Brighton Bears have called in one of Sussex's most popular players to give their community set-up an energetic new look.

Point guard Daniel Hildreth has re-joined the club in a player/community coach role.

Hildreth, 28, will come off the bench when needed for Bears in the British League.

But much of his working week will be taken up giving the club a closer relationship than ever before with the schools of East and West Sussex.

Bears plan to stage youth team matches as curtain-raisers to BBL action at both the Brighton Centre and the Triangle.

That is the only real innovation in the new set-up but Bears hope Hildreth's profile, contacts and enthusiasm will give an extra edge to old favourites such as school visits by players, pre-game clinics and half-term coaching.

Hildreth has supplemented his playing income as a part-time youth coach in recent seasons and is well known throughout the county.

He said: "I've been coaching for ten or 12 years and going into the schools is something I've enjoyed.

"Having a Bears player, who you see suited up at the Brighton Centre on a Saturday night, organise this creates so much more enthusiasm for kids to get involved.

"What used to happen was I would go to a school and coach for six weeks and that was it unless I got asked back a year later.

"We want to bridge that gap. We'll be coaching in schools but we want to get kids to our pre-game clinics and to be taught by the players.

"Maybe they can do drills the Bears players do or get to ask questions of the professionals.

"That sort of thing is invaluable. Then they see the game on a Saturday and what it's all about. They see the whole deal.

"We want to target the whole of Sussex. At the moment it's all about writing letters, making calls and convincing schools this is good for them.

"We're not just going in there to play basketball. We will be promoting healthy eating and life skills.

"We'll be asking the kids why Ronnie Baker can play for England at 36 years old. Why? Because he eats healthily and exercises."

Hildreth has been critical of the minor role played by British players in the BBL in recent years but insists: "Every team now has one legitimate English starter.

"I don't consider myself to be that, I'm all about coming off the bench and doing a defensive job or providing a spark, but I believe the only way English players will continue to progress is if we increase the number of youngsters playing the game."

Bears coach Nick Nurse has asked his assistant coaches to help run community schemes in the past but reckons having a player at the helm is an advantage.

He said: "Danny is a lifelong Sussex basketball player and he has already coached in most of these schools.

"Having a player do this job makes it higher profile.

"The other aspect of the job is he gets to be back in the BBL, which is something he desperately wants to do.

"He's incredibly motivated. He knows he has to prove people wrong every time he steps on the floor but he gives his all and I believe he is a much better offensive player than his mindset allows him to be."

Schools interested in working with the Bears, or youngsters hoping to attend coaching clinics, can contact Hildreth on or on 07834-828417.