Month: August 2016

Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo

England U16 star get Magic call

England Under-16 international Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo is the latest promising youngster to be officially unveiled as a Manchester Magic player for the 2016/17 NBL Division One season.

The 6ft 5in forward, who is 16, will join fellow teenagers Michael Anumba and Kaiyem Cleary on the roster, together with established stars Jack Minister, Kayin Darbey, Lee Goldsbrough and Stefan Gill.

Emeka-Anyako has been on England duty this summer, helping the team to fifth spot in Division B of the European Championships.

He averaged 19.8 minutes, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 points per game.

“Arinze is a real talent with good athleticism and a great attitude,” said Magic coach Paul Middleton.

“We have high expectations for him over the next couple of years and I look forward to seeing how he progresses in the senior environment.”

Further squad announcements will follow in the next few days.

Magic begin their pre-season campaign at home to a USA Select team in Monday, 5 September (7.30pm tip)

Photo credit:

New Logo

Magic and Mystics players in NW U17 squads

Magic players selected in the final 12 to represent the North West U17 Boys are: Adam Armitage, Kaiyem Cleary, Martell Elly, Wesley Oba, Joshua Pearce, Alex Roberts and Sam Sherratt.

Magic/Mystics Coach Mbongeni Greg Mpofu selected as Assistant Coach, Linda Roberts selected as Team Manager.

The Regional Development Tournament takes place on 3rd/4th September in Manchester at the National Basketball Performance Centre.

Schedule (Pool X):

Saturday 3rd September

14:30 Court 1 South East 45 -59 North West

17:30 Court 1 West Midlands 58 – 53 North West

Sunday 4th September

11:30 London 63 – 46 North West

15:00 3rd/4th East 56 – 53 North West

North West Finish 4th

Mystics players selected in the final 12 to represent the North West U17 Girls are: Fiona Connolly, Sharise Smith and Sophie Wilson.

The Regional Development Tournament takes place on 3rd/4th September in Manchester at the National Basketball Performance Centre.

Schedule (Pool B):

Saturday 3rd September

10:00 Court 3 North West 44 – 39 Yorkshire

13:00 Court 3 North West 32 – 56 South East

Sunday 4th September

10:00 London 52 – 21 North West

13:00 3rd/4th East 54 – 45 North West

North West Finish 4th

Mystics’ Fiona Connolly helped the North West win the Shooting Challenge.

Stefan Gill

Giants star Gill come home to Magic

The 32-year-old guard learnt his basketball with the Manchester Magic before spells in the BBL with Milton Keynes Lions and Manchester Giants. 

Gill has spent the last four years with the Giants and was their top scorer in the BBL last season. 

Now the 5ft 8in star, a former English Basketball League Player of the Year, has decided the time is right to return.  

“I am really excited to see that Stefan is back where it all started for him,” said Magic coach Paul Middleton. “It’s a huge coup for the club to get his signature for the next couple of years.” 

Gill said: “It’s a very nostalgic moment for me. I was proud to be a player here and I’m proud to be part of the club again. It’s a homecoming for me.

“The professionalism and the passion are a big draw for me. Emotionally and physically, I’m all in.” 

In his first spell with the Magic, he helped the club win the National Cup in 2007 and then the treble of the National Cup, NBL Division 1 championship and NBL Division One play-off title in 2008. 

He joins Jack Minister, Lee Goldsbrough, Kayin Darbey, Kaiyem Cleary and Michael Anumba in the Magic squad for the forthcoming NBL Division One campaign. 

Middleton thinks Gill’s addition will be a big plus for youngsters like Cleary and Anumba. 

“He has bags of experience to bring to our young team and I know he will relish the chance to help some of our young players grow over the next couple of years,” said Middleton. “Aside from his influence and leadership abilities, no-one can doubt Stefan’s abilities as a player still. 

“Last year, he was the top scorer for the Giants in the BBL and I have no doubt that he will make a huge impact for us. He will give us an additional scoring threat from the perimeter which will give us another dimension to the way we play.” 

Joe Forber, Magic’s chief executive, added: “Stefan learned his basketball as a Magic junior and senior, so he knows what the club is all about. He will be a very big asset on the floor and an excellent role model for all our young boys and girls.”

Gina Brierley

Mystics star Brierley read for American adventure

Gina Brierley is going to miss playing for the Manchester Mystics, but the Chadderton teenager is relishing the chance to forge a basketball career in the United States.

The former Loreto College student is off to Tampa to play for Saint Leo in NCAA Division Two.

