TJ Robinson and A Sporting Rollercoaster Book

The photo shows Solent Stars legend TJ Robinson enjoying the book detailing the history of the club.

TJ played for Solent in the 1980's - including the treble winning team of 1983/84. TJ played a handful of games in the club's first season (1980/81) and then returned full-time for the 1982/83 season. He left the club after the 1986/87 season.

The book is still available for purchase. See this post for details.

Solent Stars - A Sporting Rollercoaster Book

A Sporting Rollercoaster is the definitive book detailing the history of the Solent Stars Basketball Club.

The book is available from the following web sites. Click on the links to be taken directly to the product pages. (print format) (print format) (paperback and hardback print format and digital download)

Book Description

More than 900 games are featured in this book about the Solent Stars senior men's basketball team. With 383 pages, the book is filled with 140 photos of teams and players over the past 27 seasons plus results of all the matches played.

Every first team player is listed and there are team photographs from most seasons plus coaching statistics and programme covers. This book is the definitive record of the club's history and was welcomed by players and team followers alike.

Author, Jim Rumsey, has been involved with the team since its inception and has used his experiences to record the various ups and downs of the club over its 27 year existence.

Solent Stars - The History

Basketball is one of the world's major sports and, yet, in England the game only has minority status. As such, the public's awareness of the basketball teams, coaches, players and administrators is limited.

This website is a small step taken to redress the balance for the thousands of spectators, players, coaches and officials who have contributed to the account of the Solent Stars Basketball club.

Our story starts with the vision of one man, Harry Smith. He had earlier funded a Solent women's team to play on the national scene before assembling a men's team to join Division Two of the National League in the 1980-81 season.

From then on the story of the club is one of a rollercoaster ride from national champions and European contenders to falling from Division One to regional Division Four in 1990. Subsequently, Solent Stars rose again to become Division One league winners at the end of the 1998-99 season. Along the way there have been many dramas, personalities and incidents. In the following web pages you will find accounts of all of these events including descriptions of over 900 games played during that period.

I dedicate this website to all those who have been involved - in whatever capacity - with Solent Stars Basketball Club.

Jim Rumsey

The website contains the following sections.

Seasons - Detailed accounts of each season, containing photographs when available. This is a comprehensive review of approximately 120,000 words.

Players - A list of all the players that are known to have played for the Senior Men's First Team and a list of the Player of the Year Awards

Coaches - A list of all the coaches with win / loss records

Statistics - Player statistics for a number of seasons

League Tables - A full set of league tables which show at which level Solent were competing each season

Trophies - All major trophies won by the club

Images - Programme covers and some programme articles. A selection of team photos. Some action photos.

Articles - Articles about or by members of the Solent Stars club

Support - Information regarding the Supporters Club, mascot and fans

Women - a brief overview of the women's team

Youth - a brief overview of the early days of the youth programme

Book - details of the book written by Jim Rumsey in 2007

Solent Stars 1980/81 Season

Left to right: Ken Walton, Trevor Denny, Karl Tatham, Marvin Johnson, Southampton FC Manager Lawrie McMenemy, TJ Robinson, Paul Philp, Jimmie Guymon

Solent Stars entered the second division of the National League for the first time in the 1980/81 season.

The club had been formed at the end of the previous season from two Southern League teams - Portsmouth Pirates and Southampton Sharks. Harry Smith then took over the backing for the team-making development and submitted an entry to the National Basketball League in April 1980. Shortly after this the club was accepted into the league.

Mark Saiers

The original directors of the club were taken from prominent local basketball personnel. The owner, Harry Smith, had played in the local basketball league for many seasons as a player with the Royal Army Pay Corps, Winchester. Jim Rumsey had been secretary of the local Area Association for a number of years. Ken Butcher had a prominent role in the English Schools Basketball Association and had provided a number of very successful players through his involvement at Redbridge School, Southampton. Mick Byrne was the Area Chairman and had contacts with the English Basketball Association. Don House held a prominent role in the Southampton Basketball Association. Chris Campbell and Steve Fitzsimons completed the list of directors representing the Portsmouth connection in the newly formed club.

