Rockets In Focus: Matt Gaskell

In this series of articles, we take a look at some of the players who have come through the setup here at Rockets. In this latest instalment, we focus on Men’s First Team player, Matt Gaskell.

Matt has been involved with Rockets since his childhood, starting out with him attending one of our Saturday sessions. He’s continued to play basketball since, becoming a regular in Coach Douglas’ side this year, as well as coaching our Under-14 Boys Conference Team.

“I joined the club when I was 11-12 when my dad took me to one of the Saturday community sessions at Nechells. I then joined the Under-13 national league team where my first coach was Tyrone Kinch, who is still coaching at the club”. 

He started to come to sessions more, and despite an ankle injury he was still left with a love of the sport from his formative years.

“The club did a good job emphasising player development whilst I was progressing through the younger age groups, which meant I was constantly improving.

“I think this put me in a position to be successful on the court by the time I reached the older age groups. Unfortunately, I missed the majority of my two years at Under-18s through injury, as I had reconstructive ankle surgery during the first year.

Despite missing most of my final two years I feel like my progression through the junior ranks provided me with the skills to be successful as I went on to play at university“.    

Matt then departed for university, where he continued to play basketball at a high level and develop his skills.

“Playing three years at Anglia Ruskin University definitely helped the transition from junior basketball to the first team. During my first year playing at uni I realised very quickly that there are a lot of things you do as a junior that you can’t get away with as you start to play at higher levels.

“The biggest realisation I had at the start of my university career was that there is a lot more thinking involved in senior basketball, meaning you can’t switch of when you’re on the court. I think I also realised that I was never going to be the best athlete on the court, so I was going to have to improve my basketball IQ if I was going to be successful at the senior level.

“This has really helped my transition to the Rockets first team as Coach Douglas’s offensive and defensive style of play really requires you to think and make the correct reads on the court”.      

This season, Matt has been a regular feature on the court and has developed into a real team player.

“I feel like my biggest improvement this season has been on the defensive end of the floor. My use angles and positioning to influence the offense is much better now than it was at the start of the season and is something I have really focused on.

“I don’t really have any big personal ambitions I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win. I think as team our main aim is to go the rest of the season unbeaten, which starts with having two good performances this weekend against Charnwood and Nottingham Trent”.

An injury over Christmas saw him spend time on the sidelines, but Matt continues to be positive looking forward.

“Fortunately, I think the injury I had over Christmas is behind me, which is good. But being injured a lot as a junior I found that it was always good to try and stay involved with the team, as well as to try and be a positive influence on the bench.

“Coaching my own team gave me something else to focus on when I couldn’t play which defiantly helped me mentally but I’m really glad I’m back healthy now”. 

In terms of how far the First Team can go, Matt sees a lot of potential for the rest of the season.

“The performance we had last week at the Indoor Arena hopefully showed people what this team is capable of going forward. Our aim as a team is to build that performance and like I said earlier to go undefeated for the rest of the season”.

One of Matt’s main responsibilities for the season has been taking over as coach of the Under-14 Boys Conference Team, a role which he has adapted to well and is looking to continue in.

“Coaching is 100% more stressful than playing, especially when you’re coaching Under-14s. When you’re playing you can have a direct impact on the court through your play, however when you’re coaching you definitely have less control. 

“I think this is something that a lot of young coaches’ struggle with, but I guess it’s just part of coaching. The part of coaching I’ve found most enjoyable this season is seeing the progress of my team and players and I’m looking forward to a successful end to the season. 

“Coaching is definitely something I have a passion for, and I would like to continue doing it in some capacity going forward. There are a lot of great coaches throughout the club with so much experience, which is great for a young coach like myself.

“One of the big bits of advice Coach Douglas gave me during the season was to pick three or four key areas to focus on rather than trying to cover every aspect of basketball all at once. Since I have implemented this strategy, I seen a massive improvement in the performances of my team”.