BASKETBALL: A GLOBETROTTING giant of English basketball hopes the future growth of the game in Halton will be more than just a tall story, writes DAVE BETTLEY.
Captain of the England team hoping for a medal at next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia, Widnes' Delme Herriman has come home and set up a new club in the borough.
Halton Basketball Club, for eight to 16-year-olds, meets on Tuesdays at St Chad's RC High School in Runcorn (4.30-6.30pm) thanks to funding from Halton Borough Council.
And it is now in the final throes of adopting a formal constitution and affiliating with the English Basketball Association.
With 62 England caps, Herriman has made more appearances than all but one of the present national squad and toured Japan last summer.
This summer, England will be playing in European tournaments to gear up for the Commonwealths in Melbourne next March.
Having just won the first championship of his professional career with BBL title winners Chester Jets, Herriman has been impressed with the enthusiasm of youngsters at the new Halton club.
'Maybe another professional player can come from here in future,' he said.
Herriman, who is 6ft 6in tall, is fresh from his first full season in the English game, although he has been playing basketball since he was 12 years old.
He has starred on the USA college scene and throughout Europe.
'This is the first time I have settled down in one place and have left my suitcase behind,' he said.
Meanwhile, the former Fairfield High School pupil is quick to counter a belief that height is a prerequisite for success for any young recruits.
'If you have got certain skills - passing, shooting and dribbling - you can make it anywhere,' said Herriman, whose mum still lives in Widnes.
He was first introduced to basketball through his brother Gideon.
'In a trial of 60 kids in Warrington, he was one of only two picked to play for Manchester,' said Delme.
'I used to tag along with him and they started a younger team.'
It is thanks to a Widnes charity that the young Delme got his big break.
'I left England at 17 after going to Fairfield and, thanks to Widnes Rotary Club, spent a year at high school in the United States as an exchange student in Ohio,' he said.
'I then got a scholarship to go to university in Ohio for five years.'
He combined basketball with a psychology degree and has played professionally in Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria and France.
His only previous experience of Premier League basketball in England came in 1996-97, when he spent two months at Manchester Giants.
The homecoming with the Jets has provided fresh challenges for the player, who is also a self-employed Level Two coach.
'I wasn't planning to play in England but, as it happened, I came home and won my first championship, so it has worked out well. After being away for so long, it was enjoyable just to be able to play for a local team.
While Jets won the league for the first time this year, they also reached the play-off final. And Herriman played in all but six of the Chester's 40 games which saw 32 wins.
He said: 'It is different in England because all the teams have five Americans while in Europe there are only two or three, so it is hard for English players to get noticed.
'The league is a little tougher in Europe defensively and offensively.
'Over here it is more athletic and open and more fun. It is a lot more structured and professional in Europe and players are bigger physically.'
Halton club meetings follow basketball sessions which Herriman has been taking for pupils at the host St Chad's School.
The player intends to run one-day camps throughout the borough to help develop the game. But planning hinges on funding and sponsorship.
For information on Halton BC or to provide financial support, contact Herriman on 07729 497402 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org