THE seeds of Scotland's thriving basketball scene were sown in Glasgow.

Now the golden age of the sport has been celebrated in a new book by Alex O’Hara, a former Scotland international.

The 75-year-old, who is originally from Govan and now lives in Kilwinning, was inspired to write Basketball in the West of Scotland 1940 to 1970, for his friend and former team-mate Alistair McCrae. 

“Alistair and I liked to talk about our past and I wanted to put together some ‘memories’ which would enable his family to enjoy sharing these times with him,” says Alex.

“I started researching newspaper archives for stories and pictures from the time we were playing and eventually had built up so much archive material, that I was challenged to turn it in to a book. So I did.” 

The book gets its official launch at the Emirates Stadium this Sunday (April 14), just before the Glasgow Rocks’ home game against Cheshire Phoenix. Discounted tickets are being sold by Sense Scotland for the game with money raised supporting services for disabled people across Scotland.

Alex is donating all proceeds from the sale of his book to Sense Scotland, because the charity supports his 23-year-old grandson.

Alex’s book faithfully recounts the triumphs, tragedies and scandals of basketball’s golden age in Scotland, and contains season-by-season details of competitions, clubs and players, including some of the outstanding characters of the time.

“American soldiers stationed at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow didn’t just bring Coca Cola, Spam and nylon stockings over here,” smiles Alex. “They also introduced us to basketball.”

He adds: “I went along to one of the practice sessions at the Pierce Institute in Govan with a pal when I was 15, and I loved it.”

Making the unwanted 13 shirt his own, Alex went on to have a successful basketball career with both the dominant Pearce Institute team and Scotland.

He explains: “I was the youngest person in the first ever Scottish schools’ team, I spent four years in the under 20s Scotland team and was called up to the full national squad aged 19.

“My highlight was playing in the 1964 Four Countries International Tournament, which was also the final trial for the GB Olympic side.” 

Alex’s top flight career came to a premature end in his early 20s when the national squad’s requirement for frequent training in Edinburgh clashed with his professional life. 

The book is full of great anecdotes and photographs.

One tells of the rise of the ‘superteam’ Elite in the late 1950s.

Alex explains: “They promoted a showpiece game to be played at Crossmyloof Ice Rink with special flooring being installed at great expense for the occasion.

“In front of a capacity crowd, the game started. Unfortunately, the floor started to come loose and slide all over the place, very quickly causing the match to be abandoned in scenes of utter chaos.”

The book also includes details of the Outram Press juniors team, comprising members of staff from previous publishers of the Evening Times and its sister newspaper The Herald.

A photograph dating back to 1951 shows the successful team, which won an incredible collection of titles that season including the Junior Cup and the West Junior League Divisions 1 and 2 titles.

“Their astonishing record was played 26, won 26, scored 1287 and conceded 239,” says Alex. “Apart from two schoolboys, all of their players worked in the newspaper group. There was Billy Bentley, Evening Times commercial department, Ian McMillian, mechanic, Billy Will from the cashier’s office, Charlie Biggerstaff from the Evening Times advertising department and Sam Dunn in Despatch, who by this time had represented Scotland against England, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and more.” 

Alex has sold copies of his book to former players and their families all over the globe, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the USA.

The retired accountant hopes his chronicle of the development of basketball will provide a further substantial boost to funds for Sense Scotland.  

Andy Kerr, Chief Executive of Sense Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to help Alex launch this book. We’re grateful to family members like Alex – and to many others – who fundraise for us because they believe so much in the work we do.”

For more information and tickets for the game on Sunday, email or call 0300 330 9292.