THE world of basketball lost two significant figures last weekend. One blazed a trail and became a pioneer in the sport. The other was Kobe Bryant.

Robert Archibald may not have enjoyed the stature or profile of the LA Lakers great but, as the only Scot to ever play in the NBA (National Basketball Association), he demonstrated that it was possible to grow up in this country and still go on to rub shoulders with the giants of the sport.

For the thousands of young Scots playing the game with similar dreams of making it big, it is Archibald’s story - rather than Bryant’s - that ought to be told over and over. The best role models, after all, tend to be ones we can most relate to.

Both men will likely be in the thoughts of those congregating in Archibald’s birthplace of Paisley this weekend.

The National:

The Lagoon Leisure Centre is never likely to be mistaken for the Staples Centre in Los Angeles or New York’s Madison Square Garden but for two days it will echo to the same whump-whump-whump of basketballs being bounced on court.

It is Scottish Cup finals weekend, with six taking place at under-16, under-18 and senior level for both men and women and a wheelchair exhibition match also squeezed in too.

For Matt Giroux, the men’s final presents a chance to emulate his achievement as a St Mirren player 21 years ago by winning the Scottish Cup in his first season as their new head coach.

Basketball is mostly an amateur pursuit in this country – many senior players actually pay to play – but Giroux, a Canadian from near Niagara who first pitched up in Scotland in 1998 and never went home, is as evangelical about the sport as any full-time professional.

Juggling the demands of being a high school biology teacher, a husband and father-of-three, the 45 year-old has relished his return to basketball in Paisley after an 11-year gap.

His primary focus is on beating Boroughmuir Blaze in this evening’s showpiece event but he is just as enthusiastic about his hopes of seeing the sport in this country grow as a whole.

“Basketball will never get the same attention as football in Scotland but all we can do is keep trying to open the game up to people who don’t know it,” he said.

“A lot of Scottish kids and even adults love the NBA although that almost feels like a different world to what we’re doing! But anything that generates interest in your sport can only be a good thing.

“The Glasgow Rocks have done a great job in enthusing young people in this country to play basketball. I go regularly with my boys to watch them and it’s a great night out. For the bigger games they can get crowds of 5000 which shows the appeal.”

The National:

Both of Giroux’s sons play in the youth setup at St Mirren – despite the name there is no current tie-up with the football club – and he is keen to ensure there is a pathway to the senior team that all aspiring talent can follow.

“As long as the club don’t choose to move me on, I’d like to think this is the start of a five or 10-year period for me with St Mirren,” he added. “I’d like to stay here and build something.

“We’ve worked hard to create a synergy between the under-16, under-18 and senior men’s teams to the point where we often share training sessions. And that’s created a great opportunity for player progression.

“Our under-16 boys have their own cup final in the morning and we’re absolutely thrilled for them. It’s further confirmation that it’s all connected from top to bottom which is what we’re striving for.”

Bryant’s untimely death may have dominated the headlines this week but Giroux wants to make sure Archibald’s legacy is remembered, too, especially among the younger players.

“The depth of the reaction in this country to Kobe’s passing didn’t surprise me as he was such a global name,” he added. “But I want to make sure that people in Scotland also know about Robert.

“That was shocking and sad, especially for people within the basketball community in this country who knew him and his family. That was a huge loss and I want people to know about his story and everything he achieved.

“This was a young man who went to the States and became the only Scottish player to ever play in the NBA. For him to have grown up here until he was a teenager and then go on to play at that level is phenomenal.

“When we’re looking for role models now for the young kids starting out, I hope people look to Robert as well as to someone like Kobe for inspiration.

“He showed that a kid from Scotland could go all the way to the top. And, although it will be a hard job for anyone to match that, it shows it can be done. For any young basketball player in this country that should be all the motivation they need.”