At an early meeting to decide club formation, Jim Rumsey had suggested to Harry Smith that a coach called Tom Wisman had been involved in the English scene until two years before when, after a fall-out with the National Association, he had returned to America. Harry Smith quickly traced Tom Wisman to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and got on a plane to go and talk with him! Not only did Tom agree return to the English game, but he was able to persuade two other Albuquerque residents to accompany him - Jimmie Guymon and Mark Saiers! Tom Wisman was soon joined by Steve Fitzsimons, as assistant coach.

Mark Saiers (10) and Paul Philp

As a new team, Solent Stars picked up some experienced players to aid in the development of the younger players in the area. Two of the experienced players were Paul Philp and Ken Walton, both having played for Great Britain and England. Joining them were the two Americans, 'Golden Arm' Jimmie Guymon who had thrilled crowds at Crystal Palace in the seventies and Mark Saiers, who had already played four seasons in English basketball. In 1976, these four players had played together and reached the quarter-final of the European Cup Winners Cup and won both league and cup titles.

Another player recruited by coach Wisman was Karl Tatham. Karl had played in the previous season for Jacksonville University, Florida. Having been born in London, Karl came with an English passport and an American basketball pedigree.

The height for the club was initially supplied by Fred Petty (7' 2") and Nic Burns (7' 1"). Nic joined Solent Stars from local rivals, Brighton. However, Fred Petty, despite 17 international caps, found that he could not settle in the area and did not play in any league matches.

Completing the team for that first season were some exceptional local players in Trevor Denny, John Day, Steve Bowden, Peter Lovett, David Wilson and Steve Mathias, all of whom had shown great promise in pre-season training.

Programme notes from the Wolverhampton game on 12 October 1980

A Solent Stars office was established at Charles House, Winchester Road, Chandler's Ford. Harry Smith injected money into the local Area Association and an office was made available in Charles House for the administration of the Area business. A new kit was commissioned and bought in the USA - blue with yellow stars.

On Sunday, September 21st Solent Stars won the Southern Open Tournament at Gillingham by beating Kelly Girl, Kingston (111 - 93) and Ovaltine, Hemel Hempstead (95 - 92). Those results meant an invitation to the Philips World Club Tournament (Jan 1st - 4th 1981) at Crystal Palace Sports Centre along with Doncaster and Murray International.

The first ever National League game for Solent Stars took place at Fleming Park Leisure Centre on Sunday, September 28th 1980 at 4.00pm. The Solent squad was 4 Steve Mathias, 6 Paul Philp, 7 Ken Walton (Capt), 9 Jimmie Guymon, 10 Mark Saiers, 11 Nic Burns, 12 Karl Tatham, 13 John Day, 14 Dave Wilson, 15 Trevor Denny. The opponents were Camden and one of their squad was Roy Lewis, who in time became a firm favourite with the Fleming Park following when he later played for Solent Stars. Solent Stars won the game 90 - 71.

The Fleming Park Leisure Centre had no raked seating of its own and it was the Solent Stars club that bought the initial bleacher seating for the Centre. Unlike today's east-west setting, the court ran north-south with just one row of free standing seats set against the wall and the raked seating - for about 300 people - on the other side of the court.

Solent Stars then went to Cork to play the Blue Demons in the British and Irish Federation Cup. After leading by just one point at halftime (51 - 50), Solent went on to win the first leg of this first round game 114 - 98.

Karl Tatham

It was a return to league action at Fleming Park for Solent on Sunday, October 12th. Although Wolverhampton Wolves, according to the Solent programme for the day, had strengthened their team considerably since the previous season, it was obviously not enough! Solent Stars went into the season's record books for the highest margin of victory - 73 points - in winning 156 - 83. This also equalled the highest points scored by a team in Division Two that season (Brighton scored the same number of points, also against Wolves, later in the season).

