the campaign with tight one-point losses against Coventry and Shrewsbury in their opening three games.

The team’s fortunes changed at the start of December, however, with the group winning both of their games in the final month of 2023.

The highlight of which was undoubtedly the thrilling overtime win against the Bears with Rockets edging a 104-96 thriller back on 16th December.

The team remained competitive through to the end of the season with a few more tight losses supplemented by good wins against Shropshire Warriors and Warwickshire Hawks.

After being edged out in a couple of early season games, it was fitting that the team’s final game of the season would end in a one point 68-67 win against Shrewsbury as Coach Gillespie’s side finished the season on a high.

Under 14 Boys Premier

After a couple of years leading our Under 14 Boys Conference side, Coach Matt Gaskell moved on to coach the premier team for the 2023/24 season.

A strong start to the season saw the team win two of their opening three league games with big wins against City of Leeds and St Helens Saints.

In a tight league full of quality, Rockets would fall to a couple of tough defeats before taking down the Newcastle Eagles in mid-November.

After a tough December, the team reprised their early season form to start the new year, with repeat wins against Leeds and St Helens.

Whilst Coach Gaskell’s side were unable to keep the winning run going, the player development within the group was evident.

This was demonstrated by the final game of the season against the second place Milton Keynes Breakers. After a blowout loss in the first game back in December, the team rallied to cause the league runners up issues in a tightly fought encounter.

Despite falling to a defeat, Rockets matched one of the country’s top sides at Under 14 level, a true demonstration of the player development and improvement of the group throughout the season.

Under 16 Girls

Another team that finished the year on a high was our Under 16 Girls as they took down the Nottingham Wildcats to leapfrog them in the standings on the final day.

With it being the team’s first year at premier level, it was always going to be a challenging season, but the group rallied to a sixth placed finish and in doing so established their status in the Northern Premier division.

Outside of the top four sides, Rockets managed an even 4-4 record across the course of the campaign, with Coach Marc Evans guiding the team through some tough scheduling challenges to record another positive season.

Under 16 Boys Conference

Coach Daniele Brunetti was pleased with the effort and application of the group as he reflected on a season defined by the progression and development of the team.

After taking a few weeks to implement the team principles and style of play, the group bounced back from a tough October to win two of their three games in November.

A final day win against Northants Thunder was preceded by a demolition of Coventry Elite as the team showcased their quality and development by finishing the year on a high.

Speaking about the season as a whole, Coach Brunetti said, As usual we had many new players joining the Club who never played National or for a team at all.

“Our goal was to be competitive against every team in our conference and after a tough start I can say we managed to get there; developing our talents and ending the season with a 50% record.”

Under 16 Boys Premier

Our Under 16 Boys Premier side enjoyed a fantastic year in the Northern Premier Division, finishing in third place with a 17-5 regular season record.

Reflecting on the season so far, assistant coach David Elsmere-Whitney spoke highly of the group and of the effort and commitment that has gone into making this season a success.

He said, “We have had some guys step up from the Under 16 Conference, some from the Under 14s and, even though we might have had a bit of a slow start, it’s all meshing now and the chemistry is there.

“We know that we will get 100% out of them all the time – when it comes down to it the guys have played their hearts out.” 

As a result of their fantastic year, the team have progressed to the postseason playoffs and are set to continue their season this Saturday at home to Richmond Knights in the first round.

We’ll be catching up with the coaching team and a player to preview the game – make sure you come and support the team from 12:20pm at Nechells Wellbeing Centre!

Under 18 Women

Also heading to the postseason playoffs after a successful year are our Under 18 Women’s side.

The team navigated a tough Northern Premier division to finish in fourth place in the standings with a 5-7 record.

Danie Wallis has been instrumental for the team this year and she spoke about the season and what it means to make the playoffs.

She said, “We have done really well to pull together as a team – to be in the playoffs again is amazing.

“We are incredibly proud of each other to be in a position to be top four in our conference.”

We will be catching up with a number of the girls ahead of their playoff game this weekend to get their thoughts on the season as the team prepares for the weekend’s game…

Under 18 Men Conference

Another team who finished in the top four of their conference after a good year is the Under 18 Men’s Conference side, with Coach Steve Dudley leading the team to an 8-6 record.

The group got off to a strong start, winning their opening three games before a disrupted November as teams began to drop out of the division.

A tough loss to Coventry Elite at the start of December was followed by a dramatic comeback win at Warwickshire Hawks, with a 28-point final quarter forcing overtime before Rockets snatched the win in a 94-88 thriller.

The new year saw a continuation of the teams’ consistency, with tough losses at Team Wolverhampton and Coventry contrasted with good wins against West Brom and West Bromwich Albion II.

A 109-51 demolition of Bedford Thunder II followed at the start of March with the team now able to reflect on a positive 2023/24 season.

Under 18 Men Premier

Our Under 18 Men’s Premier side also got off to a strong start to the season, with the team storming out of the blocks to win three of their opening four games.

November proved a trickier month, with two narrow losses against Surrey and Taunton at the start of the month before a 112-61 destruction of Cardiff Met Archers.

The team bounced back by winning their final two games of 2023 before starting the new year on the right track with a comfortable win against Bristol Flyers at SGS.

A tough run of form followed before wins against Taunton, Cardiff and London put the team back on the winning track. A narrow final day defeat saw the team just fall short of a playoff berth.

Reflecting on the ups and downs of the 2023/24 campaign, head coach Ricardo D’Alva said: “This season’s basketball journey has been filled with both thrills and setbacks presenting us with challenges that tested our resilience, team chemistry and determination.

“Despite the wins and defeats, I am grateful for the lessons learnt and the camaraderie shared with the players knowing that each experience has contributed to their growth – not only as athletes, but as individuals.

“As we reflect on the season, it’s evident that the bonds formed and the growth achieved make every up and down worthwhile in the end.”

A huge thank you to Martin Lansley & Manor Ahmed for supplying the photographs for this report!