Welcome To The Den: The Home Of The Westminster Dragons

Welcome To The Den: The Home Of The Westminster Dragons

If you're someone who's tuned in to British Basketball, there's a very high chance you've either heard or seen what's been going on at the University of Westminster, more specifically at their Harrow Campus at an incredible facility known as 'The Den', the home of the Westminster Dragons. 

It's a building that many basketball clubs would give a lot for. Upon first glance, what could easily be mistaken as just another building, is in fact home to a developing and thriving community that gather to support their university team in an environment and atmosphere that isn't easily found at many other BUCS or National League programmes consistently. 

A step into the venue and the first thing you'll hear on any gameday is music. Huge speakers blasting a pre-game playlist from probably one of the players. Not only that, but you're also walking into a lightshow –– an array of colours and projections adding to an atmosphere that continues to build as tip-off approaches. All this, plus of course, the court itself. A brand new hardwood floor on a spacious court, one which you'll really need to be at to truly grasp its size. It's large enough that it even holds a bleacher of people on one side, which to some may sound fairly basic but if you know British Basketball, you'll know that even THAT, isn't always accessible to every club. As if all that wasn't enough, not too far down the hall from the court, a very, very nice gym. Squat racks, an array of plates, ropes, weighted sleds, you name it. The Den probably has it. The combination of elite equipment and a high quality court was good enough for NBA Champion Jordan Poole, who visited The Den earlier this year and got in a little workout during his stay in London. 

The team who placed second in BUCS D1 this year, are led by Head Coach Clive Castillo, a well-known figure within the basketball community who is not only the head coach for the university team, but is also the GM for the Brent Bulls and is a part of the EuroLeague Head Coaches Board Academy. We got a chance to chat with him and ask some questions about The Den and the vision he has for the Dragons going forward. 


Q: Talk to us about 'The Den'. It's an incredible space and facility that a lot of clubs would do a lot for. How did it all come about? 

Coach Clive: "First and foremost, it's important to recognise our Vice Chancellor, Peter Bonfield. He joined us in 2018. Since he joined us, there's been a massive increase in sports participation and he's driven that vision to help improve our performance. From this increase in participation and sports being much more competitive, it was only a matter of time before the university decided to invest in the space. A lot of other universities aren't able to get this because of things such as space, but also because sports is not always seen as a priority. Peter Bonfield has really driven this [and] has been a true supporter of our basketball programme. Through his vision and the university's continued reputation to grow sports, we managed to find pots of funding to provide us our home, The Den."


Q: The Den seems to have a great atmosphere. We saw drums, heard chants, a halftime show. Talk to us about being a part of that atmosphere. It's something that must be exciting to see and be a part of. 

Coach Clive: Over the years, I think developing that sporting culture does take time. There's an environment, an atmosphere, a DNA that is being developed, not just through basketball but through the Dragons' Programme over the years through different sports. When we first had the Den approved, Peter Bonfield had a vision to really develop the den to not just maximise sporting performance but also the entertainment factor of it. The lights, the sound system, the seating, all of that is incorporated into the budget because that was part of the vision and we've had some really great games. That energy we get in the den is very unique. It's part of our culture now. We used to do this and pack out these games in the tiny sports hall we had which is next door. That has now transferred into The Den. 


Q: The Jordan Poole Link-Up –– How'd that come about? 

Coach Clive: It came up quite last minute. We had talks with his team, we had discussions for him to come during the summer. Those discussions fast forwarded during the All Star Weekend. It was a really good moment for us to welcome an NBA Champion, especially someone who really contributed for the Golden State Warriors. We also found in conversations with Jordan and his team that they struggled to find high-performance facilities within London that they can access. There's even a story about how he ended up getting kicked out of a court because of Badminton in one facility, so they were happy to find a facility that they can use. 


Q: You've already done a lot for this university, probably more than they realise. How much further does the vision go? What else is in store for The Den and this programme? 

Coach Clive: When I started taking over the programme in 2015, we had a small sports hall, probably not even the size of a secondary school gym. It's what we had to work with and I never ever really blame my tools. We've had some amazing memories there and we really grew our reputation as a basketball programme. Now we have the facility, the potential is massive. We aim to have a National League programme. We already have the Brent Bulls Women playing in Division 1 and competing at the higher level of basketball in the country. It's a climb to get up to Division 1 mens but now we have the space, it's a no brainer as it'll help attract more students to the university and provide that inspiration through the game. We also want to try and get the programme to the premier status of BUCS Basketball. We're gunna continue to build for men's and women's to get there.

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