Basketball has consistently struggled to find it’s footing amongst the major sports in the UK.
With football, rugby, cricket and even Formula One dominating the metaphorical space present, there is little room for Basketball to squeeze in.
Enter Amelia Sandie, an 18 year-old basketball player with the world at her feet.
Sandie, a Brighton native, has been attached to the sport ever since she started playing for her local club, Brighton Cougars. Since first stepping onto the court, Amelia has risen to a point by which she has represented England on multiple occasions.
The rising star is now playing her basketball at Nicholls State University in the United States. A Division One women’s basketball college, Sandie is playing with, and competing against, the best of the best.
Sandie described her journey into the sport:
“I grew up in Brighton, where I was born and raised and my dad is actually from Australia.
“So he played semi-professional basketball in Australia and was actually a really successful basketball agent. So he had players in the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) for the Australian national team so he was really into basketball.
“I think when I was eight, my dad took me down to a Brighton Cougars session. So I was in Brighton Cougars and I really enjoyed it.
“I was really bad! But I really enjoyed it.
“I was there until I was 15 and all through that time I did like (played for) Sussex, South-East and I played for England when I was 14.”
Trying to make it to the very top of your sport comes with sacrifice. Take footballer Lionel Messi, who moved from his home country, Argentina, to Spain at the age of 13. All to play for European Giants Barcelona.
Although her experience in relocating does not quite compare to Messi’s in terms of geographical distance, the sheer ability to move away from home at a young age warrants admiration.
Sadie explained her decision to relocate:
“At 16 I made the decision to actually leave home.
“My mum’s side of the family is from London.
“I stayed with a host family, a family friend and then my grandparents and went to a basketball academy called City of London Academy.
“I did my two years there and was playing for GB (Great Britain).
“I got a Division One scholarship, so now I’m in Louisiana.”
However, it has not been smooth-sailing for the young prodigy. A number of injuries have made progression tough:
“I injured my knee, I tore my ACL, which is a pretty big injury.
“It was a while ago. I was battling with some knee injuries even before that, I like semi-dislocated my knee.
“I’m almost out of the woods. But obviously it’s a hard injury to get out of.”
The contrast between US and UK sport is stark, and Amelia has experienced both sides of the pond. You only need to watch one college basketball game to understand the impact results have on a community. The only real comparison remains the fan to club connection amongst teams in the lower divisions of UK football.
But that is precisely the point: university sport in the UK cannot compare to university sport in the US, in terms of coverage, support and lifestyle. College sport in the US, especially basketball and American football. For example, the last Major League Soccer Cup Final had a viewership of 1.071 million, whereas the March Madness game between Gonzaga and UCLA peaked at 18.8 million viewers. This is just one of many examples of the levels of disparity between university sport in the US and the UK.
Amelia described the range of support present at her college basketball games:
“It’s kind of with any sport in the US. It’s a lifestyle!
“College is their life.
“They’re some elderly people who come to our games. It’s not like they have a grandchild here, they just genuinely love this school.
“The whole centre of sport is in America because they put so much money into it and it’s so well broadcast.
“It’s so easy for me to watch a US college game.
“But the WBBL, which is the professional league in the UK, there’ll be one or two livestreams. But it’s not like every game is getting livestreamed and put out.
“I guess (the role of) accessibility and money is a massive thing.”
Despite her major injury, Sadie was upbeat about her future aspirations. Displaying the hustle renowned amongst basketball players, she discussed her aspirations for college and her professional career:
“I think if you’d asked me this a year ago, before I tore my ACL, my answer would be different.
“Right now, I want to have a great college career. I want to have a really great college career.
“If the opportunity came up for me to play for someone professional, and it was the right fit for me and what I want to do with my life, then of course I would consider it
“But since tearing my ACL, I think basketball has become something that I definitely want to pursue. But also, I need to listen to my body, because I’ve only got two knees and one of them is already a little bit… I wouldn’t say bad, but it’s not 100%.
“So I think, just having a great college career, getting my education , getting my degree.”
There are clearly a number of figures that have helped Amelia to get to this point and achieve the goals she set out for herself. Her parents, like most parents, are her number one supporters. Growing up in Brighton and London has also enabled her to meet other influential figures that have had a major positive impact within her life. Her coaches, both in Brighton and London, have provided a monumental amount of support and motivation in getting Amelia to where she is today.
“Obviously my mum and my dad, like my mum and dad are, you know amazing. My mum’s my best friend. My dad and I are really close, he obviously introduced me to basketball.
“Definitely one of the biggest people, is Nick Stevens.
“He was my coach when I was under 16’s and he believed in me so much. He believed in me more than I believed I myself!
“He used to call me superstar! I was like, ‘please don’t call me that!’”
He believed in me so much and used to push me so much. You know he got me playing against the boys which at the time I hated.
“But in hindsight, the boys weren’t men out here. It was a stage where it was good for me to play against the boys. They were obviously bigger and stronger but it wasn’t like they were going to break my bones.
“He believed in me so much and when I said, you know, ‘I’m going to leave Cougars, I’m going to go to City of London,’ he was so supportive of it. It was never ‘oh you should stay.’
“Two of the most recent people are actually my coaches at City of London Academy. Jackson Gibbons and Brian Nguru. They really did help raise me, of course through basketball, but you learn so many life skills through basketball and they taught me so much.”
It remains to be seen as to how Amelia’s career within basketball will pan out. Her ability to overcome her setbacks will be a clear hallmark in her resulting achievements in the years to come. We have a potential superstar within our midst, who is looking to take the world by storm.