DME visits Thunder for second annual clinic

Nikki Sealy was determined to find a place for her son Tyler —( a Thunder player since the club was started) — to continue playing basketball. She knew he had the skills to follow his dream of playing at the next level; he just needed to find the right place to develop. Following a scholarship offer from an academy in Atlanta she decided to research this option thoroughly, so took to the internet to find the perfect fit.

This led her to Mike Pannagio, who with his brother Dan a former NBA and NCAA basketball coach cofounded the DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Following several telephone conversations and a visit to the facility “Tyler decided that he would attend our academy,” Panaggio recalled. “And that led to her discussing what she was involved with, which is London Thunder here. And one thing led to another and we decided we would collaborate and organise a camp.”

This began a relationship between Thunder and DME that has now stretched into its second year. Last week, Panaggio and Momir Gajic, the executive director of sales and marketing, visited the Thunderdome for their second annual basketball clinic.

The clinic offers an opportunity for DME to evaluate potential prospects for their program. More than that, Panaggio and Gajic hope that they can provide an all-encompassing basketball development experience to the players in attendance.

“Every year we see several candidates that would be a great fit for DME academy,” Gajic said. “But that’s not our sole reason why we are doing these showcases. We truly do want to educate these athletes about the USA basketball system and academic system. We want to educate them what further steps to take in order to research and find the best possible universities and high schools in the United States.”

The clinic itself consists of on-court drills and scrimmages as well as discussion sections in the classroom. From the newest players to the most experienced, the three-day clinic emphases learning and improvement. The clinic culminates in a series of scrimmages that allow the coaches to evaluate talent and give constructive feedback.

“As a player that started eight months back, I’d say I learned a lot and they kind of run it down for me so I can understand it clearly,” Thunder player and clinic participant Harry McCarthy said.

Thunder Coach Ros Mason helped oversee the players and facilitate the training. Mason played college basketball in the United States and said the clinic felt like stepping back into her daily routine from her university days.

“Having that exposure again, it made me realize how important it is to teach the fundamentals,” she said. “I think for the boys, having that experience is excellent preparation for them to get to high school or university, so they’re getting that firsthand from NCAA coaches and NBA coaches.”

An additional advantage for participants is access to the DME super session. DME sponsors ten spots for high performing players from the clinic to come to their Florida campus in August. There, they get to compete against players from DME clinics around the US and the world.

This is part of DME’s emphasis. They hope to build players with a pedigree to play anywhere.

But according to former Thunder player and DME graduate Josh Edwards, just because you make it to the next level doesn’t mean you forget where you came from. Thunder players who have attended DME hope to use the lessons they learned to build the club.

“Now that I have this experience from being at DME, I can also try and help these kids during the summer,” he said. “Me, Tyler (Sealy) and some other guys who are coming back from all over the world, we are just trying to get everyone to do the same thing DME is doing. Just trying to get everyone to a high level so they can go overseas as well.”

The relationships extend beyond Thunder too, as DME hopes to reach players all over England. In addition to players from other clubs joining the clinic at the Thunderdome, DME also ran their first camp in Leicester this year. DME’s goal is to elevate the level of basketball across the country and provide an avenue for these players to reach the States.

Even with the ambitious goals of the program, neither the players nor coaches forgot about the key component of gathering together. What started with an internet search has turned into an opportunity for people from across the world to gather and play the game of basketball together.

“As a community of people that love basketball, we all got closer,” McCarthy said. “We’ve all gotten closer and that’s just a beautiful thing.”