By Jamie Thomas
Not many young Scots have accomplished all of the things Fraser Malcolm has done in the game by the age of 24.
The young, sharpshooting forward is already a Commonwealth athlete and could potentially have had a BBL title under his belt by now were it not for the pandemic bringing last season to a halt.
A young man rightly very proud of what he’s achieved so far, Malcolm is going into his second year as a pro with Gareth Murray’s Glasgow Rocks and, although he acknowledges he’s accomplished some significant feats so far, he has no plans to rest on his laurels and stop there.
“I thought it was a good first year for me as a professional player. We had a strong team throughout and we were well-coached as well, and I was able to really learn a lot from all of these experienced and talented players and coaches during practice and develop because of that.
“I learnt a lot from watching Gareth (Murray) play and matching up against him in practice, as well as watching a learning a lot from how Tadas (Rinkunas) and Greg (Pryor) played, and work with some of the bigs too, so I was developing a lot day-to-day and valued every minute of the experience.
“It is a privilege for me to be in this league and playing as a professional, but I’ve worked as hard as possible to get here and earn my place and I definitely feel like I can make an impact in the league, be effective in the BBL and establish myself here.
“I am still a young player, but I think going into that second year with the same team is going to help me a lot, because I know a lot more about the professional environment now, how the club works, and what is expected of everybody.”
“There is definitely a strong sense of national pride.”
Very proud of his heritage, Malcolm credits playing for Scotland as his standout experience so far in the game, having represented his country as a junior and also on one of the highest levels as a senior when he competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games as part of the team that finished fourth.
That pride translates to the Rocks, too, as representing the only Scottish team in the BBL makes the 24-year-old feel as if he’s representing his nation there, as well, and he describes to us how much that means to him.
“I love every minute of playing for Scotland, it is a huge honour to play for my country. I’ve loved every team I’ve ever played on to be honest and never had a negative experience in any team, but playing for Scotland is definitely my favourite environment.
“It is something I’ve always looked forward to, and I appreciate how special it is to be there – everything about it is just a massive privilege, especially to play with the calibre of player that we have in the squad.
“That pride is a big part of playing for the Rocks too, though, as the only Scottish team in the BBL. We have fantastic support from across Scotland, we’re always playing Scottish songs in the warmup and, of course, have a core group of Scottish players in and around the squad, so there is definitely a strong sense of national pride for all of us.”
“I definitely think we had a strong chance [to win the title].”
As the 2019-20 season was drawn to a close before its conclusion due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a championship winner was never crowned, with Glasgow Rocks leading the way at the time and London Lions, Worcester Wolves and Leicester Riders in hot pursuit.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know who would have won the championship that season, nor the Play-Offs which would have followed, and although Malcolm confesses how the season would have concluded is very hard to predict, he thinks the Rocks would have had enough to get over the line.
“It is hard to say whether we would have won the title last year, really, but I definitely think we had a strong chance of doing so. We were in the lead with five games to go and were on a great run of form in the league, as well.
“That last weekend before the league was stopped, we’d just beaten Plymouth and Bristol with great performances, but on the flipside I’m sure London would have said they’d already beaten us that year and they were on a great run of form themselves so who knows.
“It certainly would have been interesting, and it would have been great to play them at home, where we are always very strong, so I think that would have went in our favour, but it is very hard to say. I’d obviously back us, but I could see why London would maybe say differently!”
‘Last season taught us what is expected of a team with championship ambitions.’
It has been a summer of change at the club, with a new coach and a number of new acquisitions in the playing staff, but Malcolm heaped praise on all at the club for how they’ve handled that transition – particularly the new Head Coach, Gareth Murray.
He adds that whilst they’ll never know what might have been last season in terms of the club’s trophy haul, it was an incredibly valuable experience nonetheless in terms of helping the club build towards a championship run again in the future, and he’s looking forward to the day when the club can welcome its supporters back through the doors.
“It’s a very new team, but I think what last season taught those of us who were here then is what is expected on a day-to-day basis of a team that does have ambitions to compete for the championship, and the likes of Newcastle, Leicester and London who are always in and around those top spots.
“For me, I just want to be productive and help the team in any way I can to win games. Shooting has always been my strength so I think if I can build on my percentages again this year, improve defensively and take on bigger match-ups for the team then that would be a huge step in the right direction.
“My message to the supporters would just be that we can’t wait to have them back at the Emirates. We’ve always had a great relationship with them, interacting in and out of the season, and it is great to get to know them.
“We’re really missing them. They’re the best fans in the league, supporting us constantly whether we win or lose and making a great atmosphere for us at the Emirates so we can’t wait to have them back, but until then we’ll do everything we can to make them proud.”