The driving force behind the inauguration of basketball in the Island was Joe Wilson who came as a teacher to the Island in 1960. He had coached Loughborough Colleges (UK) in the late fifties, and his experience and enthusiasm led him in the early nineteen sixties to organise inter-school competitions and began adult classes to cater for the increase in interest.
To develop the sport Joe arranged competitive matches by hiring the tomato packing sheds at 50p ($0.30) per night. It was far from ideal as there were no markings on the concrete floor. They had to chalk in the lines each week., and the home-made portable rings were transported by lorry. To start with there were two leagues with three teams in each. Names like Caterpillars, Octopi, Strollers, Minstrels and Rebels were used.
The following season the badminton hall was built and for the privilege of improved facilities they had to pay the princely sum of £1.50 ($0.95) each week. The court was full size and Joe again built the back -boards. The sport had arrived with now 5 leagues, including 2 junior leagues. Games were scheduled to start at 4.30pm, and by the time the seniors finished the last game it was invariably past midnight. In 1969 the teams competing in the leagues were:
Seniors - Cats, Mystics, Forresters Juniors - Lions, Wombats, Pumas, Tigers
Joe left the Island to teach in North Wales in January 1969, and the Guernsey Basketball Association was formed. The leading figures were Robbie Burns, Ian Curle, Terry Le Huray and Carl Clay. There was a new venue for the 1969 season after the opening of the new St Peter Port School, and for eight years the sport had a base, with games being played two nights each week. The first game in the Guernsey Basketball Association League history was on 7th November 1969 when Zivermeeuw Kats beat Saints 25-13. The majority of scores in the early days of the league were quite low. In 1970 the league teams had the quaint and interesting names of Jargonauts(Junior Winners), Raccoons (Senior Winners), Ziv Cats, Zebras, Saints, Breakaways, Electrons, Orbiters and Harlequins.
A new chapter began after Robbie Burns became involved. He followed in the footsteps of Joe Wilson and was as equally dedicated to the sport. Being a sports teacher like Joe he spent all his spare time coaching, after going to the UK to qualify. The season after his return he set up a club called Fiat Lux which became the leading club in the Island, and at its height ran 7 teams, all named after the models of Fiat cars at the time - Fiat 124, Fiat 125, Fiat 128, Fiat 130, Fiat 850, etc.
In 1972 Robbie became the first graded referee in the Island and set up courses for would be officials. Kerry Mumford from the EBBA passed 7 new referees after the first course. The following year Terry Barnett, a top International referee, examined and passed a further 6 referees.
In 1970 the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey began basketball matches against each other. The rivalry was keen, just as it was and still is between the Islands in other sports. Nowadays the matches played are Men, Women, and Under 19 Men, and these matches are played in each Island on alternate years.
In September 1976 Guernsey opened the Beau Sejour Leisure Centre in St Peter Port and basketball moved once again. The progress of the sport has been rapid since that time. With the advent of 'summer schools' many of the young players have improved the skill level locally, and in 1997 there were 120 senior players and 100 juniors. There are now four divisions with 21 teams playing, playing on two evenings per week, the schools leagues continue with matches at three age groups. Trevor Pountain, a FIBA referee, has visited us from the UK for the past few years to run officials courses, and plans are afoot to run coaching courses this year.
Six years ago the Channel Islands Club Championships was started between the winners of the basketball league in each Island. The winners for the last three years have been La Fraternelle. The women's champions match started two years ago.
The Island of Guernsey takes part in a biannual 'Island Games' event. The inaugural Games were in the Isle of Man in 1985. In 1989 Guernsey held them for the first time, and in 1997 they were in our sister island of Jersey. Basketball made its appearance as one of the 14 sports for the first time in Gotland in 1999. There were 9 men's and 4 women's teams. In 2001 the Games are to be in the Isle of Man and Guernsey were successful in their bid for the Games once more in 2003.