A Commonwealth Games in Australia will feel familiar, but also brand-new to Jonny Bunyan. The Antipodean fervour, the sunshine, the familial pride, have all been experienced previously soaked up. Yet when the Glasgow Rocks basketballer last ventured Down Under, he was an entranced young spectator in awe of his elder sibling’s role on the court. This time, it will be him in Scotland’s colours, out to make an impression of his own.
Named in a 12-strong squad for the Gold Coast, the point guard has profited from the organisers’ decision to bring his sport back into the programme for the first time since Melbourne in 2006. Then he ventured in support of brother Keith, a Rocks stalwart too in his day, and also of their father John, then the assistant coach.
“It was the first time I’d been around a big basketball event,” the 25-year-old recalls. “It’s really cool now that I get to go over there, 12 years later, and follow in his footsteps.
“Keith is pretty much the whole reason I played basketball. My Dad, too, from coaching us. Their passion for the game has rubbed off from me. Watching Keith perform for the Rocks, for Scotland teams, he had so much pride when he played and I take a lot of that on board whenever I play. He’s always been my biggest fans and my biggest inspiration.”
That previous team finished sixth. Their successors will hope to do better, their optimism fuelled by the incorporation of seven of the Rocks players – plus coach Tony Garbelotto – into the Scotland line-up. A nucleus already bonding on a daily basis at the Emirates Arena, fortified by Bristol Flyers forward Mike Vigor, born in Aberdeen but raised in Australia, and a crop of young talents headed by 17-year-old prodigy Callan Low.
“Having a core together, it helps loads,” says Bunyan. “A lot of Scotland teams in the past have gone to European Small Nations and only been put together a few days before or had a couple of training sessions spread over a few months.”
Yet the system is, by design, stacked against them. The big guns of Australia, New Zealand and Canada have been seeded. Scotland, in an initial group with England, India and Cameroon, must effectively fight through a preliminary round. Progress may come down to an opener against the Auld Enemy, Bunyan hints. It gives Garbelotto’s men all the incentive in the world.
“I remember us beating England at Meadowbank a few years ago. That felt great and we want more of that. The way the competition is structured favours the higher-ranked teams. That’s probably fair. But we want to get first or second in our group and go from there.”
Scotland will field a quartet in the Games triathlon mixed team relay event after teenage prospect Erin Wallace was added to the team. Table tennis trio Gavin Rumgay, Colin Dalgleish and Craig Howison have also been confirmed along side powerlifter Micky Yule and para-swimmers Beth Johnston and Toni Shaw.