“It’s going to be a big change,” says Gina. “I’ve grown up here.”

We’re sitting on one of the wooden benches inside the Amaechi Basketball Centre, just a few weeks before Gina is due to head for the US.

So what exactly is she going to miss?

“Everything,” replies the 18-year-old. “The people, the coaches, the team… to be able to come here whenever I want.”

Gina, a 5ft 7in point guard, has come up through the ranks at the Mystics, joining as an 10-year-old.

She remembers what it felt like to join the club way back then.

“I felt like I had accomplished something, that I now belonged to something important,” says the former England Under-18 player.

Gina cites Rehana Khalil, a former Mystics player who has been part of the coaching programme at the ABC, as an early role model.

“She was such an inspiration,” says Gina. “She told me that I could succeed in basketball if I was determined enough.”

In her last season at the Mystics, Gina was a key member of both the Under-18 and the WBBL teams.

Now she is looking to continue her basketball education on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

She had several mouth-watering offers but eventually decided on Saint Leo. A key factor was the coach, Anthony Crocitto.

“He plays a style I like to play,” says Gina, who is now in the States preparing for her new adventure. “He is big on defence and shooting.

“Outside of basketball, he is a family man. He takes care of his players. I knew he was for me.”

And what does she hope to achieve? 

“To develop as a player, to experience a different culture, and to learn from a new coach with a different style of play and approach.”

We wish Gina the very best of luck in the US. We plan to keep in touch so we can let you all know how she is getting on.

Anumba and Cleary EABL

Young duo to play key roles for Magic

Manchester Magic are delighted to announce that hot prospects Kaiyem Cleary and Michael Anumba will be part of senior squad for the 2016/17 campaign.

The teenagers, who got a taste of first-team action last season, are seen as key figures for coach Paul Middleton. 

“I’m really happy to say that two of our most talented junior players will be given the opportunity to make a big impact on this year’s senior campaign,” said Middleton. 

Influential in Magic’s league and cup success at Under 16 level last season, Michael played a substantial number of minutes for the all-conquering seniors as they won all four trophies they competed for. 

“Everybody is aware of his talent and potential, but it is his ability to handle playing in pressure situations against grown men that amazes me,” added Middleton.

“He has worked every day this summer to improve both his skills and his physical strength and it is starting to pay off already in pre-season. 

“He will be given the chance to run the team as point guard along with ex-junior Kayin Darbey and I really feel that he will flourish in this role as the season progresses. 

“Michael will be starting at our academy at Loreto College in a couple of weeks and he will certainly benefit from the extra practices and strength and conditioning sessions.” 

Kaiyem, who is going into his second year at Loreto, has also hugely impressed, both with Magic and England. 

“He played a minor role last season for the senior men, but he has been working out all summer and is desperate to make an impact this year,” said Middleton.

“Kaiyem is an explosive shooting guard who is a threat from long range as well as demonstrating an ability to create off the dribble. His style of play will really suit what we will try to do this year. 

“He has shown this summer that his defensive game has improved hugely, which is a very encouraging sign for his future. He deserves the opportunity to show what he can do.” 

Magic have already confirmed that guard Jack Minister, 6ft 10in centre Lee Goldsbrough and point guard Kayin Darbey will be part of the squad for 2016/17. 

Magic begin their pre-season campaign with a home game against a USA Select team on Monday, 5 September (1930 BST). 

Tickets cost £3 for Adults and £1 for Children. An Adult and up to three Children can get a family ticket for £5. A family ticket for two Adults and up to three Children is just £7.50. 

Any Magic or Mystics National League player can watch the game for free.

British trio return

British trio return for Magic

Three key players from the Manchester Magic’s stunning 2015/16 season will be back at the club for the forthcoming campaign.

Guard Jack Minister, 6ft 10in centre Lee Goldsbrough and point guard Kayin Darbey have all committed to coach Paul Middleton’s squad.

“It’s really pleasing that we will once again see the talented British core of the team return for another year,” said Middleton.

“Kayin was our starting point guard last year and the experience he gained will prove invaluable this year as he will be our most senior player in that position.

“I feel that he was our most improved player and played a big role in our success last year.

“Jack has been one of the most underrated players in our league for the last three years and to have him back again at a time when we will have a very youthful and inexperienced team will be vital.

“Lee is without doubt the best big man in the league as he can score both inside and out whilst being our most effective defender every single game.

“It is a big shot in the arm to have these three players re-sign for this season, especially as they have all come through our junior programme.”

Some familiar players won’t be returning for the 2016/17 season.

