A university basketball star has gained a top regional title.
Dedicated Niel Gillard, 23, from Ellesmere Port, who studies at the University of Chester, has been named North West Player of the Year by the Basketball England National Basketball Development League (NBDL).
Niel received the most nominations for the award from the other eight teams in the North West league based on his performance over the past season.
He was presented with the trophy at the NBDL Playoff Final at the National Basketball Arena in Manchester.
Niel, who has been playing the sport since he was eight years old, has previously played for his local national league junior club as well as the now Cheshire Phoenix and Manchester Magic.
He joined the university’s basketball team in 2011 during the first year of his law degree. Now a PhD student he is a member of the University of Chester Men’s Basketball team playing in both the British Universities and Colleges Sport league and the National Basketball League (NBL).
The sportsman is said to have played an instrumental part in raising the standard of basketball at the university.
As captain of the basketball team during his second year he devised a development plan to raise the standard and profile of basketball on the campus. As a result of his efforts and the introduction of an experienced coach, the university says the team has been able to compete at national level in the NBL for the first time this year.
Its hard work and determination paid off when they recently came top of the NBDL’s North West division, gaining promotion to division three for next year and making it through to the NBDL playoff final where they were narrowly defeated by Gateshead Phoenix.
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Niel said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to have been voted for by my fellow players to win this award. It is great to receive individual recognition for my performances throughout the year but I want to thank my fantastic coaches and team mates. I honestly believe that everyone in our team could have won this award and deserves special recognition as together we have had a brilliant season!”
Gordon Reay, director of sport and recreation at the university, added: “Niel has been instrumental in the development of the University of Chester Men’s Basketball Club.
“His enthusiasm and passion for the sport has been infectious and he has taken the rest of the team on his journey of success.
“The university is very thankful and proud of his achievements and this award is no more than he deserves.”