Commonwealth Games 2018: Joe Ikhinmwin honoured to get England call and sets bar high on Gold Coast
PUBLISHED: 19:30 04 April 2018
London Lions captain Joe Ikhinmwin is honoured to be representing England at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast this month.
The University of East London student, who is currently studying an MSc Sports Management degree, has a target of bringing home a medal for his country.
The England men’s team are in the unseeded pool against Cameroon, India and Scotland and will play their preliminary matches in Townsville.
“It’s an amazing honour. When you first start playing the sport you don’t expect that down the line you’ll get to represent your country on a stage this big, and only 12 people get selected, so that’s a great honour,” he said.
“As a team we definitely think there is a possibility that we’ve got a chance to win a medal and that’s the goal.
“No-one is playing to be second best so we’re going out there with the mentality of trying to win a medal.”
Ikhinmwin began playing basketball at the age of 14, first in Whitechapel and then in Barking.
He went on to captain the GB under-20 team at the European Championships and he believes his love for the sport came out of nowhere.
“It’s a funny story, I was just a 14-year-old kid walking around Brampton Manor School, and I had a PE teacher that used to chase me around and try to get me to play basketball and I always said no, until one day he just said ‘look Joe come one time, if you don’t like it you never have to come again’,” he said.
“I went that one time, I loved it and I just carried on playing from there and grew a love for the sport, so I’ve never looked back.
“Brampton Manor and Mr Biddle really started me on this path and there is a whole bunch of other people along the way who have really inspired me and propelled me into the position I am today, so I have a lot of thanks to give out.”
Ikhinmwin spent five years playing college basketball in the United States at South Carolina State University before starting his professional career in the UK.
“After Mr Biddle initially got me into basketball, Barking Abbey are the people who really helped shaped me to become a division one basketball player, as they gave me the opportunity to go out to the States and study,” he added.
“Being in the States really propelled me, it put me in a scenario where I could get better as fast as my American counterparts.
“There are a lot of players who have stayed in the UK and not gone to the States and made it professionally, but I felt like at the time that was the route that was best for me – to go to America and play against guys my age that have the best facilities, the best training and best coaching.
“I felt like that was the best path for me to becoming a professional and it’s panned out.”
Ikhinmwin, who is the British Basketball League Slam Dunk champion, has revealed he feels playing for the London Lions has helped his selection.
“I feel it’s definitely played a role, our season with the Lions has been a bit up and down, we’ve had some coaching changes and player changes but as the captain I just try to stay consistent and do whatever my team needs me to do on a daily basis.
“I do think that has played a role in getting selected for the England team.”
The 30-year-old also says that although he has been out of the international set-up for many years he can’t wait to get started again.
“I played for Great Britain under-20s, but I’ve been out of the international circuit for a while, so now after being professional for six seasons I’m getting the opportunity to go back at it again it’s great,” he said.
The forward also admits he couldn’t be happier with the way things are going right now in his career.
“The only greater honour of being captain of your home-town team is getting to represent your country, so I feel like I’m winning on all fronts right now, and I really appreciate the honour,” he said.
“I love playing for London Lions, I love playing in Stratford, the Copper Box Arena is right round the corner from my house and the people that I’ve grown up with I still get to see them on a regular basis.”
The long-serving Lions star has also praised the facilities of UEL and the impact they’ve had on his career the last few years.
“I feel like having the bonus of their facilities, their support staff and their general basketball programme has helped me be a better professional as well as further my education.”