Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Day 26 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: spinning for England.

As with the numbers, as with so much in life, it depends on how you tell it.

Faced with the last day of the Challenge today, what better way to finish the project than with the perfectly symmetrical outcome of 26 baskets in 26 minutes?  Not too many, and not in too short a time.  This may seem easy but in actual fact it’s trickier than it sounds.

Given recent history, overscoring was a distinct possibility today. The real challenge was to get the tempo just right, so that the 26th shot would whoosh through the hoop with just seconds to spare, meaning that there would be no time available to over shoot the target.

This was a tall order but, I’m pleased to say, everything went according to plan.  There was just the right number of plain terrible shots which didn’t go anywhere near basketball nirvana (27); the ideal number of near misses (127) and the precise number of shots which underlined the symbolism of the project as a whole (26).  And guess what? Accompanied with a mere 30 seconds to spare. And Yvonne, my independent invigilator has the figures to prove it.

The timing presented its own challenges.  Performing in doors for the first time in 26 days (thank you especially to the Priory City of Lincoln Academy Sports Centre for dedicating their superb facilities to me for the entirety of the evening), I was faced with a new court, a bewildering set of floor markings and critically a new hoop which made it clear from the off that it wasn’t going to cooperate with any fundraising campaign any time soon.

So, it took a good few minutes to understand the dynamics of net, hoop, ball, stand and court such that I was able to time – nearly to perfection – the precise completion of the target of 26 baskets in the regulation 26 minutes. 

So after 26 days, 4,062 shots of which 2,357 were near misses, 709 on target and an overall success rate of 17.5%,  this part of the campaign has come to an end. Job done.

The campaign though to provide young people with Let’s Create packs – the fundamental reason behind all this counting, ball and story spinning still has some way to go.

You can help tell our story by sharing yours here.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this campaign and for helping improve young people’s creative lives. The numbers of beneficiaries, income raised and targets surpassed will tell us something about that, but there will be many more testimonials of your support which we will never hear about, but which are nevertheless as real as any numbers on a spreadsheet.

And for that, we will all be eternally grateful.


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Day 24 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Ball seeks Hoop for satisfying up and down relationship.

The demise of Hoop on Day 23 left Ball feeling bereft.  Little did we know that an intimate relationship had flourished between the now deceased hoop and the size 7 Opti Basketball.  All those no-where closes, near-misses, and holes-in-ones had brought the thrown and the catcher closer together than either could have imagined 24 days ago, and so the premature ending of the relationship led to Ball moping in surprising and poignant ways.

It wouldn’t lay still on the floor anymore and kept popping up in surprising locations around the house; its bounce became rugby-ball like and even the Opti logo – normally assuming a cheery emoticon smile- assumed a downward frown.   All was not well in the world of Ball.

So, to try and shake Ball out of its misery, we thought what better than other to provide it with a new stimulus and a new view of the world so set off to look for a new hoop, new free throw line – and who knows, perhaps find a new net into the bargain.

Happily, the search didn’t take long and before we knew it, Ball was re-establishing a new relationship with a new Hoop and a bonus Net.  The presence of Net was particularly beneficial in distracting Ball from its sadness, not least because it was composed of metal rings which didn’t so much ‘whoosh’ as the ball went through it so much as clank their appreciation of the introduction to a new ball.

To cap it all, Hoop was installed in a public recreation park so once its endeavours were over, Ball was able to relax and recuperate with some fun filled moments on the children’s swings and zip wire.

If you’d particularly like to see the Zip Wire exploits, you can click here: and if you’d like to see me repeat the humiliation all you have to do is donate £20 to the campaign here, tell me who you’d like to dedicate the Zip Wire ride too and I shall repeat the exercise and publicly dedicate the ride to you.

Ball will be delighted to participate, I’m sure.


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Day 22 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: One hund-red and eigh-ty! As if.

