56-year-old Phil has loved basketball since school, where his passion for sport always saw him through his academic struggles.
After playing for local teams in his late teens, Phil went to Teesside Polytechnic (now the University of Middlesborough) aged 20, and began playing for the college team. This opportunity allowed him to develop and improve considerably, and in his first year he was selected to play in the British Polytechnics representative team, as well as playing for the local Middlesborough team.
Partway through his studies, Phil approached his college basketball coach, who was involved with the British Basketball League team, then based in Sunderland. Wanting to stay sharp for the following season, Phil asked to train with the professional players over the summer and found himself unexpectedly signed the following season. Phil played for Sunderland for five seasons before transferring to Worthing for two further seasons. He then retired from basketball at age 30.
“There comes a time in professional sport when you have become too fat, too old, too slow and I just happened to be all three at the same time! At that point, I went back to college to do a Master's and really started my “proper” career. After getting married and having children, I barely picked up a ball for 25 years.”
Back in the game
In 2021, Basketball England began reaching out to ex-internationals and former British Basketball and National League players, to attract players with an interest in joining age group teams to play in the World and European Championships as part of the GB Maxibasketball programme. Phil attended the open tryouts and was accepted onto the programme, which continued to run throughout COVID.
“We were assigned elite athlete status in the pandemic, which allowed us to train when other sports teams weren't allowed to. Suddenly I was training and practising for hours at a time and of course - after not playing for 25 years - I immediately got injured.
In April and May 2022 I went through a fairly arduous journey in terms of fitness, suffering injury after injury. Some guys in the team for the World Championships in Argentina have been playing all through their 30s, 40s and 50s, whereas I haven’t and I really didn’t appreciate how difficult it was going to be!”