ANOTHER player from Southend Swifts has taken the opportunity of continuing their education alongside progressing their prowess in the sport by moving to the United States.

But this time it is a very young Swift as 16-year-old Joe Hart relocates to New Jersey, where he will join the very prestigious Blair Academy.

Blair Academy is a private, co-educational boarding high school with an enrolment of about 430 students situated in Blairstown Township, approximately 60 miles west of New York City, in rural Warren County, New Jersey.

It has a wonderful basketball pedigree, with top Great Britain international and NBA player Luol Deng a former pupil.

For Shoebury’s Hart it is the culmination of eight years work at Swifts.

Chairman Paul May recalled: “Joe first attended a training session at St Thomas More High School at the age of eight.

“He showed a huge desire to learn the game and had the opportunity to be part of the under-16 squad that was Swifts’ first boys team.

“The other older players kept a very watchful eye on him, giving him constant encouragement and making him feel very part of the team although, understandably, his playing time was limited in the early years.

“Swifts’ head coach Stephen Pearl constantly challenged Joe to perform well above his own age group and in fact it wasn’t until he was 14 that he actually had the chance to play at his own age-group level.

“In fact in the past year he has played on the men’s and under-18 teams as well as his own under-16 side.”

“Joe has had outstanding success, not merely in terms of the points he has scored but in his all round play and in becoming a leader.”

Mr May explained Hart’s leadership skills led to him being the England captain at the recent European Championships where he led the team to third place; the highest finish since 1994.

“We are naturally sorry that Joe is leaving the club but can only wish him every possible success in reaching the highest level both academically as well as on the basketball court,” Mr May added.

“He retains a very special place in Swifts’ history and we look forward to seeing him back on our court during his school holidays.”