Why basketball stars from across world flocked to Hastings – and what happened when they did

Action at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography
Action at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography

This was the seventh annual event to be held in the town and was opened the Mayor of Hastings Councilor O’Callaghan and representatives of Bowel Research UK one of the dedicated charities, who welcomed the teams to the town and wished them well during the tournament.

The objective of the tournament was to raise the profile of UK basketball by introducing high calibre teams into a competitive tournament and to promote the sport to new fans. In addition to raising funds and awareness for the charity partners Kidney Research UK and Bowel Research UK, after the organizer Eric Douglin received a kidney from his wife in 2010 and received lifesaving surgery after his bowel ruptured in 2021.

The ten competing teams were Hoop Goon, Kitsap Admirals & New York Court Kings of the USA, were joined by LABAS BC & Viesulas (Lithuania), Eastbourne Neptunes, Northamptonshire Titans, UK Police Basketball, Whitstable BC (England) & Sword Tokyo from Japan.

Players at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography
Players at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography

The teams were split into two groups of five with the top two teams in each group progressing to the ‘A’ Semi Finals and positions three and four progressing to the ‘B’ Semi Finals, and the 5th placed teams in each, playing a playoff final. The Groups were randomly selected as follows.

Group A: New York Court Kings, Whitstable BC, Sword Tokyo, LABAS BC, Eastbourne Neptunes.

Group B: Northamptonshire Titans, UK Police Basketball, Viesulas, Hoop Goon & Kitsap Admirals.

After an exciting and tense round of group matches in front a hall with packed spectators USA teams Kitsap Admirals & New York Court Kings progressed to the ‘A’ Semi Finals as group winners, with the best records from their respective group matches. They were joined by UK Police & Whitstable BC in the ‘A’ Semi Finals as runners up in their group, setting up USA v UK semifinals.

Action at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography
Action at the World Club Basketball Tournament | Picture by Web Photography

The ‘B’ Semi Finals for the 3rd & 4th placed teams in their Groups would be contested by Eastbourne Neptunes, Viesulas, LABAS BC & Northamptonshire Titans, all matches were to be played on Day 2 of the tournament.

Before the Day 2 action was underway, the New York Court Kings hosted a youth coaching session which was attended by over 60 local youngsters, who received the unique experience of being coached by overseas stars.

Then it was onto the action of the ‘B’ Semifinals, which saw the LABAS BC & Northamptonshire Titans play out and exciting semifinal with LABAS taking victory with a last-second basket to progress to the finals. Eastbourne Neptunes progressed to ‘B’ Final after their opponents had to unfortunately withdraw due to a number on injuries in their squad. This set up a LABAS v Eastbourne Hotshots final, with the Lithuanian team looking to gain revenge on their defeat in the group stage the Eastbourne side.

With the excitement of the day building and the crowd growing, the ‘A’ semi finals lived up to their billing and produced a couple of excellent matches. The first semi final saw the Kitsap Admirals, featuring And1 star Cardell Butler, face up against Whitstable BC, who were looking to become the first UK team to win a WCBT title since 2015.

The match was a tense battle between two experienced and excellent teams, with the teams trading baskets, until the final couple of minutes with Whitstable taking the match 45-37, and progress to the ‘A’ Final.

The second ‘A’ semi final produced one of the matches of the tournament as the New York Court Kings and the United Kingdom Police Team producing an epic battle, which had the crowd on their feet. Both teams traded baskets from the tip and could not be separated through the whole match. UK Police had a two-point lead with 3 seconds remaining of the match New York produced a fast break and dunk to send the game into 3 minutes of overtime.

The first period of overtime was once again a close affair and the teams could not be separated, and were tied at 38-38, resulting in a second period of overtime being required. It was difficult to see who was going to end up on top in this exciting encounter, but the team from New York came through with a last second dunk, to see them through to their 3rd WCBT final in 4 years.

The Eastbourne Neptunes team, who were using the tournament as preparation for their first season National Basketball League, and having already defeated the strong Whitstable side in the group stage once again proved too strong for a LABAS BC team which has lot a couple of players to injury. The match was a close and exciting encounter which was decided by a last second 3 point basket with the Neptunes taking the ‘B’ title 48-45

The last match of the day, the ‘A’ Final saw the two teams from Group A face up again, with the New York Court Kings looking to avenge their close and controversial earlier defeat to Whitstable BC. The first few minutes saw the teams exchange baskets, with both teams looking to claim their first WCBT title.

However, it was the tough defensive work of the English team, which saw them restrict the shooting of the Kings to a minimum, and Whitstable run out as comfortable winners 47-26, and become the first English team to take the WCBT title since its inception in 2015.

Event organiser and Bexhill Giants Chairman Eric Douglin said “I was overwhelmed at how well the tournament went and the standard of play the teams brought to the event. All of the teams were of the highest standard and I was privileged to have them take part in the event in the town. Every year the WCBT grows from strength to strength, and we are inundated with teams looking to take part and visit Hastings, binging tourism and exposure to the town.

"It’s also great that we can raise funds and awareness for Kidney Research UK & Bowel Research, and it was great to have representatives from both charities on hand to raise funds and awareness over the weekend.

“WCBT is now recongnised as one of the premier Pro Am international tournaments in Europe, with teams from countries including Japan, USA, Canada and Congo, but this would not be possible without our fantastic sponsors including Always Ballin, Lost Souls Apparel, Khalid’s Kitchen, Heatwave Print, Town Taxis, Salts Medical, Carib D’L Afrique, Barnaby’s Lounge, Kamileans Sports Therapy and Active Sussex.”