The history of Lockleaze Basketball Club.
It’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a time Joe Gordon, Rich Green, Chris Veira, and Densil Williamson were seventeen years old. Thirty-three years ago, in the 1982-83 Webba season, a new side called Bristol Celtics, playing at Lockleaze School, saw the first league appearance of the nucleus of players that would go on to form the first Lockleaze team; Joe, Rich, Chris and Densil, along with Errol Edwards and Delroy Danvers and with Colin Wallace, Rick Hussey and fifteen year-olds Tony Kissoon and Martin Hook joining them the following season. Other players involved in the first few years were Daryl Nichol and Dave Altomstone, who would both go on to play for Lockleaze A and B, and John and Richard Stevens.
The KBI coach - the late, great Robbie Henderson – brought them all together when he had a plan to start a KBI youth team and he coached them, along with Mark Buchaly, Sue and Brian Aplin and Allan Skuse on Saturday mornings at Easton Leisure Centre. They trained together for a whole season, before entering the 2nd division as Celtics when Robbie told them that, sadly, he couldn’t get the funding to enter them as KBI Juniors. They coached themselves in their first season, and then Paul Wake took over as a non-playing coach for the 83-84 season and in those first two seasons they won more games than they lost and finished mid-table in the 2nd division.
I first met up with some of the group when they took part in the KBI open runs at Brislington School in the early 80s off-seasons. In the spring of 84 Mark Buchaly asked me to go along and run some coaching sessions for them at Lockleaze School after Paul Wake had left. When I went along to that first training night I had no idea or plan to leave the most consistently successful club in Webba to start a new one. It only took me one or two sessions, though, to realise that these players were the real deal and that coaching them and running with them was a lot more fun than we had at KBI.
I started thinking that it was easy to win titles at KBI – back then any player could join them and do that year after year - and maybe I should leave that comfort zone and do something new. How about trying to channel this impressive young talent from mid-table of the 2nd division to the top of the first? That would really be something else. Mark enjoyed those summer sessions, too, but he wasn’t convinced at first to give up what we had and join me in playing for them. After a little persuading, though, he agreed to give it a shot.
I put my idea to the players and they agreed to give me a try as player-coach. I suggested a fresh start and as we had a number of ex-Lockleaze pupils playing for us and I was teaching there, I floated the idea that we call ourselves Lockleaze Basketball Club and it was unanimously accepted. The school also had a good evening activities set-up where we knew we could coach juniors and encourage them to aspire to play for us. In return we got cheaper court hire and good crowds for our home games.
We started in the first division in September 1984 and gave the top two teams, KBI and 29ers, a fright by pushing them very close in the league and cup. We ended up finishing third in the league, with 29ers first and KBI second, while KBI won the cup yet again. What we had firmly established in our first season, though, was a confidence and belief that we had what it takes, in every department, to beat the best in the west.
That was proved beyond doubt in the next two seasons. We secured a sponsorship from a new night club in Stokes Croft and repaid the investment by winning the first division title in 85/86 as Tropic Club and then going one better in 86/87 by winning the double under the same name. We had reached the top in local basketball and were more than holding our own in the Southern League and the Founders’ Cup, reaching the quarter-finals, where we lost by a small margin to England Police in Manchester in January 1989.
Our success attracted players from other clubs – Colin Lawrence joined us from Empees in our second or third season, for example – and a lot of young players from my school and others in North Bristol and it was clear that we would soon have to enter another team. Lockleaze B first ran out in Webba in 87/88 and won The Plate in their first ever season and went on to repeat that feat in 92 (when they did the 3rd division and Plate double), 93, 96 and 98. This record makes them the most successful team in Webba in the Plate competition, even before Lockleaze Old Boys put the Lockleaze name on The Plate for the sixth time by winning it in 2014.
Lockleaze A went on to win the cup again in 90 and the first division again in 89, 92, 93 and 96, going undefeated in the league in one of those seasons. Our style of play continued to attract players from other clubs, including from old rivals KBI with Carlton Watson-Williams and Dave Fisher joining us in 91 for that title-winning campaign. We even had Kevin Alderton from arch-rivals Cotham 29ers join us for one season. Equally, players have left and taken a bit of the Lockleaze spirit to their new clubs; Chris Staddon, Martin Hook and Rick Hussey for example, to help make Empees the club it is today.
This Century Lockleaze Renegades put the name back on the first division trophy in 2012 – after a gap for the club of fifteen years without winning it – while Old Boys won the third division title and the Fair Play award in 2012 and the third division and Plate double in 2014.
It took me sixteen years of doing everything my way to realise that it would be better for the development of the club if I passed on some of the jobs to others. Gordon was first to offer his services as secretary in 2000 and he still serves admirably as secretary now. I offered Tony the A team coaching role for the 96/97 title-winning season when he was sidelined through injury and, with a couple of breaks, he’s still coaching now. Gil also served as vice-chair from 2000, as treasurer from 2001 and A team coach from 2004, before Tony took over as coach again in 2005. Over the years Chris Veira and Mike Bailey have served us well as vice-chair and chair for many years and still hold those roles now, Jason Hargreaves vice-chaired and Rich Chambers has served as assistant coach and he continues to do the thankless job of treasurer.
The following have all done more than their bit in fulfilling refereeing commitments for the club over the years; Tony, Gil, Ehjaz, Ian Blundell, Mark Buchaly and me, while Andy Broughton and Danny James take on almost all of our commitments now. Gil was always ready to table A team home games when he played for the B team – often assisted by Jamie (and others) – and Lefty and I tabled every B team home game at Lockleaze and Lefty, of course, is still the top man on the table now!
It’s impressive that four players from that first ever LBC team - Tony Kissoon, Chris Veira, Densil Williamson and me – are still playing regularly for Old Boys after thirty years. Mike Bailey, Gordon Shovlin, Ehjaz Khan, Gil Emery, Andy Harris and Jamie Lee have all played for 25+ years, while Lee Eleazar and Rich Chambers will start their 21st and 20th Lockleaze seasons respectively this year.
It’s not a bad record for thirty years existence, but with the current set-up and management of the club I feel confident that even better times lie ahead of us. Danny James has greatly extended our reach in the region through running coach education courses and through his establishment of Bristol Hawks junior and women’s sections, so that we now have more teams and active members (with an age range from early teens to sixty-plus) than at any time in our history. Add to that his and Tony’s roles in fundraising and getting sponsors to keep our subscriptions affordable for all.
Also there are more players than ever before going the extra mile behind the scenes to make it possible for us to keep on playing; Mike and Chris as chairman and vice-chair; Jermaine, Danny and Gordon as team secretaries; Azu and Jermaine, Danny and Rahquon as team treasurers; all of our coaches and assistant coaches (Danny, Jermaine, Lee and Kevin for Renegades, Danny for Mohawks, Tony, Densil and Mike for Old Boys); Andy, Ehjaz and Danny have refereed for us week in week out; Lefty and the Mohawks and Renegades table officials always turning up to score our games.
Here’s to the next thirty years!
P. Radford, 5.3.15.