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Q&A with US-bound Jade Mbam

  Friday, June 12, 2020

Jade Mbam is one of Manchester’s rising basketball stars. The Wythenshawe teenager is a Great Britain U16 and U18 international who has represented Manchester Mystics at WBBL and National League level following her move from Tameside in 2016. Now the 18-year-old guard is off the USA to pursue her basketball career with Angelo State University.

We caught up with her to find out more...

It’s been a rollercoaster three months for you. First, the basketball season ended prematurely, then your school year came to a close. Shortly after that, your proposed move to University of California Riverside fell through following a change of coach. How have you coped?

Everything was going well. Then, one by one, my targets disappeared. It was tough, but I had to remind myself I still had goals. De-committing from UC Riverside, especially so late, was probably the hardest to deal with. I had to focus on finding a new college. There were a lot of phone calls. But I kept going to a court to work out with my mum. I tried to stay motivated.

You’ve had a lot to deal with. What have you learned about yourself?

I used to hate it if I felt negative or down. But now I realise it’s okay to feel this way. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s hard to stay positive all the time. I’ve also had time to think about things. For the last four years, my focus has been on basketball and studying. I’ve had tunnel vision and there wasn’t time for much else. But because of the lockdown and because school has finished, I’ve been able to try new things. I like to bake and I like to paint. I’ve been decorating the house.

You’ve also been involved in the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Tell me about that?

I’ve spent a lot of energy educating myself. Reading, watching things. I also went on the protest march in Manchester. There was a bit of a backlash because of concerns about social distancing, but it was something I wanted to do and we took all the precautions we could.

You mentioned UC Riverside… the change of coach meant you had to re-think your plans for the US. What was going through your mind?

When the recruitment process started, I wanted to go to a Division 1 college. That was my goal. Then I had to re-commit and my focus changed. It had been all about the level, to go D1. But when I really thought about it, my views changed. I want to go to America to become a better player, to win games and to win a championship. I stopped thinking about the level and focused on getting the right fit for me. I was worried I might not find the right college, but it worked out.

So you chose Angelo State, a D2 university in Texas?

The coach swayed me in the first minute. He spoke to me like a human, not simply as a recruit. We shared some of the same opinions on social issues, too. Angelo State’s basketball programme is really good. They won a conference title a few years back and their facilities are really good. They are rebuilding and have a lot of incoming freshmen. That appealed to me, too. I want to be part of that. I want to be able to compete for a spot straight away. I had other options, but I’m really pleased to be going to Angelo State. My goals and the team’s goals align.

What’s your advice to players looking to navigate the recruitment process?

Don’t take things personally. It is a business and you need to understand that. Coaches do get fired if they have a bad season, so you can end up just being a number on a board. It’s hard at times and it can be draining. You may be tempted to settle for any offer that comes your way, but do what’s right for you, not what other people think is right for you. Find a college that suits you and a team that shares the same goals as you. And go where you are wanted. That’s a big, big, big thing.

What’s your top tip for other aspiring players in Manchester?

Be true to yourself. My goal was always to work hard to be a better player. I didn’t work hard to be on the Great Britain team. I focused on how I could improve as a player first and foremost. If you do that, hopefully the recognition comes. It’s also important to look after your academics. You don’t have to be an A-grade student, but you have to put as much energy into the classroom as you do on court. That’s what coaches will be looking for. You are going to university after all, not just a basketball programme.

Finally, what are you going to miss when you leave?

Family, of course. And my friends. I’ve been playing basketball with some of them since I was nine. I’m also going to miss walking into the centre. It’s been my ‘home’ for a long time now. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.

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