Kaiyem Cleary has enjoyed a stellar summer, helping Great Britain’s Under-18s clinch promotion to Division A of the FIBA European Championships.
The Manchester Magic and Loreto College star, 18, now heads to the United States to continue his flourishing basketball career.
We caught up with him before he left…
Congratulations. A great summer with GB and now you’re off to the US. What emotions are currently running through your head?
Kaiyem: The main one is just excitement. This is what I have been working towards since I came to the club as a 12-year-old. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. Now that it’s happening, it feels like a dream. It doesn’t seem real and it hasn’t really sunk in. I can’t wait to go and I’m so excited.
Tell me more about the GB experience…. was it everything you thought it would be?
Kaiyem: It was and so much more. As a team, we played very well and I was proud of my overall performance. I’ve come back a better player thanks to the whole experience. I had a lot of faith in the players and the coaches, so I expected us to do well, but it was mindblowing to finish second and make the country proud. We worked so hard. I also give a lot of credit to Coach Alan (Keane). He coached us well and knew what to do with the players.
And now you are off to the States…. where exactly are you going and why?
Kaiyem: I’m going to prep school for a year, to Redemption Christian Academy in Northfield, Massachusetts. I want another year of improvement and to experience life in the States before I go to college. I want to be the best player I possibly can be before making that step.
It means you say goodbye to the Magic and Loreto… how will you look back on your time here?
Kaiyem: I want to thank the club and the coaches so much. They have given me everything… the tools to succeed. I wouldn’t be the player I am without them.
What’s your favourite memory from your time with Magic?
Kaiyem: Winning the national title with Magic U16s in 2015. We’d been beaten by Cheshire Wire three times during the season, by around 30 points each time. But when we played them at Final Fours, we were so fired up that we blew them off the floor. Then, in the final, we beat Newham Youngbloods. I was given MVP after scoring 26 points with 9 rebounds.
And with Loreto?
Kaiyem: The first EABL game this season against Bournville College. I scored 36 points and was named EABL Player of the Week. Being part of the Loreto basketball programme has been very rewarding. We’ve been up against some very good teams with older players, yet we’ve worked hard and battled really well. Loreto has given me a lot.
Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you would give players looking to follow in your footsteps?
Kaiyem: You’ve got to work hard and work consistently, both on and off the court. You have to take care of the little things, too, like stretching, hydrating, eating and sleeping well. And of course, it’s very important to stay on top of your school work.
Thanks and good luck.