“One hund-red and eigh-ty! “Not that I’m going to reach those heights in the remaining five days but I remember mid-shot of how we celebrate numbers so joyfully.   That particular shot consequently went completely wayward and was a sharp reminder of the need to find a point on the wall, fix on it, follow through and not go off on a reverie of how we celebrate numbers on popular TV shows.

We can’t help but recognise Len Goodman’s ‘It’s Ten from Me’ in possibly every single episode of Strictly Come dancing though. And the cry of ‘One hundred and forty seven!’  in snooker as the maximum score available is potted once again.

Hitting those maximum scores shows us there’s no where else to go; that we’ve hit the pinnacle of achievement and in our small way have beaten our nerves, our competitors and the best of all, gravity.  It gives us a brief moment of invincibility even if it doesn’t last for very long and the next round, game or episode sees us crashing back to earth as our nerves, competitors and gravity reassert their dominance.

Be that as it may, having a modest target of 26 (“Twenty-six!”) does at least allow you several moments of invincibility, especially as you get nearer to the previously unimagined golden heights of 78 (“Seventy Eight!”). 

Speaking of which, why don’t they make records which spin at 78 rpm any more?

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
20157747044.59%2.69247.13%5203,12643613.9%
21163796640.49%2.53848.47%5463,28950215.3%
22178857441.57%2.84647.75%5723,46757616.6%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 21 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the comfort of the spreadsheet.

There’s only five days to go now and the beauty of numerical modelling means that rather than having to go outside and risk catching Covid-19 (despite what the stats tell us) , I can lay underneath the warmth and comfort of the spreadsheets (it’s a shame Excel don’t make duvets) and predict what’s going to happen today. 

Five days ago, y = 1.8393x + 2.019.  This was, as you can appreciate, was a bit of a surprise.  A pleasant surprise I grant you, but still a surprise.  So, imagine my response the day after when y = 1.9618x + 1.325!  This was obviously not a flash in the pan.  It’s always an adventure at the free-throw line as they say in basketball circles.

And guess what happened next?  Yep, you’ve guessed it: y = 2.23x – 0.2426.  You could have blown me down with a feather.  Clearly a matter of now having a hot hand.  As they say.

Followed by amidst much Shakespearean sturm und drang y = 2.24727x – 1.8235.  Nail that trifecta!

And today I’m looking at y = 2.8649x – 4.4386.  Say no more. We’re really gonna light up the scoreboard today.

And in case we’ve forgotten: you can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.

Epilogue

Drat.

y = 3.0526x – 5.7526.

Need I say more?

Drat.


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Day 18 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the unchartered waters of Citius Altius Fortius

“You’re in unchartered waters,” remarked Yvonne, my independent invigilator as my PB was passed in record time. My PB, for those that haven’t been following is 37 baskets in 26 minutes and today saw that milestone fade away in the mists of history.

I nearly remarked that the whole last 18 days has been unchartered waters for me but decided to concentrate on the job in hand.  Not unchartered in the way that an ice breaker ploughs through Antarctic ice floes in search for unknown uranium deposits I grant you, but there have been moments of physical and emotional challenge, that’s for sure.

Sporting prowess was never something I’ve been able to claim with much authority over the years. I was too slow, too short sighted, too asthmatic or just too bored with the whole damn thing when it came to being last in line at school to be chosen for a football team only to be stuck in goal on miserable November afternoons with nothing to do but carve your name in the mud with your outsize football boots, plotting your revenge.

Ironically, picking up a medal at school for playing in the Colts rugby team (for my enthusiasm I found out afterwards) was about as good as it got until much later on, much to my surprise again, I was named ‘Player of the Year’ for the eighth division squash team which played out of Liverpool Cricket Club. 

Again, the reason alluded me at the time.  Contrary to what you might expect, we called ourselves the ‘Oxford team’ as that was the pub where we tended to gravitate after Thursday night league matches to celebrate our occasional success but more frequently to tend to our emotional wounds of hurt pride, embarrassment or just sheer frustration at what was, woulda, coulda, shoulda been that night.

