By Jamie Thomas
On the day Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United, the Manchester Giants had their own monster signing to announce as they confirmed the arrival of GB captain Dan Clark at the Belle Vue.
Rightly hailed as one of the biggest transfer coups in BBL history, the acquisition of Clark sees one of our country’s greatest-ever players – with over 100 caps and the honour of being the all-time leading points scorer for GB – come home, and it is safe to say the 32-year-old is as thrilled as everybody else is to see him take to a BBL court this season.
“I’m extremely excited to be able to come to the BBL. It’s been no secret that I’ve always wanted to come back to the UK and play in front of friends and family at some point but the right situation has never quite materialised before now.
“Jamie and Lloyd presented a very exciting offer to me that wasn’t just about this year or next year but more about growing the game for the longer term, and that’s certainly something I want to be a part of, growing basketball and making the sport what it should be in this country.
“As a professional basketball player you’re more than just a player – you are what people aspire to be. Our job means inspiring kids to want to play and if that means going to schools or assemblies then that’s what it is – it isn’t just about showing up on a Saturday or Sunday and playing in front of fans, there’s a lot of work involved in between and I’m looking forward to playing my part in that.”
“The BBL should be a league for the best British players.”
Manchester certainly have form for building exciting, British-based squads, but this one has the potential to be their best yet with Clark joined by some exceptional British talent.
Lloyd Gardner was a significant influence in Clark’s acquisition as well, as the two have a long-standing relationship, but the club’s ethos of wanting to give court time and exposure to British players was an exciting prospect for the power forward as well.
“I’ve known Lloyd for a long time as a person and what he’s capable of as a coach. There are very few coaches that I would have made the effort to come to the BBL to play and Lloyd is one of them, so I’m extremely happy to be able to play for him, very excited, and with his experience, my experience and the experience on the roster, we can have a very good year.
“This is a team with history for building British-based rosters and that’s something I was keen to be a part of – one of the first things I looked at – because the BBL should be a league for the best British players, not just having a couple of token British players whilst non-British players get all the minutes, but Manchester are really invested in the growth of potential of British players.
“Manchester want to give British players exposure and time on the court, which is what every player needs, with the confidence that they’re going to play important minutes with the potential for being part of a successful team, and I’m sure that’s what we’ll see this year.”
“Keeping things simple is going to help us reach our potential.”
Jamell Anderson, Josh Steel and Will Saunders are just a handful of the high-calibre British talents the Giants have been able to attract to their roster, and Clark sees his role as a leader for this very exciting group who, coached by Gardner, he feels have a high ceiling for the coming year.
“I definitely see my role being one of a leader, but that doesn’t mean scoring big numbers or grabbing a lot of rebounds every night – it means I’ll do whatever the team needs for us to win, because if we win then everybody will be in a better position for next year, which is most important.
“With Lloyd I knew this was going to be a club that played a good brand of basketball and played the game the right way, so when he came here I certainly took notice. The way he sees basketball and teaches basketball is what sets him apart. He teaches the fundamental stuff really well, he never overcomplicates things, and teaching those fundamentals very well is highly underrated.
“This is a simple game, we just tend to overcomplicate it a lot both as players and coaches, so I think if we keep things simple as best we can then it’s going to help us a lot to reach our potential this season.”
“We’ve put ourselves in a great position to do well.”
With superb acquisitions made by every team, the standard in the BBL is set to be at an incredibly exciting level this term, so it is difficult for any clubs to set their expectations, but Clark instead outlines how some of the club’s biggest successes this season won’t necessarily be tied to on-court exploits.
“We haven’t set any targets yet, we’re still trying to gauge everybody’s roles and strengths and so on, but I think in terms of what will make our season a success will be getting fans back in the gym, for sure, exciting people about the game and getting to work in the community again.
“Manchester are in a position where they’re trying to grow, trying to develop the presence of basketball in such a huge sporting city, and after conversations with Lloyd and Jamie Edwards, things just fell into place and made sense for me to come here in the end.
“If we’re able to engage with the people of Manchester and get them involved in and loving basketball again, that would be a very successful year for us, and then as far as on the court we’re just going to have to see how it goes. We’ve put ourselves in a great situation to do well across the board and see what happens.”