We’re back again with our “BBL Class of…” series, featuring players who have moved on from the BBL, but made waves during their time on the court whilst on these shores.
First up, we have Alif Bland, who was a member of the reborn Cheshire Phoenix side last season. He spoke to UKAmericanSportsFans.com‘s Rob Jeffries about his time in the BBL with Phoenix, what he’s currently doing, and what hopes he has for the future…
Rob Jeffries: Alif, you did have a short spell in Mexico this season, however, unfortunately, that has not worked out – was part of the decision though to join up there in order to build your experience internationally?
Alif Bland: I was playing in Mexico for a short while; I was there for a little over a month. Things were not to what I was expecting at all so I did return to the States. My reasoning for going to Mexico was partly to build a resume of my international experience. I also went for the increased financial stability, but in turn the bad outweighed the good in a sense.
RJ: Have you got any options or offers to choose from moving forward from this point – or are there other avenues in which you wish to pursue?
AB: I am now looking for teams now that require someone of my ability. I am talking to a few countries but nothing is set in stone at the moment. I plan to continue with basketball, if I’m allowed to, for a couple of more years and then move toward the career I plan to continue with.
RJ: Last year was difficult for a number of reasons throughout the course of the season – notably the change in organisation – what was your motivation and drive to stay with the team through those testing times, and how do you think that experience developed you as a person at such a relatively young age?
AB: Last year had plenty of trials and tribulations that were troublesome and made it difficult to manage at times. My main motivation was that I love the game of basketball, and the fact that I have a daughter that looks for me to take care of her, so I have to do anything that allows me to take care of her. I was raised with a sense of loyalty, and that if someone does right by you, you don’t leave them out to dry when they’re down and out. The new owners of the club and the fans were without a doubt good to us, so I felt it was the right thing to do.
RJ: Have you been following the early results of the Phoenix so far this season?
AB: I have been following the Phoenix at the beginning of the season and actually talked to a couple of the players. Even though I’m not on the team I am still a Phoenix!
RJ: What did you learn, from a playing perspective, during your time playing in the BBL?
AB: Actually I learned a lot. One is that the refereeing is different than in America! Also the rules are quite different. I haven’t played with quarters in a long time, and the fact that you can take the ball off of the rim was an entirely different thing for me. It helped me to adapt to the FIBA-style playing that happens all across Europe and in South America.
RJ: Would you ever consider returning to play again in the BBL, either at Cheshire or with another side?
AB: I always will consider it because of the connections and friends that I’ve made there. I had a good time in England despite all of the problems the franchise had. It kind of made us a little closer because we all went through it together. As for another team in England, that wouldn’t be so bad either. One other thing I learned in the BBL is that even if you play for another team, the people still show you love as if you’re still with them which is a very cool thing.
RJ: How do you think the BBL can improve as a league, through the calibre of the players that are in the league, and how can it improve its standing within Europe? Also is the need to be able to retain young, promising, quality imports that do make the grade – how, do you think, that can be achieved?
AB: Well, one thing I think the BBL can improve, as a league, is just exposure of basketball. It needs to be something that people want to see so that the demand for it can grow. That would have to start with the players, but the country itself as well. The communities have to invest in the teams so that said teams can get the high quality players that is necessary.
RJ: Finally, is there one particular goal you have in the future – either playing or outside of basketball?
AB: My ultimate goal and basketball and life is to be as successful as I can and meeting as many good people I can in the process. I am a very competitive person so it’s in my nature to want to win, but I never let that take who I am as a person.