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Worcester students targeting historic third national basketball title
WORCESTER basketball players have a historic third successive British Universities and Colleges Sport title in their sights this weekend.
The team from the University of Worcester head to Leeds today aiming to defend the crown they have won in each of the past two years.
After qualifying for the quarter-finals by finishing third in the Premier North division, Worcester are up against Brunel in the last eight ahead of a possible semi-final meeting with Durham tomorrow.
Made up predominantly of Worcester Wolves’ British Basketball League first team squad – Sherrad Prezzie-Blue, Carlos Fernandez, Arnas Kazlauskas, Stan Ocitti, Kalil Irving and Harry Turner all study at the university – they are hopeful of making it a hat-trick of victories.
Coach Paul James, who has also masterminded Wolves’ rise to third in the BBL, said: “We’ve won the championship in both of the last two years and six out of the last nine so we’re going for a third in a row.
“We have prepared well and are going to go up there to give it everything we’ve got. It’s a huge weekend for the university and we are really looking forward to it.”
Should Worcester reach the final, it would be next Wednesday against either Loughborough, Glasgow, London South Bank or hosts Leeds Metropolitan.
Although the BBL campaign is building towards its climax, James says there is no conflict of interests for the players as they are part of the university’s highly successful basketball programme.
He said: “The players who are doing both understand the relationship between the university and the Wolves and the importance of these championships.
“That’s the beauty of it all, they don’t see it as a minor tournament, they see it as a big tournament. That’s why we’re going there with the right attitude to try to win it.
“To win it for the third year in a row would be a fantastic achievement. We will be going at it hammer and tongs to try to do that.”
Fernandez added: “The university is supporting this team with sponsorship and giving scholarships to players to come here and study so we owe something to the university.
“We all want to demonstrate that the University of Worcester is the top basketball programme in England.”
He continued: “I think we can do it but we have to understand that it’s not easy just because we won it last year. It’s going to be tough, everybody wants to beat the University of Worcester because we have been winning the BUCS.”