ALUMNI: Jelani Watson-Gayle Q&A

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Jelani Watson-Gayle represented Youngbloods at Junior National Level for several years attending Anglo-European School for secondary education, eventually moving on to the United States of America first for Westminster Academy, Augusta. Followed by a Scholarship offer at NCAA Division 2 school, Benedict College. During his time at Youngbloods, he was the first two Youngbloods sides to reach the Basketball England Junior National Final Fours as well as reaching the Semi-Finals of the U16s National Cup a year young. He was the Inaugural Hoopsfix All Star U16 MVP.

Career to Date

  • Leyton Orient U9s – U11s
  • National League Playoff Finals U16 (Newham Youngbloods) 2013/2014
  • Selected for the Inaugural Hoopsfix All-Star Classic in 2014 and won the U16 MVP award
  • Represented the U16 England National Basketball Team in 2014, being promoted to Division A
  • National League Playoff Finals U16 (Newham Youngbloods) 2014/15
  • Represented the U17 England National Basketball Team 2015
  • 2016 Two Sport All-Region and All-State Player (Westminster Academy)
  • 2016 Independent Boys Basketball Player of the Year (Westminster Academy)
  • 2017 Two Sport All-Region and All-State Player (Westminster Academy)
  • WJBF News Channel 6 Scholar-Athlete (Westminster Academy)
  • Over 1000 points for Westminster Academy over 2 seasons
  • Signed Scholarship to Benedict College Tigers 2017
  • 2018 SIAC Freshman of the Year (Benedict College)
  • 2018 HeroSports D2 Men’s Newcomer of the Year Award amassing over 1500 votes (Benedict College)
  • Selected for the U20 Great Britain National Basketball Team in 2018 participating in Division A

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience in Basketball?

Going to America at the age of 16 and playing against all different types of players. I have played against NBA players, ranked high school players and D1 college players.

What way did your time at Youngblood’s influence you?

Youngbloods influenced me to just keep persevering and the results will come. When I first came to Youngbloods in under 12s we won about 3 games the whole season. The next season we won about 8 and after that, the number of wins that we got improved and eventually led to two consecutive Final Four appearances where we finished as runners-up both times.

Is there anywhere in the club/in London that holds any special memories of your basketball days with us, or do you have a favourite memory of your time at Youngbloods?

My favourite memory of my time at Youngbloods was my time at the club overall, From U12s with my brother, Micah and Coaches Stephen and Caroline to U15s with Coach Rebecca King and U16 season with the team and Coach Aaron Senior. It was the last time I would be playing with players that I have grown up with and played basketball with for many years. The development of basketball with my team I consider family from U12s all the way through to U16s is the memory I take with me, development through the years.

Who/what has been most inspirational to you in your life?

My mother has been the most inspirational person in my life. She has always put me and my brothers first and anything that we have wanted or asked for she helped make it happen by any means. One time that stuck out for me was when I used to have to go pay for England camps. I watched her work and give me all the money she just earned just so I could go to the England National team camps.

What advice would you give to students/alumni for success in life after Youngbloods?

The advice I would give would just to keep working hard all the time, practice at every moment you can and make sure you have your academics to fall back on because you cannot play basketball your whole life.