A new women’s basketball team was formed following the investment of a generous couple.
Caledonia Gladiators – merging clubs Caledonia Pride and Lady Rocks – now hope to compete in the Women’s British Basketball League and plans are already underway for a purpose-built arena in Lanarkshire.
The club officially changed its name this month with the introduction of coaches as well as new rosters.
The team will include a combination of full-time professional athletes and others from across the country.
Lisa Palombo, 46, co-founder of Lady Rocks and now head of operations at Caledonia Gladiators, told the Glasgow Times: “Over the years the girls have had to leave the country to go and play professional basketball and we We’ve always had the aspiration that they shouldn’t need to do that.
“They should be able to play for their own club and country, at this high level.”
Caledonia Pride were the first women’s team to turn professional in Scotland. Meanwhile, Lady Rocks are the current champions of the country, with the U18s remaining unbeaten in the Scottish Cup and Premiership.
Lisa added: “The reason we are doing this is that young Scottish athletes can really aspire to play at this level and beyond in Scotland.
“We want to do something different.”
The creation of the new club would not have been possible without the support of South Lanarkshire couple Alison and Steve Timoney.
Mr Timoney, 56, is the founder of Smart Metering Systems (SMS) and he and his wife, 50, are behind the five-star Crossbasket Castle Hotel near East Kilbride.
Speaking of her longtime friends, Lisa said: “They never invested anything in another sports club.
“Their emotional attachment is to Lady Rocks whom they have supported throughout our time and who sparked this movement.
“But Alison and Steve are more than just investors. They invested in us emotionally and supported us throughout.
“They show up at games and awards nights and always make sure we have resources. The minibus we use to drive our players to the games is entirely thanks to them.
“With Alison and Steve as new owners, we are able to give young girls the ambition to play basketball at the highest level. Something I think young Scottish girls don’t particularly believe they can do – and they should, because they can.
“[Steve and Alison] don’t just waste money on something. They do what they believe is for the greater good of Lanarkshire communities.
“Cliché as it is, it’s a true saying that you can’t be what you can’t see. And a lot of our young girls don’t get to see a lot of women’s sports on TV.
However, Lisa and the team aren’t just focused on turning good into good.
The new team hopes to educate the next generation and get as many kids to love the sport as possible.
Lisa said: “We want eight and nine year olds to love the game so much that by the time they turn 16, 17 they’re watching something they’ve probably never dreamed of before.
“We hope that by doing this we will really raise the bar at our club and it will also help to raise the bar at all other Scottish clubs in the country.”
In a chat with The Glasgow Times, co-owner Mr Timoney spoke about his own dreams for the team.
He said: “We aim to reach the top; we want to be number one.
“I think with the players we have and the incredible coaching staff, we will be the best in Scotland and probably even the UK.”
The couple want to provide communities with the opportunity to get into the sport and take young children from their first basketball and ball dribble all the way to the top.
Mr Timoney added: “We are tired of athletes being labeled as male and female athletes. For us, they are just elite athletes.
“I don’t see the difference and I’ve never seen it, and that’s how it will be addressed in Caledonia Gladiators.
“We’re going to do groundbreaking things here, things that I don’t think the basketball world has seen yet.”