 But despite the squash lows, there were many team highs, and the camaraderie was something I’ve long since treasured. Perhaps it was that, in the knowledge that my PB was probably at the end of a long list of sporting achievements in the league table of the club’s best performing athletes which led to them to offer a vote of sympathy with the POTY trophy.

But whatever the reason, it was a great night to be alive that evening and one of my PB memories of how sport can bind us and forge a community, despite its fundamental tenets of competitiveness, winning, losing and tribal loyalties. In the arts, we like to think that the arts are fundamental to building community, new relationships and a sense of civic duty which of course they are: but we shouldn’t forget that sport can achieve that too, without needing to be faster, higher or stronger than anyone else.

A PB of 48 shots into a basketball hoop which is beginning to physically suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously tossed basket balls doesn’t quite capture those emotional heights of the POTY trophy but it does bring another kind of satisfaction, even if it is about revelling in the statistics of an Excel spreadsheet.

Speaking of which….

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rateTime for 26 (seconds)
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A26826-Apr
21940157.73%0.577N/A521942327-Apr
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%28-Apr
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%29-Apr
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%30-Apr
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%01-May
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%02-May
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%04-May
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%05-May
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%06-May
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%07-May
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%08-May
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%09-May
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%12-May1,290
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%13-May1,160
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%14-May1,255
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%15-May730

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 14 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it depends how you count ’em.

Some ago I made a cultural exchange visit to Finland as part of the Culture for Cities and Regions project. Touring around the Helsinki region, our guides were charmingly equivocal about what looked pretty straight forward.

Whether it was golf courses in Espoo (7 or 8), municipalities in Helsinki (4 or 14) or lakes in Finland (187,888 plus or minus), it all depends, as it turns out, on how you counted them. Our hosts were relativistic tour guides par excellence and thought nothing of giving the figures a  good interrogation as we drove up hill down dale and into a lake.

For phenomena which you might think are pretty unequivocal (when is a golf course not a golf course?), it turns out that there is a lot more to a thing than meets the eye.

Walking along the coastline of the Tooivo Kuulas park one morning you could see why. One moment the lake looks like an impressively large pond; the next it stretches way off into the distance and conjures up memories of Balaton Lake in Hungary; yet soon enough you find out that it’s not a lake at all but just another link in the supply chain to the Baltic Sea.

It struck me that the same case could be said for student attainment. How can a country’s education system said to be performing well? Through its ratings on the PISA scale? Numbers of students who graduate into work on completion of their undergraduate study? Aggregated ratings on a mental health scale of well being? Like the lakes in Finland, it depends on how you count them. My top PISA rating may be nothing more than a drop in your Baltic Sea when it comes to evaluating the relevance those ratings have on learners’ lives.

And when it comes to counting basketballs falling through hoops, the same principle clearly applies.  Does one successful shot equate to a ball falling into the hoop and then falling all the way to the ground?  Or could you count balls that fell partially through the hoop, only to inexplicably spin out upwards a short time later?

Whilst it’s temporarily startling that Espoo has a disputed number of golf courses in its territory, it is comforting to think that if we can’t count golf courses with confidence, we can confidently be a little less confident about the value of numbers when it comes to understanding the effects of cultural education on our children and indeed the number of occasions a basketball has properly fallen the requisite distance to qualify as a bona fide shot.

So, whilst today’s statistics might look like they’re disappointingly a bit shy of the target, we can find comfort in the spreadsheet when we realise that these numbers are not hard and fast things in their own right, but are subject to interpretation, imagination and the vagaries of the act of counting itself.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78470255.3%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104767324.2%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%1301,064434.0%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%1561,339493.7%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,627633.9%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,915633.3%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2602,199793.6%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2862,501973.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3122,7921174.2%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3383,0821414.6%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3643,3831604.7%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 13 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: only halfway to paradise (or until the target re-sets).

