UK (Staffordshire University) Staffs basketball stars scoreplace on England squad

Bayley Gaunt and Hamza Camara make up a sixth of the entire 12-strong English Universities Sport men’s basketball squad.

It marks an impressive achievement as they only started competing in the sport around five years ago. Now both 21, they got to know each other after joining the Hoop Skills club at Stoke-on-Trent College, run by ex-NBA player Shawn Jamison.

When they applied to study the same course, BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy, the friends managed to secure scholarships with Staffordshire University’s High Performance Academy. And with their talents officially recognised, staff put them forward for the national trials.

Hamza, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, said: “When I got selected, I was ecstatic. We played our first game for English Universities the other day. We played the best Welsh national team they’d ever seen – and the result was 100 to 90 to us.”

Having Bayley as a team-mate has given him extra motivation and support. “We already knew we had each other’s back,” added Hamza, who has just finished his first year at the University.

They train every day and use the Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre on the Stoke-on-Trent campus. The sports hall is ideal for shooting practice and they also use the gym there.

Hamza said: “I like the energy of basketball. I love that environment.”

Bayley, from Tunstall in Stoke-on-Trent, credits both the High Performance Academy and former Harlem Globetrotters player Shawn Jamison with helping him to compete at a high level.

“Shawn taught me everything I know. He’s a good mentor,” he said. “I was in the under-16s national team and then the under-18s.”

Through the academy, he and Hamza have access to bespoke development plans, which include strength and conditioning, nutrition advice and physiotherapy.

They also receive treatment from the Staffordshire University Sports Therapy Clinic (SUST). Bayley added: “I’ll be involved with the clinic as a student next year as well. I already know everybody there who treats me.

“I feel the academy gives you that extra push. It got me into the English Universities trials. Personally, I want to get to the highest level I can go to. I want to play professionally.”

Hamza has also found the academy’s support very useful, along with the SUST Clinic treatment.

He said: “I’m prone to injury and have a weakness in my ankle. They always help me with a range of exercises and give me gym plans to work on. It’s so you can be the best version of yourself.

“Growing up and competing in basketball, I’ve been around a lot of injuries. One day, we could be helping other people coming into the sport. I want to make them better through rehab and teach them everything I know.”