A Ripley-based club is looking to position itself to become a major force in the region as it seeks to bring national league basketball to Amber Valley.
The Amber Valley Spartans started up as a post-Olympic England Basketball scheme designed to get people playing or back playing the sport.
Club chairman Martin Simpson was one the original six participants who decided to push the club, originally named Ripley Ravens, forward once funding was pulled.
Now, after a lot of hard work and engagement with the Amber Valley community, the club is looking forward and has big aims.
Martin said: “The club’s aim for the Autumn of 2016 is to enter a team in to either the National League Division Four, or the Founders Cup.
“Both of which are Basketball England National Competitions.
“That would sit us alongside Derby Trailblazers and Nottingham Hoods representing the region.
“It would be a great achievement for all the players, coaches and volunteers involved.”
In the wake of the London Olympics, the self-funded sessions ended in April 2013 but it was at this point that the club ramped up its presence on social media to highlight the club to the local community.
Martin says: “We turned to social media to try and generate interest to get more people to our sessions.
“This was to great success and membership quickly grew to 15-18 regular players.
“At this point the founding members decided to constitute the club formally as Ripley Ravens Basketball club.
“The club was founded on the ethos (and still is to this day) of providing opportunity to everyone, no matter their age or experience, whatever their aims; casual or competition, with a place to play.
“An ethos that is the key to our success.”
The team continued to grow and eventually decided to join the Sherwood Basketball League, a league that has been running for over six decades.
The club experienced a rocky patch during its maiden term but managed to recruit the services of Mark Woodhouse as head coach, initially through express coaching.
Martin says Woodhouse “radically improved the club’s performances.
“The club finished last in Division Two, however the season was seen as a success.
“As the season ended, the club reached agreement that Mark would continue to coach the club directly, rather than through express coaching.”
Fast forward to the 2014/15 season and the club experienced serious growth, with membership around 50 players.
The club were then running more sessions and were attracting players from further afield so it was decided to alter the club’s name to Amber Valley Spartans to reflect the club’s growth in the wider region.
Now the club is aiming high and this started with the formation of a new team to enter Division One of the Sherwood League alongside the Division Two team.
Coach Woodhouse heavily recruited using his contacts and today’s Spartans’ first team comprises of a string of players with National League experience.
Martin says the future for the club is bright.
He added: “The club is well and truly on track to bring National League Basketball to Amber Valley.”
The team finishes pre-season on Thursday, September 17 at 8pm against National League Competition for the first time. They travel to face Nottingham Hoods II at Nottingham Wildcats Arena.
The club then starts its league campaign on Saturday, September 26 against Rolls-Royce Raptors.
• The club can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/ambervalleyspartans, with training sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays.
For more, visit ambervalleyspartans.com.