There’s just another 13 days left but still just two tantalising baskets to shoot before I hit target of 26 baskets in under 26 minutes.  Mind you, what do you do when you hit target?  Generate another one of course.

Not content with shooting 26 basketballs in under 26 minutes (something unheard of for me not 14 days ago), the target driven mind decides to up the ante and find increasingly intricate ways to move the metaphorical goal posts (see Day 11 for further reasoning on this process).

26 baskets in under 26 minutes?  Meaningless.  Better change it to the fastest 26 baskets in under 26 minutes.  Better than that, aim for the maximum number of baskets you can shoot in 26 minutes.  Better than that even, maximise the effort, minimise the feel good factor and aim for a ration of 1 basket per shot per second for 26 minutes: ie 1,560 consecutive baskets.  This would give Anthony MIracola (see Day Seven) something to think about, even if it is an impossibly unrealistic target in the scheme of things.

But when did realism ever have anything to do with setting targets, hitting them and then resetting them with elevated levels of unrealism injected into them?  There’s something about a target culture which is both alluring, frustrating but ultimately addictive. 

Quite whether our broader target driven culture is actually making lives better for our children and young people is another matter, but you can be sure that as eggs is eggs (or until they become super-eggs), we won’t stop redefining them and setting ourselves increasingly ridiculous challenges, all for the sakes of some interesting statistics. 

Which today, for those who are addicted to such things look like this:

Day 13: shots per day of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge.

Or, as Billy Fury once crooned:

I’m only halfway to paradise

So near, yet so far away.

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 12 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s a Mighty Team effort.

Whilst it might look like I’m trying to throw balls into a basketball hoop in a solitary fashion, in actual fact I’m part of a bigger Mighty Creatives team effort whose members are all contributing to the task in hand: namely to raise funds in support of our Not Just a Box programme.

The Not Just a Box programme supplies Lets Create packs, boxes filled with creative resources tailored by age to support children to get creative in their homes. Each pack provides vital materials such as paper, pens, paints, craft kits and digital tools, resources which they would otherwise have limited access to outside of education.

Its Not ‘just’ a Box though.  Boxes delivered to the doorsteps of children in need provide that critical connection with The Mighty Creatives, where children and young people can access our support and the opportunities we can provide direct to their homes.

A box provides the tools and resources and access to support from our skilled staff team and specialist Creative Practitioners, Mentors and Coaches via online and offline activities.

As a result, a Mighty Creative child in need accesses critical and timely support from The Mighty Creatives, developing their resilience and nurturing activity to sustain their wellbeing. In turn these children are supported to develop the confidence to come together with others to share their story and to take action in their lives and in the lives of others living in their shoes.

Emily Bowman is leading the The Mighty Relay Rabble Team:  30+ friends whose mission is  to run a virtual relay across three continents! Each member of the team is running / walking 2.6 miles, then passing their baton onto the next member of the team. From the South East of the UK to the US, passing through Finland and Australia along the way!

Emily York is trusting her friends and family to submit daily challenges for her to undertake, some creative, some physical but most are for her to make a fool out of herself!

Hannaa Hamdache is creating 26 paintings over the course of 26 days. You can follow her daily progress over on Instagram: @thehamthatdoodles.

Hope C is learning 26 famous dance routines from music, movies and tv. Without giving too much away, she’s got a track list of tunes from the 80s, 90s, 00s, some K-pop bangers (of course) and scenes from some movies too. She is not a dancer, so this is a real challenge for her!

Charlotte Moseley is running a mile a day for 26 days and…

Lorrie Stock will be baking as many cakes as she can, taking orders from family and friends for any cakes and bakes they want, in return for donations and all the support she can get!

Yours truly, as you may know, is aiming to shoot 26 basketballs in under 26 minutes over 26 days.  With variable but encouraging results!  Here’s today’s stats produced for you in a slightly different format…

Baskets scored over Days 1 – 12

And here’s some for the more curious amongst us:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%
Not long to go now!


