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That pioneering spirit's court on

PUBLISHED: 13:58 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:33 24 August 2010

London Pioneers under-14s

London Pioneers under-14s

By Ben Kosky A JUNIOR team from Paddington are just two games away from winning a prestigious national trophy at the end of their debut season. London Pioneers, who were only established last summer, have reached the RAF under-14 Final Fours and will lock

By Ben Kosky

A JUNIOR team from Paddington are just two games away from winning a prestigious national trophy at the end of their debut season.

London Pioneers, who were only established last summer, have reached the RAF under-14 Final Fours and will lock horns with Manchester Magic this Sunday at Wolverhampton.

If the Pioneers win, they will battle either Newham All-Star Sports Academy or Leeds Tigers for the national title - but just reaching finals day represents an impressive achievement in itself.

James Markham, one of the three coaches who defected from Westminster Warriors to launch the Pioneers at Torquay Street, Paddington, last year, is well aware that his boys face stiff competition.

"Manchester have arguably the best junior programme across all age groups in the country," said Markham. "We can expect them to be a well-coached team with talented players.

"This is a prestigious event - to be there says you're one of the top four teams in your age group. But obviously we're going there with the intention of winning.

"We wanted to do things slightly differently and took the opportunity to start a new club and we're quite happy with the progress we've made in our first year.

"The boys come from all backgrounds, they all work hard and they all love basketball - and we've been given a tremendous amount of support from the parents as well."

Since the start of the season, numbers have almost trebled at the Pioneers' development sessions, which are held at St Augustine's School, Maida Vale (under-12s) and Quintin Kynaston School, St John's Wood (over-12s).

Markham has led Westminster - who included current Pioneers under-14 player Bennett Grigull - to finals day before, but has yet to get his hands on the top prize.

He and fellow coaches Che Porteous and Anthony Lazare look after two Pioneers teams at national league level - the other being the under-16s, who missed out on Wolverhampton by losing their quarter-final to Manchester.

The under-14s, meanwhile, booked their place in the final fours by knocking out Ipswich Tomcats, Plymouth Majon Cannons and Newham Youngbloods after qualifying through their league campaign.

The RAF, who have sponsored the tournament for the last 10 years, provide all the national champions with a new kit in their club colours, as well as a winners' trophy.

For more information about Pioneers development sessions (Wednesday and Thursday, 4.30-6pm for under-12s and Saturday, 9.45-11.45am for over-12s), visit www.londonpioneers.com


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