It was Brighton who were the next visitors to Solent, on Sunday October 19th. Like Solent, Brighton were early season pace-setters and had a key player in Jerry Jenkins (later to score 51 points in the match against Wolves). This was Solent's first big league test and they came through it comfortably, winning 129 - 99.

The next weekend was a busy time for the Solent Stars. On the Saturday evening they entertained Blue Demons, Cork, for the return leg of the British and Irish Federation Cup. Already leading by 16 points from the first away leg, Solent were in the driving seat throughout the game and won it 96 - 76 to give a passage into the next round. On the following day, Solent had to travel to Brighton to play in an ASDA National Cup game. Once again, Solent were able to triumph over the local rivals (129 - 105), despite the difficult league game the week before.

Solent Stars sternest test came the following week, when they met Team Fiat in the quarter-final of the National Cup - just seven days after beating Brighton in the previous round. Unbeaten Division One leaders at the time (they subsequently won Division One), Team Fiat had just moved from Coventry to the Aston Villa Sports Centre. Among their squad was Steve Assinder (1978 Player of the Year) and Kevin Penny, who were to be well-known players in the decade. In what is remembered as an excellent game of basketball, the Division One team just gained the edge on the day to win 98 - 101. Team Fiat went out in the semi-final to Crystal Palace.

It was back to league action the following week at Fleming Park when Solent entertained Colchester Moels. Struggling Colchester were no match for Solent Stars who won 114 - 47.

Standing (left to right): Ken Wilde, Tom Wisman, Karl Tatham, Ken Pemberton, Nic Burns, Mark Saiers, Marvin Johnson, Steve Fitzsimons, Mick Byrne Sitting: Steve Mathias, Dave Wilson, Ken Walton, Paul Philp, Peter Lovett

Team Talbot (Guildford) from Division One were Solent's next visitors to Fleming Park for the second round of the British and Irish Federation Cup. Team Talbot had made an indifferent start to the league season, having lost an important American player. Another future Solent Star player, Ken Nottage, was in their ranks. Solent were able to progress to the semi-final of this competition after disposing of Team Talbot (107 - 90).

Following this match Solent's fortunes varied over the coming months. A trip to Brunel Ducks following on from the Team Talbot game gave Solent a comfortable win 122 - 50.

Then came the Modern Hotels Classic in Jersey. A whole weekend of basketball competing against First Division teams - Ovaltine Hemel Hempstead, Kelly Girl Kingston, Team Fiat Birmingham, Sunderland and A. B. C. Nantes (France). Although the only Second Division team in the competition, Solent's chances were rated very highly.

In the Pool matches, Solent gained revenge for the earlier cup defeat by Team Fiat (94 - 85) and overcame Sunderland (110 - 77). The play-off final against Ovaltine Hemel Hempstead resulted in a win (81 - 71). Solent had performed a giant-killing act!

Having beaten second placed Brighton earlier in the season, Solent faced away matches on consecutive days to third placed Liverpool and fourth placed Leeds. Solent won both games with ease. On Saturday they overcame Leeds (106 - 88) and on Sunday Liverpool succumbed (110 - 95).

Back in league action, Solent travelled to Nottingham to beat the home team 115 - 101.

The next event for Solent was the Philips World Club Invitation Tournament at Crystal Palace held at the beginning of the new year. In the qualifying game against UBSC Vienna, Mark Saiers broke his finger. Solent lost the game 87 - 89. Further disaster struck in the following game against Murray International when Paul Philp sprained his ankle and Solent lost again 69 - 82. This left just one game against Windsor (Canada) which Solent won 116 - 96 to finish in 11th position in the tournament. Jimmie Guymon was second leading scorer with 103 points from the three games.

Solent bounced back to winning ways when they resumed their league programme beating Camden 122 - 74, but found the handicap of missing Mark Saiers too much when they met in the rematch with Brighton and suffered their only league defeat of the season 85 - 91.

