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Basketball: Northern's journey takes him from the mean streets to final glory

With two children aged under five, Daniel Northern knows this is the time to be sharing in the joys of their daily discoveries.

Yet while his son and daughter are exploring the world, their father is an ocean away, plying his trade as a towering centre and enforcer for the Glasgow Rocks.

Nine months of separation takes its toll, the American admits. "It's depressing," he says. "I have times when I really feel their absence. But I get back on the phone and hear them laugh. And I know this allows me to buy them what they want. There's some fulfilment from that, but it's still hard."

Winning makes life easier but during a season to largely forget, the Rocks have frequently driven Northern into the mire. However, in front of an expected 7000-strong partisan crowd this afternoon at their own Emirates Arena, Sterling Davis' men have an opportunity to secure the club only their second piece of silverware when they take on Worcester Wolves in the BBL Trophy final.

They are huge underdogs. Their guests are in the frame for a potential treble and have consistently excelled. Northern is keen to confound the odds, just as he did when basketball offered an alternative path to the mean streets of Warner-Robins, one of America's pockets of decay,100 miles outside Atlanta.

As a youth, despair was part of the daily diet, the deaths of friends and family all too common, including that of his elder brother Damien in the most troubling of circumstances. Found hanged in Florida, the initial verdict of suicide has been challenged by those who claim it was a brutal lynching conducted by white supremacists.

"That was my freshman year at college and I found it very tough," Northern says. "I almost didn't play basketball any more. I felt at the time if I'd been home, I could have saved him. But there was nothing I could have done. I have his name tattooed on my chest."

Instead of giving up, however, he threw himself into his sport. "It has been an escape. A safe haven. I come to practice, that's my getaway," he says.

It has taken him around the world, the sacrifice necessary to raise his offspring on the right side of the tracks. This, like so many of his contemporaries, is all about chasing the dream. No-one in the British league is accumulating great wealth. "But I'm hoping one day I get a call from a team offering big money. I'm 28. I don't want to sit down at a desk now. So to be able to play professional basketball is a huge plus."

A winner's medal from today would be a prized souvenir to take home in May. Few expect the Rocks to defy the odds but in shared adversity, Northern declares, bonds are forged. "If we weren't close, we'd be killing one another," he says. "But we've come together. And hopefully we'll be winning together."

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