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Day 11 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: dance the Time Warp at your peril.

Today started with an alarming statistic: the first ball went through the hoop on the second attempt.  Granted it took another 30 attempts to score a second basket, nevertheless this moment of euphoria soon faded when the near misses kept building up.  Just off the left-hand side, just off the right: bounce back at ya from the back of the board, bounce back at ya and over your head, just to spite ya. I then had what you might call an epiphanic moment: the hoop, taken aback by the success of the second shot decided to move itself, ever so slightly, at will.  Its own will, not mine, not yours, not the invigilators but its own.

Now, they talk about moving the goal posts in football: but this is always in the sense that some human beings somewhere have tiptoed over to the goalposts mid-game and surreptitiously unscrewed the goal posts, unhung the net and then scuttled 5 yards up the pitch only to reverse engineer the entire process and mount the goal posts even further away from the opposition.  Implausible it may be, but the phrase ‘moving the goal posts’ must have come from someone’s lived experience so we doubt it at our peril.

Tennis players will be also familiar with the natural phenomenon of the tennis net sagging ever so slightly during a game so that one minute you’ve served out, and the next you’ve served an ace.  This leads to a false self impression of actually how talented you are when all along it was the net’s tendency to sag when you least needed it which was the actual cause.

But basketball is different.  Whether this is because the hoop and the net are light and easy to manoeuvre, or whether the repeated hammerings they get from all those near misses causes them to contract, expand, take a step to the left or a step to the right in true Rocky Horror style, the fact is they move of their own volition.  In their own time, in their own manner.  All you can do as an itinerant basketball player is count to ten, take a deep breath, stick out your BUTT and lob the ball into the air in the hope that the hoop has decided to stay still for a while. 

A successful basket can lead to you dancing a little time warp jig but you’d better be aware that the hoop is watching your every move and is only too ready to make a fool of you if you get carried away with your success rate.

Check out those statistics here:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%
8Training Day
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Ten of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: counting the cost but feeling the value.

Believe it or not, this campaign is not really about how many basketballs I can throw in a hoop in 26 minutes, how many near misses I can frustratingly curse at or how many complete no-hopers have found themselves on the neighbours side of the fence.

 No, it’s part of charity wide campaign to draw attention to how children and young people in the East Midlands have been feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year.

And actually, it’s not really even about that: it’s about recognising that the real crisis that young people  face both here and across the UK, and indeed the world, is one of child poverty.  For the 5th richest nation in the world, our country’s child poverty statistics are disgraceful.

This is why we at The Mighty Creatives have established direct relationships with the End Child Poverty Campaign and regional organisations who have highlighted the roles of food banks in communities and how arts resource packs  can make a material difference to families’ financial welfare and quality of life.

“It takes the pressure off and – all these lovely things that people have got, but not had to go into debt for. For lots of people these things are normal, but not for everyone. They were extra things that we could provide for them, for the whole family, although it is for the kids it helps the whole family.”

Many of our partners in the areas hardest hit by poverty have highlighted how important receiving an arts pack which stimulated young people’s creativity was to their mental health:

“Mental health problems are so entrenched in our area – and we all know the effects a creative experience can have to remove the mind from the rabbit warren. We would do it again in a heartbeat. We felt very proud to be part of it, and part of the chain that got those packs out.”

We now want to extend our relationships with organisations working to address poverty. 

Our vision is to show people directly how just an apparently modest donation of arts resources can have life changing effects and this is where your help comes in. 

Just £2.60 can help a young person find the pleasure of finding a creative moment in the time of a heartbeat.

 A £26.00 donation can help that heartbeat moment shape a life time’s memory of the pleasures of creativity.

The cost is one thing: but the value of your donation is immeasurable.  That’s one thing I’m not forgetting in counting those misses, near misses and baskets.

And for those of us who love the numbers, here’s today’s results:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%
8Training Day
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.