Even contemplating trying to quantify the scale of the basketball legacy left in Nottingham by the late Pauline Prior (nee Condon) is an impossible task. What she accomplished with the Wildcats both on and off the floor and consequently what is now in place for future generations because of the passion and dedication she showed each and every day to the sport we all love, is simply immeasurable.
A founding member of the club, she enjoyed a sparkling 16 year career on the floor as a renowned playmaker in the top flight, known for her ability to score big and hand out assists for fun. Also earning international honours at U17 and U19 level, a particular highlight came when donning her beloved Wildcats jersey during 1983. She was crowned MVP in the FIBA European Cup Winners Cup when playing against the prestigious Villeurbanne who had made the Final of the competition during the previous campaign. In total, Pauline played 219 league games for Wildcats, having debuted in 1976. She eventually accumulated a massive 2,225 points.
But the game shoes were never truly retired, since Pauline was never ever going to walk away from the court or from basketball – after all, that was her natural domain. She simply loved the sport too much for that. It was a case of turning the page and starting new chapters, which included being Team Manager of England at both youth and senior level for more than a decade, as well as coaching countless number of Wildcats youngsters at youth level.
During 2008, she coached the U14 Wildcats with Karen Burton to a maiden National title, but this was only the tip of the iceberg, since Pauline chose that same year to found the Wildcats’ Miniballers Programme which has given countless opportunities for 5-11 year old kids to play the game. She also spent a considerable chunk of her time developing the club in other aspects too, not least in her role as Administrator when she was a driving force behind the transformational decision to raise the money needed to deliver the biggest ever success – the construction of the Wildcats’ Arena.
Fittingly, Pauline was the first ever inductee into the Nottingham Wildcats’ Hall of Fame. Encapsulating everything that she represented, she refused the retirement of her legendary number 4 jersey, instead insisting that her daughter Siobhan continued to wear it.
And, Siobhan has paid tribute to her mum by stating: “We would like to thank everyone in the British Basketball family for all your kind words, messages and thoughts. My Dad, my family, our Wildcats Family and I are completely devastated at the passing of Mum, but all the love that she spread during her all too short life is now being showered down upon us.
“For that we are immensely grateful. She is in every kind gesture we now receive. We will never be without her,” added Prior, with all WBBL clubs also ready to pay their respects by way of a 24 second applause before each game this weekend.
Basketball in Nottingham will of course continue and move from strength to strength. But, the Wildcats family will never quite be the same without its leader, the person who inspired so many and who dedicated her entire adult life to building something so, so special.
RIP Pauline, you will be missed so much by us all.