Tag: #JMA Academy

JMA Rockets enjoy Erasmus trip to Spain

The John Madejski Basketball Academy with Reading Rockets took 22 players to Spain, visiting three of their beautiful cities in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona.

The group departed from JMA at 2.30am in order to fly from London Luton airport at 6.30am – nice and early, or in most cases no sleep! A relatively smooth flight arrived in Madrid at around 9am local time and the group then started what seemed like an episode of Top Gear in their three 9-seater vehicles driven by Messrs Johnson (Clarkson), Benlloch (Hammond) and Fisher (May). The group was also accompanied by JMA and Rockets Division 1 Men’s Head Coach Alan Keane, as well as JMA’s Rebecca Anderson.

First stop for the party of 27 was to their accommodation at Aristos, the home club of former Rockets Coach Raul Lozano, where they would stay for four nights. After a short rest, the team travelled to Fuenlabrada to watch their ACB practice and have a Q&A session with GB Captain Dan Clark and Assistant Coach of Fuenlabrada Anna Montañana who also coached one of the JMA Rockets players Paula Romero Tarrega when she was younger.

Tuesday saw the group take a tour of the centre of Madrid with a familiar guide in former JMA Rockets player Iñigo Perez Baena. Later that day both boys and girls teams would play Tres Cantos, the home of both Iñi and Fidel Gomez who also had two years in Reading. Both teams played the club senior teams and were defeated with lots of learning occurring just 48 hours into the trip.

Wednesday morning was a time to reflect on the first two days, catch up on some rest, and for the players to meet with their coaches individually to discuss what they would be looking to gain from such an impressive trip. Both girls and boys teams then played Estudiantes that evening with the girls recording their first win coming from behind to take victory whilst the boys fell against a very impressive Under 18 outfit.

The following day and it was a trip to the NBA offices in Madrid to meet Alex Sarama. A most interesting presentation from a man that started coaching in Surrey and made the transition all the way to work in the biggest basketball association in the world. Later that day, the group visited the University in Madrid to meet the current GB Women’s Head Coach and Sports Psychology lecturer Chema Buceta. A fascinating insight was given to the players on all things surrounding the mental part of being an elite performer from self-talk, to confidence, to mindset and the like. An action packed day ended with a trip to the Wizink Centre to watch Real Madrid take on Buducnost in the Euroleague with the home team running out convincing winners 89-55.
Friday saw the end of the group’s time in Madrid and the three vehicles headed towards Blai Benlloch’s home town of Valencia. On arrival, the group was privileged to have a discussion with ex-WNBA player and Spanish star Marina Ferragut who is one of the most capped players in Spanish history.

The weekend started with a strength and conditioning session for the players followed by a very interactive physio session with Alvaro Gil. The players learnt how to tape themselves and each other in a really beneficial two hours. Later that day it was then time to visit another ex-JMA Rocket in former academy head coach Pedro Garcia Rosado. Now the head coach of women’s division two outfit Picken Claret in Spain, his team secured an 11-point victory.

Both teams were back on court practising on Sunday, getting ready for their upcoming games in the second week of the trip before watching Valencia v Fuenlabrada (the team they had previously seen train) in the ACB. Valencia Head Coach Jaume Ponsarnau visited Reading for three months about two years ago and it was his team that secured victory on the day 86-67 in another great spectacle for the tourists.

The start of the second week of the trip commenced with another S&C session and practices for both teams before an absolutely wonderful afternoon spent at Blai’s “summer house” where his mum and dad put on the most glorious spread of food including the traditional paella which was magnificent! Some fun then with Blai’s dog, Rudy and Gasol, as well as a trip in the swimming pool for some of our braver students ended what was a much-needed relaxed and fun time together.

Tuesday saw another action packed day with a trip to Valencia city centre in the morning followed by watching the Valencia Basket Women’s team train at their brand new and incredible training facilities at L’Alqueria del Basket. The girls’ team returned to the venue later in the day to claim a great victory over their Under 18 girls team whilst the boys suffered an agonising two point loss as Ben Fisher took the helm with Alan Keane returning to England on Division One Men’s duty.

The next day, the group was back at the Valencia headquarters for a talk with the Valencia Community Manager on all things social media. A very informative talk looked into the detail of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and how to use all the social media platforms effectively. After some familiar study time for the group it was game time for the boys as they fell to a very impressive Valencia Under 18 team.

Thursday came along and after a visit to the Valencia ACB team practice and some memorable time with Jaume, the three vans once again hit the road to Barcelona. A much more peaceful drive ended with a drop off at the hotel before heading to the Camp Nou complex to watch another Euroleague game, Barcelona v Maccabi Tel Aviv where the players and staff would be court-side for pictures with the players before the game. In what was an incredible atmosphere, Barcelona came out convincing winners taking a 74-58 win.

Friday, and it was back to Camp Nou for a tour of one of the most impressive football grounds in the world and the museum that accompanies the most impressive of architecture. After a great time there, both teams prepared for their final games against Joventud Badalona. In a shortened game, the girls secured another victory and the boys won their first game of the trip with an impressive 75-70 win on the club’s ACB court.

