Rincón Dental Amivel Malaga has recently announced the signing of GB centre Tom Smith, following his season with Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club and two years as part of the British Wheelchair Basketball GB centralised programme. Smith spoke with Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings about his return to the FEDDF Division de Honour.
Why did you choose to move to Rincón Dental Amivel Malaga?
“My move to Malaga has lots of pros for me as an athlete and for my personal life. Malaga is a good team that has strengthened this year to challenge for the Final Four. They were looking for a big to play inside as a centre, I believe I can provide that. Ade Orogbemi taking his first head coach position interested me. His ‘give no quarter’ attitude and defensive prowess could help me develop my game and help the team improve in those areas. Lastly, my girlfriend has decided to follow her career in England as an occupational therapist, Malaga is one of the few teams that have an airport that flies directly back to the UK from Spain.”
How do you intend to fit into the team?
“As a 4.0 big centre, I will bring a lot of inside options to the team and also as a big screen option on offense. Defensively I’m tall and unrelenting.”
You have played in Spain before for Gran Canaria, why did you choose not to return and what will similar or different this time round when playing in Spain?
“I didn’t return to Gran Canaria because the four-and-a-half-hour flight back home for camps and visits is very taxing. Also, they have a player that works a similar game to me. It just wasn’t the right choice for this year. I’m very different this time around. I am a more complete player now; I have played competitively before in Gran Canaria. I understand the game a lot more and I am recognised by my opposition.”
What new challenges do you think you will face when you return to playing in the Division de Honour?
“The league gets better every year. As almost all of the GB athletes now play in Spain, so it’s good to play against them in the league, amongst an array of other world-class players from different countries.”
How will the styles of play differ between Steelers and Malaga?
“I don’t expect my style to change too much. I have chosen a team that will use my style of play as an addition.”
With Steelers you have pretty much steamrolled through every team in the British league. The Division de Honour will be a lot more competitive; how do you think this will benefit you personally?
“As a Steelers player last season, I do feel like Oldham pushed us well in our games. In the Division de Honour, every game is hard to predict, this adds pressure to perform but also the possibility to play at the top of your game every week.”
What do you think you will learn from the likes of Ade Orogbemi?
“Coach Ade’s experience will teach me a lot all around. His defence is what I am looking forward to learning from the most. Watching him play over the years, he is unrelenting.”
What are your goals for next season?
“Top four at the Copa del Rey and to reach the Final Four. I want to improve my defence and scoring ability and make the GB team for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
How has the GB centralised programme benefitted you over the last two years?
“The centralised programme had galvanised me as a player. It has moulded me into a strong and respected player and person. I wouldn’t be the player I am today going to play in the best league in the world without the experience I have gained in the past two years.”
Compared to most people you were brought into the GB setup later on in your career, how did this come about?
“I was. One of the first to do so. My engineering career didn’t take off as soon as I had hoped so I thought I would try basketball. Gran Canaria picked me up. Six months later, I got an email from Haj Bhania asking to me to attend a camp. It was a dream come true to train with the best players the country had ever produced. It was hard at the beginning, breaking into the team when I was unknown. Not going through juniors like everyone else. It benefitted my personal life. It gave me chance to complete my engineering degree in Sheffield, setting my life up for after basketball.”
What do you think you need to do to eventually break into the GB final 12?
“I need to get stronger and dominate inside and the area around the key.”
How much do you think Spanish culture will differ from British culture?
“I lived in Portugal from 1998 to 2012 and lived in Gran Canaria from 2016 to 2017. I have been around the Mediterranean culture a lot in my life. So, I am used to it but to live in Spanish culture by a beach, life doesn’t get much better than that.”
What will you miss the most about the UK when you are abroad?
“My girlfriend and family, and British cinema.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“I’m a centre, good inside and around the key.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“No, I wouldn’t say so. I developed into the player I am by understanding my strengths and weaknesses and creating a style that benefited that.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“Fortune favours the prepared.”
If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, who would they be and why?
“Simon Brown; for defensive prowess and never give up attitude. Gregg Warburton; for his shot creation and finishing. Patrick Anderson; for tactical reads and technical skill.”
Thanks for your time mate!
Rollt. would like to thank Tom Smith for the interview.
Tom Smith Profile
Date of Birth: 27/06/1991 (aged 28)
Hometown: Romford, East London (resided in Paderne, Portugal during his childhood)
Started playing: 2007
GB senior debut: 2017 Mitsubishi Challenge Cup – Tokyo, Japan
Disability: Left-leg amputee
Future Club: Rincón Dental Amivel Malaga, ESP (starting September 2019)
_Tubarões de Quarteira, POR (2007-11)
_Clube de Basketball tbe Albuferia, POR (2011-12)
_Sussex Tigers, GBR (2012-15)
_Essex Outlaws, GBR (2015-16)
_ADM Econy BSR ACE Gran Canaria, ESP (2016-17)
_TCAT Shropshire Warriors, GBR (2017-18)
_Sheffield Steelers, GBR (2018-19)
_Making his GB debut in 2017
_Winning the British Premier League Championship with Sheffield Steelers
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Martin Lansley