In just their second season in the league, the Chiswick Gators are a club rapidly rising on the CBL horizon.
With competitive teams in both the U12 and U16 divisions, the Gators have quickly found their feet and are turning heads throughout the league with their disciplined intensity on court and their stylish presentation off the court. As a relatively new club, the Gators have already surpassed many other grassroots outfits with their slick website (https://www.chiswickgators.com) and strong social media presence (they may also take the crown for perhaps the ‘freshest’ uniforms in the league!).
We caught up with Gators founder and head coach Mike Kwentoh after a recent run-away win over the Harrow Blackhawks at the U16 level, to learn more about the magic that seems to be paying off over in West London:
CBL: Another great win for the Gators, coach (90-26)! What were the keys to your victory?
Coach Kwentoh: Thanks for your kind words and recognition. The boys have really been working hard and putting the effort in so I’m glad they were able to experience the benefits that hard work and dedication bring. The key to this win in particular was all about our defense. I wanted the boys to extend the defensive pressure and be able to understand how to pressure the ball and make things uncomfortable for the offense, which led to a number of transition baskets for us.
CBL: 90 points is a huge score for regular CBL games and set a team scoring record for the U16 division!
Coach Kwentoh: We didn’t even realise the score until the end of the game as I try to get the boys to focus on each play and not worry about the scoreboard. I must admit I was surprised to see 90 points on the board, but it’s a good reflection of how hard the boys worked throughout the game. I had no idea it was a division record.
CBL: Looking at how far you guys have come from last year, the progress you’ve made is remarkable. You must be proud?
Coach Kwentoh: I’m always proud of our boys. They have been through a lot over the last 2 seasons, and the result on Sunday was a result of them mainly now understanding what to do in game situations and how to play the right way. What I loved most about that game was in the changing room afterwards, the boys spoke to the other team to encourage them and said to them that last year we where rubbish and were being beat heavily by other teams, so they shouldn’t quit and they should all focus and work hard because the hard work really does pay off. I couldn’t believe it when I went in and heard my guys talking and saying they know how the other team feels and giving them such good advice. I’d say that was one of my proudest moments so far with the Gators.
CBL: You are deservedly enjoying some success this season, but it sounds as if the road to this point has not been easy?
Mike Kwentoh: The journey for us has been a hard one. We lost a lot of people along the way who have dropped out for one reason or another, but the true ones who really brought in to what we are building with the Gators remained and worked their socks off to be where they are. They are the ones who have improved dramatically and the ones you saw on show today.
CBL: What have been the keys to your progress from last season to this season?
Coach Kwentoh:The key to our progress is never giving up – it’s that simple. When we came into the league I told them it’s not a race but a marathon. There will be bumps in the road along the way, but I alway say if you don’t learn anything from your defeats you will never learn how to get better.
CBL: What are your goals for the Gators for the remainder of the season and going into the playoffs?
Coach Kwentoh: My goals for the Gators are to hopefully progress thorough the playoffs and to the finals, just as I’m sure all the other teams are hoping. The difference for me is that this group of players deserve to experience that. They really have put in the work and done all I’ve asked of them. If you saw them last season you’d never think that they would last it out to get to this point. I mean these boys had to go through a lot, putting up with me isn’t always easy as I do stretch them and push them towards understanding how good they can be with some focus and effort. I’ve also had amazing help and support from their parents who I fully respect and appreciate. We don’t get to this point without the parents and I can’t thank them enough.
CBL: Are there any players in particular who have stood out for you this season?
Coach Kwentoh: Milo is “the rock” of this team on and off the court, I really mean that. Milo is our on court leader and brings the team together and had done since day 1. His team mates respect him and all listen to and follow him. He’s been a huge help to me both on and off the court. Off the court, he handles all of our Instagram pics feeds and helps me on weekends with handing out flyers in the shopping centers and parks to promote our club. His mum has been wonderful too and been so supportive of all we are doing and trying to build. I can’t say enough about them both.
Elias, our point guard, has been through it all too. He’s tough and resilient and his commitment to the Gators has really given us great continuity in getting to this point. He’s a big part of our success.
Ali has got a heart of a lion and punches above his weight every day in practise and in all of our games. He just doesn’t quit and never gives up or goes home. It adds toughness to our group and has definitely made us stronger as a team.
Last but by no means least, Erkin and Harry both of whom I can say have come a very long way and progressed beyond all expectations by persevering through all of the practises and challenges along the way. They are both critical pieces to our team and I’m proud to have them represent the Gators.
CBL: What message do you want to send out to anyone who may be interested in joining or finding out more about the Gators?
Coach Kwentoh: If your between 6-16 and enjoy playing basketball or you just like any team sport. Then get in contact with us via our website www.chiswickgators.com or email us at Chiswick.firstname.lastname@example.org. All our details can also be found online or via social media twitter Facebook and Instagram. We are always on the lookout for new members to our club and look forward to welcoming you to our ‘Gator Family’.