NEWCASTLE Eagles prodigy Ross Wilson is on the brink of securing a dream basketball scholarship to a top US college.
Eighteen-year-old Wilson has been invited for try-outs at Ivy League Dartmouth University – and will also trial at Houston-based Rice University as he considers options beyond the BBL.
The 6ft 6in former Gosforth High School pupil made his debut last season after progressing through the Eagles’ school of excellence, and has long been earmarked for a major future with Fab Flournoy’s men.
But Wilson also has a strong academic background and there was always a possibility of a full scholarship in America – which would effectively curtail his British basketball career.
It leaves Eagles short in the title run-in, but owner Paul Blake says that he would not stand in the way of the talented teenager securing a four-year scholarship at a top American institution.
“We wish him all the best, but with my club hat on I’m caught in two minds really,” he told The Journal.
“Of course we’d love to have him stay here but the lure of the States is a significant one. If he is offered a scholarship I don’t want to be the person who talks to him in five years’ time and hears that he wished he’d taken up that opportunity.
“There’s certainly a significant lure for him there. At some stage in the future we’d love to be in a better position where we could keep talented players like Ross in England and offer him the pathway through education as well as a future in the sport. In America there would be the potential of four years’ paid for schooling on a scholarship in a basketball-orientated culture.
“Add to that the possibility of playing in front of 10 to 15,000 people every week and it is a major lure for any teenager. We wish him all the best.”
Wilson has been a compelling option from the bench this season – part of a rotation that is not as deep as previous seasons.
The Eagles have achieved success with feeder club Team Northumbria gaining promotion to the English Basketball League, but the decision to place some of their brightest young talents in that squad rather the BBL team means they are shorter on numbers than before.
Wilson’s temporary departure makes the problem more acute and without him on board the Eagles will be praying for no repeat of last season’s injury problems. Flournoy is unlikely to add another new face as the season hits the final strait. “Fab and Dave are happy enough with what they have at the moment so I think we’ll be leaving it where we are at the moment,” he said.
Eagles face Plymouth Raiders at Sport Central tonight before taking on Drew Sullivan’s Leicester Riders next weekend in a pair of games that could go a long way to deciding the destination of the league title.
Blake also poured cold water on talk of the Eagles pulling off a clean sweep of the trophies this season.
Newcastle have already secured the BBL Cup and are in clear control in the league, having booked their place in the BBL Trophy last month.
“I don’t think we can ever talk about that this season because we’re not running a deep bench,” he said.