The following piece will be a biography of the wheelchair basketball career of George Bates so far. This will hopefully give you an insight into the progression of an elite athlete, from their humble beginnings to the professional level they are at now.
George Bates was born and raised in Leicester, Leicestershire. He suffered an injury whilst playing football in 2008, after sustaining the injury he was diagnosed with chronic pain which caused muscle wastage in his lower leg.
Later that year he attended a training session with the Leicester Cobras and fell in love with the sport. Over the next six seasons he helped the Cobras reach multiple successes as well as being a force to be reckoned with in the British junior programme; representing North West U19s at the National Junior Championships, England Central U18s at the School Games and the Scotland U23s at the Celtic Cup.
The first foretaste of a professional career
He began to get a taste of the elite level in 2012 when he started playing in the RGK Super League for the Sheffield Steelers. He was initially selected for the 2012 U22 European Championships but had to pull out because he was not yet internationally classified.
The following year he was selected to play for GB in the 2013 U23 World Championships in Adana, Turkey where the team lost out on the bronze medal to Australia. The season after the U23 Worlds he helped the Leicester Cobras become 2013/14 Division 1 champions alongside his teammates, Phil Pratt, Steven Ross and Amy Conroy. This would be George’s final season in the UK for quite some time.
U22 European Champion in 2014
He was selected for the 2014 U22 European Championships in Zaragoza, Spain where GB went onto win gold. The bromance between himself and Phil Pratt really began to blossom at this tournament as Bates was top scorer of the competition and Pratt had the most assists of the tournament.
Following the Europeans, he turned professional by playing for GSD Porto Torres in Italy. It was here that he began to turn into the beast he is today. In his first Italian season he played alongside GB teammates Martin Edwards and Richard Sargent. During his second season, Porto Torres acquired the signing of USA megastar Matt Scott who became a mentor to Bates over the next two years. In his third and final season with the Italian side he persuaded his brother Phil Pratt to join the team and the trio of Bates, Pratt and Scott became the powerhouse trio of Italian basketball, helping the club qualify for the IWBF Champions League.
During his time abroad he was named as a reserve for the GB senior team for both the 2015 European Championships and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The World Championship title in Hamburg
After a three-year stint in Italy he came home to take part in the GB centralised programme. Prior to the programme starting, he was selected for his first senior tournament; the 2017 European Championships in Tenerife, Spain where GB won silver. In the 2017/18 season he returned to the Sheffield Steelers alongside Pratt. He unquestionably dominated the league, often being Steelers’ top scorer. The dominance resulted in Steelers winning the British Premier League as well as the IWBF EuroLeague 2.
That summer he was selected for the 2018 World Championships where GB went on to make history and become World Champions. Bates played his role within the team to perfection, providing that off the bench fire the team needed to stay motivated. In one game he managed to score 19 points in 20 minutes as well as being joint top scorer in the final, scoring 17 points in 17 minutes.
Bates currently plays for Mideba Extremadura in the Division de Honour alongside GB teammates; Abdi Jama, Gregg Warburton and Phil Pratt. In his first season in Spain his team finished top of the Spanish league with some incredible personal performances against AMIAB Albacete and CD Ilunion. These performances as well as many others resulted in him becoming the Division de Honour’s top scorer for the 2018/19 season.
This summer he represented GB at the 2019 European Championships in Walbrzych, Poland, winning yet another gold and averaging 11 points and five rebounds per game.
When asked about how he felt after winning the European Championships, he said: “I’m so happy to have won the European Championships, it’s another step in the direction that we want to head. It was different for us to go into a tournament as the favourites and the pressure that it brings, but the strength in depth of our squad is amazing and it took us through every challenge that was in front of us.”
George will return to Mideba Extremadura next season with the hopes of winning the Spanish Cup and preparing for Tokyo 2020.
We asked George some quick-fire questions!
What’s the most important lesson your parents have taught you about life?
“I think the biggest thing is that with hard work and sacrifice you can achieve whatever you want. Both my parents have and do work really hard, and they have instilled that into me and my brothers.”
What would you say are the strengths of the GB team?
“We have the perfect blend of youth an experience, at the Worlds I had never been in games that big and to be able to speak to some of the senior guys about what to expect really helped me. From our 4.5s all the way down to our 1.0s everyone can shoot, it’s nearly impossible to defend us all. And the last thing is that we play at a tempo that not a lot of teams can play at. If they score against us, we push hard to try and score within the first 10 seconds.”
Name the three most important things in your life that make you happy?
“Winning is the main thing that makes me happy. Seeing my family and friends, living abroad and travelling a lot I rarely get to see them, so I really appreciate it when I do! I really like time away from basketball, being able to go away and switch off, all year training and playing is tough physically and also mentally.”
George Bates Profile
Date of Birth: 18/06/1994 (aged 25)
Hometown: Leicester, Leicestershire
Started playing: 2008
GB senior debut: 2017 European Championships – Tenerife, Spain
Disability: Chronic Pain and Muscle Wastage
Current club: Mideba Extremadura, ESP (2018-Present)
_Leicester Cobras, GBR (2008-14)
_Sheffield Steelers, GBR (2012-14, 2017-18)
_GSD Porto Torres, ITA (2014-17)
_2018 World Champion – Hamburg, Germany
_2019 European Champion – Walbrzych, Poland
Text: Dylan Cummings | Foto: Steffie Wunderl