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Basketball star Kalil Irving making rapid progress for Worcester Wolves and England
TO say Kalil Irving has made an impact since joining Worcester Wolves would be an understatement.
In the space of just six months, the 20-year-old has gone from being a relative unknown in the sport to a British Basketball League regular and England international.
Yet although the Canterbury-born player had been on the books at Medway Park Crusaders in the English Basketball League Division One last season, there was nothing to suggest he was about to take the step up in his stride.
For after enrolling on a three-year marketing degree at the University of Worcester last September, Irving had to badger head coach Paul James for a chance to prove himself.
“I sent him e-mails and tried calling him but I didn’t really get much of a response so I practically just turned up at the court. I basically asked if I could play,” the forward said.
“I didn’t really think I was going to play, I was just here for the ride and was happy to play university basketball and scrape minutes in the BBL.
“Now I am playing some decent minutes in the BBL and for the university team as well so I am really happy.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams.
“I thought I was just going to come here, ghost my three years and then be out.”
His performances earned him a call up by England, also coached by Wolves chief James, for their match against Ireland last month.
But such has been his rapid rise, Irving thought it was a wind-up.
“I was just on the internet and saw the England squad and I was just being nosy wondering who made the squad and I saw my name on it,” he said.
“I was baffled because the coach hadn’t told me so I didn’t believe it until I heard from his mouth that I made it.
“I just started to laugh, I thought it was a joke. When I realised I made the final 12 I still thought it was a joke until I got the papers to confirm it.”
James admits he knew a little about Irving from fellow coaches but did not expect him to excel as he has.
“He’s totally surprised me,” the Worcester director of basketball said. “He’s done fantastically for us and been rewarded with way more court time than I think he even expected.”
James added: “The fact he’s handled himself well at BBL level meant he should have an opportunity to play with the England team as well and give him that international experience.
“It’s something that he appreciated and realised that if he keeps working hard and applying his trade he can go on to have a very good future.”