Executives are more likely to be seen in suits than shorts, but one sports-mad NHS director has ‘slam-dunked’ that trend by achieving success on the international stage.
Junior Hemans, Non-Executive Director (NED) at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), was part of the Wolverhampton Seniors basketball team that finished third out of eight in the Marmaris Turkey Masters Tournament.
Having played three games to finish second in their group, Wolverhampton marked their first entry into the tournament by qualifying for the semi-finals before being beaten by the eventual winners, a team from Lithuania, in the over-45s age group.
Given their seniority, the rules of tournament basketball – a running clock of eight minutes per quarter, whereas it’s normally 10 minutes per quarter and stopping the clock – made it tough.
“It was really enjoyable but it was quite a challenge playing against players 13 years younger,” said Junior, 58 of Wolverhampton. “Our team came together about 15 years ago and three of us have played together for 41 years.
“We have a good cross section of youth players and seniors. We should have played in the over-50s category, but three of the team aren’t yet 50, so we entered the 45-plus group.”
Wolverhampton also usually play in the Great Britain Masters tournament and the Southern Ireland (Galway) Tournament, which they have entered later this year. The team has been invited back to Marmaris next year and to the Antalya and Italia Tournaments.
Their success in Turkey has whetted their appetite for another crack on the international stage.
“We are already planning which additional tournaments to play in abroad next year,” added Junior.
Wolverhampton dropped out of the West Midlands League six years ago, but remain competitive by training at Wolverhampton College, Bilston Campus on Mondays from 8-10pm, sharing the court with around 12 Philippine staff from RWT and their children.
Having started at the age of 14, Junior has more than four decades of basketball experience behind him, playing in the West Midlands Premier League for 35 years until he was 52. He also played semi-professional for Walsall in 1986-87, winning National League Division Two.
Family and work commitments prevented Junior from taking his basketball career any higher, but he has retained his passion and commitment to the sport – although he admits football was his first love.
As a young striker, he represented Wolverhampton Schools and had trials at Wolves in the mid-1970s under Sammy Chung, who became manager.
“I was the best striker Wolves never had!” joked Junior. “I met with Sammy later in life and told him this!”
Junior, who is married with three daughters, two step-daughters, a step-son and an eight-month-old grandson, was also a promising rugby player and represented Wolverhampton & Bilston Athletic Club from the age of 14 to 16, when it was one of the leading clubs in the country.
As a NED since May 2015, Junior, who works full-time as a property developer and landlord, spends two to three days a month at each Trust attending board and committee meetings and board development sessions, as well as chairing consultant interviews and undertaking leadership walkabouts. He is also Chair of the People and Development Committee at both Trusts.
A visiting lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton Business School for the last 11 years, Junior is a Cultural Ambassador for the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.