The penultimate day of the tour was a time to really enjoy the city of Barcelona and meet up with one of Rockets’ finest products – Matthew Marsh. The group travelled to L’Hospitalet to watch Marshy’s Under 18 team record a double digit victory with the 6’11 centre having two big dunks in the game much to the excitement of the supporting boys! Marshy then joined everyone for dinner at Barcelona’s NBA Cafe as the final evening of the trip came to a close.   The group returned to England the following morning and arrived back to JMA around 3pm after an incredible two weeks of highs, lows, learning, and enjoyment.

Thank you so much to Erasmus, the White Horse Foundation, the John Madejski Academy, and Reading Rockets for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable!

JMA Rockets Teenager Makes History with FC Barcelona Move

A 15-year-old basketball prodigy, trained and supported by Reading Rockets throughout 2018, has become the first British player to sign for FC Barcelona Basketball Club.

Matthew Marsh, who originally hails from Penryn in Cornwall, moved to Reading in early 2018 to attend the Rockets basketball programme based at John Madejski Academy.

From a small town with a population of just 7,000, Matthew’s basketball team was enthusiastic but without the infrastructure for someone of his stature – literally!

At 6ft10, Matthew’s active lifestyle, ambition and potential required a shift change. Conversations between his parents, Angela and Tim, his club and JMA Director of Basketball Matt Johnson, Matthew opted to move five hours into the country to Reading, where he has thrived.

In 2018 alone, the youngster has been fully supported by Academy staff, living away from home, training every day and playing at the highest level possible for his age group – the Elite Academies Basketball League (EABL).

Having the benefit of training with other international players, Matthew was recently selected for the Great Britain U16 squad, with whom he will compete in the European Championships this summer.

It was then that the call came from FC Barcelona, who offered the rising star a two-year scholarship, which begins in September. It caps a fantastic year for Matthew, who has recently concluded his GCSEs, and JMA Rockets, who have demonstrated its credentials as the go-to centre of excellence for aspirational young basketball players.

JMA Rockets Director of Basketball Matt Johnson commented: “It is a momentous occasion for Matthew and his family, as well as an incredibly proud moment for our school and club. These opportunities don’t arise often but Matthew absolutely deserves it; he is a great athlete, an excellent student and a well-mannered young man. The coaches and support he has received while at JMA Rockets has been of the highest level, and he has thrived in this environment. I have no doubts he will make the most of this opportunity.”

Rockets Head Coach Alan Keane added: “Matthew has worked hard at the academy this season. Although he is still new to the sport, he has put in the hours to get his body in great shape, and he will relish the chance to be in one of the best performance environments in the world. We look forward to following his progress very closely and wish him all the best for this wonderful opportunity.”

Matthew Marsh said: “I am delighted to be going to Barcelona to continue to develop my basketball career following an enjoyable and successful year with the Rockets and JMA where the support from coaches and staff has enabled me to pursue my dream career for which I am really grateful.”

JMA Rockets Academy appoints new Head Coach




Alan Keane named as Head Coach of the Rockets Academy at JMA in Reading.

After his initial year working with the club and Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces the time was right for Coach Keane to take over from Pedro Rosado at the Club’s EABL Academy in Reading as Rosado seeks to develop his career overseas.

Academy Director Matt Johnson said: “It is an exciting time for our sport and our club. 3 Years ago Pedro started to develop the role of expanding the programme at JMA by building a 6th form High Performance programme for young Men and Women from across UK and Europe.

Within those 3 years we have moved up in the EABL rankings, developed a programme that is now producing high level student athletes, and is well linked across Europe and the USA.

The work done over these 3 years within the school has laid a very good foundation for us to now take the next step on the performance ladder and Coach Keane will certainly do a very good job in helping the Academy grow up even more. “

Johnson continues “Working with Alan is always a challenge, and something I have always personally embraced. He is a critical thinker, is dedicated to his craft as a High Performance Coach and is always ready to listen to new methodology and ideas. Alan’s academic background and current PhD study is a reflection of the way he constantly wants to improve himself and others around him and I am excited to see the way we can develop our programme to become the very best environment for learning it can be.”

 Coach Keane has always embraced the role as National Team Head Coach.

Coach Keane said about the new opportunity:

“Taking on any new role in basketball is always exciting. However working with JMA Academy raises my level of enthusiasm even higher. I have always felt that Coaching in the EABL must be very rewarding when you consider the structure of the league and the calibre of athletes and Coaches involved.

I am already aware of the professionalism and Elite provisions in place at JMA Basketball Academy and Reading Rockets having coached with the Rockets this past season. I know how forward thinking the club and school are and that excites me most when I consider what I can bring to the programme.”

Chairman Gary Johnson added: “We are incredibly pleased with Pedro and the work he has done here. We wish him all the best in his next steps as a young and impressive Coach. Alan will be a fantastic addition to the programme in many areas and we look forward to starting the journey together.”