Solent then had to play the first leg of the British and Irish Federation Cup against Sunderland at Fleming Park. It was to be a successful season for the young Sunderland team, under coach Tom Becker. After finishing fourth in Division One, Sunderland won the Championship Play-Offs and they also won the British and Irish Federation Cup, beating Team Fiat in the two-legged final after ousting Solent Stars on the way. TJ Robinson, who had been flown in from America to deputise for injured Mark Saiers made his home debut in this match which Solent lost 80 - 103.

The next visitors to Solent, on Sunday, February 1st 1981 were Liverpool. The league defeat suffered at Brighton's hands two weeks earlier meant that the three teams below Solent had now lost three matches. Liverpool put up a tremendous struggle on the night and only lost in overtime (108 - 104). Next, Brunel Ducks were sent flying with a 116 - 62 win to Solent Stars and Mark Saiers was now back in the squad.

A friendly match against Crystal Palace filled the week before the National Trophy semi-final against Camden. Solent Stars moved into the final to play Liverpool, who had surprisingly beaten Brighton, to whom they had previously lost twice in the league programme.

Division Two Champions

Solent completed their league programme with a 102 - 74 win over fourth placed Leeds. Solent Stars were now league champions with a 15 - 1 record. A visit to Liverpool at the end of March saw Solent also capture the National Trophy 119 - 86.

The final match of the season was a friendly match against England, held at Fleming Park on Thursday, April 2nd 1981. Karl Tatham and Nic Burns were both included in the England squad.

(Division 2)
Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points
1 Solent Stars 16 15 1 1824 1221 +603 30
2 Brighton 16 13 3 1654 1426 +228 26
3 Liverpool 16 11 5 1731 1241 +490 22
4 Leeds 16 11 5 1448 1303 +145 22
5 Camden 16 8 8 1457 1468 -11 16
6 Nottingham 16 5 11 1266 1430 -164 10
7 Brunel 16 5 11 1258 1481 -223 10
8 Colchester 16 2 14 1201 1592 -391 4
9 Wolverhampton 16 2 14 1272 1779 -507 4

Solent Stars 2006/07 Season

Following several seasons without on-court success, owner Bob Paulley widened his net in his search for a new coach once Steve Chant had announced his resignation both as a coach and a club director.

Inevitably there were protracted long-distance negotiations before, late in the summer, the club announced the appointment of Kerry Kirby from Alabama, USA. His job also would encompass a role at Southampton Solent University in an effort to demonstrate Solent Stars commitment to building its Academy credentials.

Nationally a new policy concerning club franchises was relaxed - despite the protestations by several club owners - with the result that two new clubs within a short radius of Fleming Park entered the national league. One of the teams, playing in Division Four, eventually comprised most of the English players from the recent teams of Solent Stars plus the previous season's Assistant Coach, Sylvain Donneaud.

Coach Kerry Kirby, fresh from a successful USA representative team tour of China, thus found he had to build virtually a new team in a very short time with most of the experienced local talent - including Solent's Academy players - not available.

Kerry Kirby (coach)

The first fixture was an away National Trophy game at West Herts Warriors. Kirby had only arrived in the country four days before the game and it had been Mick Byrne who had had the job of finding and training the new English players. The coach brought with him Earl Moore who had played in the team that had visited China. Moore made an immediate impact in this game. With youngster Craig Teesdale and also Liam Wyatt having to play a lot of court time, Solent were always going to be hard-pressed against a more experienced and bigger Herts team. The result was close, Solent losing by just eight points, 84 - 92 (Moore 44).

A friendly was arranged for a fortnight later at Fleming Park, to allow all the Academy players to be seen. Solent Stars won 93 - 64. This was one of only four occasions that Solent had a home game before Christmas in an example of poor programming by the national body.

A further lack of imagination by England Basketball sent Solent back to West Herts for the first league game. The game followed a similar pattern to the first with Solent losing 97 - 104 (Moore 45) despite a late comeback. For Solent, Sebastian Zwolak made an impressive debut.

Earl Moore

A trip to Cardiff Celts followed for a National Cup game. The match went to overtime when Cardiff scored a three pointer - one of their 14 in the game - on the final buzzer. Solent exited the National Cup with a 101 - 107 loss (Moore 37, Milner 28, Zwolak 20).

