Fury coach John Bunyan sets out vision for basketball future

Coach John Bunyan
Coach John Bunyan

Clark Eriksson Fury will be without their brightest prospect this season as Fraser Malcolm plays his basketball in Iceland.

But that is no bad thing, says club headcoach John Bunyan. He believes the player will benefit greatly from coach Eric Olson’s tutelage.

What is a disappointment though is that Malcolm has had to go further afield – on the club’s back – to develop, rather than stay and improve his game at home.

Funding for basketball continues to be a huge topic of debate, particularly with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games restoring the sport to the schedule in four years’ time.

Malcolm, Bunyan is sure, will be in the mix for the Scottish team that year - as will Fury’s Ali Fraser and Jonny Bunyan. But Scotland’s team prospects could be boosted by changes at the top of the game, he says.

“We found a place for Fraser in Iceland and have had guys going to the States but these are not proper basketball scholarships.

“Basketball Scotland needs to work towards funding and finding a pathway for their best players at age 12 or 13 and move it through to ensure they get the very best.

“It’s all about talent identification. We have tried to do that - with some success - locally, but it’s difficult to take them that step further, which is why it was up to us to find a space for Fraser to develop.

“It’ll help him, and he’s sure to be a star at Gold Coast, no question.”

Jonny Bunyan, John’s youngest son, is another who is well known to Falkirk Herald readers and who will be at peak age when the Australian Games come around.

Bunyan spent a year at Kimball prep school in the USA and now benefits from an agreement between his professional club, Glasgow Rocks, and Fury where JB Junior can play in the local league to ensure he has ample court time to keep on top of his game – something he’s not guaranteed with an ex-NBA guard - JaJuan Smith - once of the Dallas Mavericks, on the Rocks roster.

A similar scenario could be applied to Ali Fraser who recently signed for Rocks.

It benefits them, and it benefirs Fury, but coach Bunyan cites other European leagues where nationality quotas are used.

“In German leagues they have a rule where two home-grown players must be on court at all times.

“We need GB Basketball, basketball Scotland and the BBL to get together and try to provide the pathway for development.

“The general standard of play in this country is pretty high - basketball has grown massively in this country.

“But there’s no point having a great league without the homegrown players from the UK playing.”

Basketball Scotland has a performance director, Barry Lang, who is responsible for furthering the game and players here.

“Barry is someone who will, and has taken that on - he’s the best person to have in that role.

“He listens to people and gets things done,” added Bunyan, however like many things, much comes down to the money side of things.

Basketball has had a funding cut following the Olympic Games in London 2012, yet argues it is one of the largest participation sports in the United Kingdom. According to statistics in The Observer 218,000 people over 14 play at least once a week, while rugby union has 201,000, cricket 190,000 and rowing - which is funded - has 45,700 participants.

The lack of funding is down to a lack of success. A lack of success not helped when the lack of funds make it difficult to insure players such as NBA’s - Luol Deng starring for Team GB, vastly reducing their abilities on court.

“You can’t have the future of a sport in this country based on whether or not Luol Deng chooses, or is able, to play in certain games,” added Bunyan.

“I had a situation when coaching Team Scotland in the 2006 Commonwealth Games where we couldn’t find the money for Robert Archibaldto be insured to play. That severely impacted on our chances.

“You can’t have goals and targets for performance based on factors like that.

In the meantime he’ll keep tabs on Malcolm from afar and continue to blood the youngsters who have come through the Fury programme for more than a decade, through to his Senior Mens’ team in the hope they too might be Commonwealth athletes of the future.