The foreign contingent of Ellis Cooper, Ryan Lohfink, Franc Garcia Garrido and Alvaro Alarcon-Lizaur have all moved on or retired.

Stay in touch with the Magic on social media for more squad announcements in the coming days.

Mystics logo

Mystics to move to National Basketball Performance Centre

Women’s basketball in Manchester has been given a big boost with the news that the Manchester Mystics is to relocate its WBBL team to the new National Basketball Performance Centre (NBPC) at Belle Vue Sports Village.

As part of this hugely significant move, ownership of the WBBL team will also transfer to Eastlands Trust.

The double announcement represents an important moment for women’s sport in Manchester. 

It means the city’s number one women’s basketball team will be playing in a brand new arena that has already hosted Great Britain women’s internationals. 

It also marks the start of a fresh drive to grow the game, both at elite and community level in Manchester.

The aim is to turn the Mystics into the number one team in the country, to get more girls playing the game and to make Manchester a top destination for female players.

‘Statement of intent’

The WBBL team will be coached by Jeff Jones, a widely respected figure within both the Manchester and UK basketball scene. 

The first game at the new venue will take place on 8 October, with Barking Abbey Crusaders providing the opposition in an expanded 10-team competition. 

Rebecca Livesey, chief operating officer for Eastlands Trust, said: “Relocating the Mystics, the top women’s team in Manchester to the National Basketball Performance Centre, is a statement of intent for women’s basketball in the city. The move will create the aspirational aspect for girls who currently play basketball and inspire the next generation of players that will come through the ranks.” 

Andy Webb, the WBBL’s chief operating officer, added: “It’s great to see one of our WBBL clubs receiving such strong support from its community partners and to be moving into a fantastic purpose-built Arena for the new season ahead. It is yet another positive development in the growth of the WBBL and will be a tremendous venue for fans to watch the games.”  

‘A major competitor’

The WBBL team will retain strong links with its former home at the Amaechi Basketball Centre (ABC) in Whalley Range.

The team will split training between the NBPC and ABC, which will continue to be the headquarters for the Mystics’ hugely successful age-group programme, which fields teams at Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 level.

Joe Forber, who heads the Mystic age-group programme, said: “Transferring the WBBL team to Eastlands Trust will create the opportunity to move the team forward and to be a major competitor at the top level of British women’s basketball. This will give a massive boost to the growth and development of girls basketball in Manchester at all levels. I want our young girls to have the ambition and drive to play at the top level of British basketball. The WBBL team playing at the NBPC gives them a wonderful opportunity as they move on with their basketball careers.”

‘Success on and off the court’

The ABC is also home to the successful Magic and Mystics community programme, which gives children of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to play basketball.

It has produced a string of top-class players that have gone on to play for their country and enjoy successful college careers in the United States.

Going forward, the Magic and Mystics will work together with Eastlands Trust to continue nurturing future stars as well as collaborating to promote the Mystics name. 

Councillor Luthur Rahman, executive member for Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council, commented: “It’s great to see these positive developments in women’s basketball, as the council and its partners seek to widen access to our facilities for all residents. We look forward to seeing the Mystics succeed on court and also to seeing more women and girls from our local communities trying the sport, at yet another world class facility available to our residents.”

To keep up to date on basketball information, events and tickets for Manchester Mystics home-games, make sure you follow @Mcr_Mystics and @natbballctr

Ryan Lohfink

Magic veteran Lohfink bows out in style

Magic captain Ryan Lohfink has announced his retirement from the game, bowing out in style after winning the quadruple this past season.

The 6ft 7in centre is the only player to achieve the feat twice, having done so with Reading Rockets in the 2008/09 season.

Ryan, 33, has won 14 National Titles in his eight years in England, including six with the Magic since joining them from the Rockets in 2013.

The American is one of the most decorated players in the second tier of the National League.

Ryan leaves sizeable boots to fill both on and off the court, leaving his role as the Club’s Business Manager as well as departing from the game.

The Club would like to thank Ryan for everything he has done and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

“Ryan came to our club from Reading three years ago and it proved to be a great move for us,” said Club Chief Executive Joe Forber.

“Firstly, his contribution on the floor has been much more significant than it first appears. His stats may not be startling but his leadership qualities and his development of our younger players has been outstanding.

“As a volunteer, he has been immensely helpful to the senior team off the floor. So good that, in the last year, we have been able to employ him in the office to do all the technical stuff which nobody else can do.

“He returns to the States at the end of August and we wish him all the best for his future.”