Mick Byrne, aided by injured player Ryan Payne, took over the coaching role for the visit to London Leopards. This was because of a viral illness to coach Kirby. John Wilkins worked hard at both ends for Solent but could not prevent another league loss, 78 - 92 (Moore 26, Zwolak 21).

With Kirby fit again, amazingly Solent Stars were programmed for two away games on consecutive days, in the following weekend. A long trip to Sheffield Arrows came first. With Milner carrying an injury and Moore under the weather with a cold, it was left to youngsters Rob Bawden, Liam Mitchell and Darren Mason to help the more experienced players. The result was no surprise, Solent losing 73 - 109 (Moore 28).

A comparatively short trip to London Capitals followed the next day. The result, a 58 - 82 loss (Moore 28) was not expected after such a hectic weekend.

Clayton Milner

At last, on November 11th, a home game had been arranged by the league. With clubs sometime dependent on gate receipts, there seemed little support for Solent from the league management in denying any possibility until this date. For the home fans it also provided the first victory for Solent in the league, although they were denied an opportunity to ever see Zwolak who had left to return to Poland. Solent led after the first quarter with Ryan Payne returning from injury and won 73 - 66 (Moore 29, Milner 20).

Away next to Coventry Crusaders in the league, Solent saw the debut of Antonio Bright, a second American brought in by coach Kirby. Solent led at half time and at the three-quarter mark, but fell away at the end despite late scoring by Ben Stanley and Liam Mitchell to lose narrowly 96 - 101 (Bright 33, Moore 25).

Ryan Payne

Solent paid heavily for lack of big men and Bright's fouling out with 8 minutes left in their second home league game against Worthing Thunder. A comprehensive defeat 85 - 112 (Moore 38, Bright 21) was the outcome.

A visit to league leaders Reading Rockets was never going to be easy. In the game both Payne and Moore were injured, effectively ending any challenge as Solent lost 76 - 111 (Bright 21, Moore 20).

Coach Kirby missed the home game against Manchester Magic with another illness bout. With Moore still injured and no Payne, Mick Byrne was left to take a very inexperienced team to a National Trophy crushing defeat 78 - 126 (Bright 33).

Back in league action on the road to Kings Lynn Fury, Solent missed club captain Ryan Payne who strangely chose to coach the Solent Under 18 team for the second consecutive week. When Darren Mason fouled out early in the second half, Solent had no big men left to counter the Kings Lynn attacks and lost 99 - 112 (Moore 41, Bright 25, Milner 23).

Antonio Bright

Two National Trophy games began the new year. Solent put up a good performance at Worthing before losing 95 - 106 (Bright 33, Moore 20). Paul Young made an impressive debut as Solent's new centre.

More height and aggression was added to the Solent squad as Nick O'Harabe returned to the team. His and Young's presence were instrumental in restricting Coventry to 60 points in this home game played at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth. Solent's very rare National Trophy win, 87 - 60 (Moore 28, Bright 24) meant that they did not occupy the final place in the pool.

It was Solent's turn to feel the effect of good defence in the next league match, home to West Herts Warriors. As with Coventry in the previous game, Solent could only manage 60 points as they stumbled to a 60 - 75 loss.

A daunting trip to Manchester Magic saw Solent put up a good fight in an entertaining game that they lost 80 - 106 (Bright 26, Moore 21).

The next home game, against London Leopards, proved the most exciting of the season. Only one point separated the teams at the end of each quarter. O'Harabe's cool shooting of two final free throws gave Solent the victory, although with one second to go they contrived to throw the ball away and give London a last chance. Solent's win 89 - 87 (Moore 26, Bright 23) was only their second of the league season.

This total was doubled over the next weekend with consecutive home games on Saturday and Sunday. First up were Sheffield Arrows who would have been expected to win. Solent's confidence had been boosted by their last win and despite falling behind for the majority of the game, a last quarter in which they outscored Sheffield 38 - 19 gave Solent a famous victory, 112 - 107 (Bright 43, Moore 30, O'Harabe 22).

