Freeland to make Solent Kestrels history

JOEL FREELAND

JOEL FREELAND

First published in Sport Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Editor

JIMMIE Guymon will be one of the proudest basketball coaches in the country tomorrow.

That’s because the Solent Kestrels coach, below, will watch Joel Freeland make his Games debut for Great Britain against Russia.

In an instant, he will become the club’s first Olympian.

The 6ft 10in giant, 25, honed his skills under Guymon’s guidance on the south coast.

Freeland, born in Aldershot, spent a year playing for Solent prior to being drafted to the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers in the summer of 2006.

Guymon’s wife, Bev, explained: “When Jimmie first met Joel he knew he would be something special.

“He had a drive and determination not seen in many players.

“Jimmie trained Joel every weekend at Crofton School in Fareham , teaching him the basic fundamentals of the game that he had never been shown before.

“It was an amazing season for Joel as he went from strength to strength.

“It’s a remarkable rags to riches story, and Jimmie is so pleased.”

While at Solent, Freeland and club colleague Matt Guymon – Jimmie’s son – were selected for the England under-18 team.

They travelled to Slovakia for the European Championships where Freeland was scouted to play for Gran Canaria Under 23s.

It was during that season that he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft and was selected in the first round, making him an instant millionaire.

The Trailblazers left Freeland to play in Spain to gain some valuable experience.

After impressing for Gran Canaria, the player movved to Spanish Euroleague club Unicala Malaga in 2009 on a five-year contract.

But a few weeks ago he signed a huge contract to move to Portland full-time.

He will bank an astonishing £9m over three years – “amazing for a young boy who only first picked up a basketball at the age of 16” according to Bev Guymon.

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