A first ever visit by Northampton Neptunes saw Solent complete a double victory weekend by the score 98 - 90 (O'Harabe 30, Bright 27).

With Bright not available for the next game, Solent were unable to match the scoring of London Capitals at home and lost 75 - 113 (Moore 21).

Bright was back for the trip to Teesside Mohawks in a game that marked the first away win for the Solent team - as well as a double over the Teesside club. Solent led throughout much of the game but needed to keep their composure at the end before edging the game 87 - 80 (Moore 26, Bright 25).

Coventry Crusaders were Solent's next visitors - ironically once again at the Mountbatten Centre. Solent had travelled back from Teesside the night before and it may have affected their game. With the scores close throughout, it was Coventry that nailed the final points to give Solent a narrow loss, 87 - 90 (Bright 25).

Needing at least two wins from their remaining five matches, Solent could expect no favours from the visit of Manchester Magic. Despite their best performance against their opponents, Solent's missed free throws would have helped narrow the 85 - 96 gap (Bright 28).

Nick O'Harabe

League contenders Reading Rockets were also in no mood to help Solent in their play-off quest when they came to Fleming Park and Solent fell to their superior power 65 - 88 (Bright 29).

It was yet another game at the Mountbatten Centre for the vital fixture against Kings Lynn Fury. Solent did not disappoint the few fans that made the trip. A stirring display saw them run out winners in a high scoring game, 118 - 111 (Moore 36, Bright 28).

The next game - away to Northampton Neptunes - was equally vital for Solent who blotted their copybook by arriving late for the game, which began 35 minutes late. Northampton led for most of the match until Solent levelled at the start of the final quarter. Northampton did not help their cause by losing several players who were fouled out, which left them just five players for the final six minutes. Solent finished stronger to record a second away win, 100 - 94 (Moore 29, O'Harabe 21, Bright 20). This victory assured Solent of eighth place in the league and therefore a play-off spot.

The final league game was away to the league champions Worthing Thunder with the knowledge that the two teams would meet again the following week on the same court. The final league game went to form eventually, but Worthing were shocked when Solent led at the first quarter 26 - 21 after Worthing had taken a long time to get into their stride. With the scores level at half time (55 all) an amazing 50 points by Worthing in the third quarter deflated the visitors and Solent eventually lost 108 - 129 (Moore 44, Bright 29).

One week later, the teams met again. The league champions had only lost one game in the season and Solent's effort in the play-off game was a tribute to the fighting spirit of the whole squad. Although the American duo of Earl Moore and Antonio Bright had taken the scoring plaudits, they were backed by a group of fairly inexperienced players who had been thrust into League Division One action. The play-off game performance was typical of the squad who had given their all throughout the season and although Solent lost 102 - 115 (Moore 36, Bright 27) they won much respect from basketball fans.

Little did those travelling Solent fans realise that they were watching the end of an era as Solent Stars began a summer of unrest that would mean that for the first time since 1980 no Solent Stars name would be seen in the fixture list.

(Division 1)
Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points
1 Worthing Thunder 22 21 1 2267 1850 +417 42
2 Reading Rockets 22 19 3 2013 1623 +390 38
3 Manchester Magic 22 17 5 2138 1868 +270 34
4 London Leopards 22 13 9 1991 1929 +62 26
5 PAWS London Capitals 22 13 9 2019 1825 +194 26
6 UH West Herts Warriors 22 11 11 1954 1902 +52 22
7 Sheffield Arrows 22 11 11 1914 1914 +0 22
8 Solent Stars 22 7 15 1899 2151 -252 14
9 Coventry Crusaders 22 6 16 1667 1927 -260 12
10 Kings Lynn Fury 22 5 17 1936 2231 -295 10
11 Tees Valley Mohawks 22 5 17 1686 1888 -202 10
12 Northampton Neptunes 22 4 18 1831 2207 -376 8