Shark bites. Plus who will the deadline Force be with? And BBL Trophy and-ones.

Here’s a pop quiz: which BBL player shares not just one but two team-mates with Kevin Garnett?

An ocean and a few million dollars a year separates Sheffield Sharks guard Nick Lewis from Minnesota Timberwolves pairing Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett but growing up together on the courts of Toronto, they remain one team with one dream.

“I’m closer to Anthony than Wiggins and I talk to him every other week,” Lewis reveals. “But we’re all cool as a group. I still play with them when we’re all back.

“It’s cool to see what they’re doing now. I’ve known Anthony since I was 14 or 15 years old and now I see him in the NBA doing his thing, making a name for himself, and making a name for the city.”

There was a time when Lewis ran the floor with a duo who would both become number one NBA Draft picks in successive years. He grew up in Scarborough (“Not the English one,” he laughs), a lush eastern suburb of Canada’s largest city on the shore of Lake Ontario.

As a kid, he played for the local team, the Blues. With his rep established, he got a call-up into CIA Bounce, an AAU crew eager to test itself in the heat of summer against the best teens from across the border.

Bennett and Wiggins used it as a platform to shine and as a ticket to land the scholarships they so badly craved.

“We were a dominant team,” Lewis declares. “Everyone was high Division 1 calibre. And everyone was Canadian. When we went down to the States, everybody knew us. It was good to go there and play. Just being on the team, everyone knew who you were. And we all fed off that. We’ve all had different pathways but I’m proud of being on that.”

They call New York the mecca of hoops. As many reluctantly acknowledged during the recent NBA All Star Game, the Big Apple is no longer the breeding ground it once was for ballers with intent.

In recent times, it has been the site of the 2016 edition of the showpiece that has planted the greenest shoots.

“Toronto’s just blowing up,” Lewis declares. My generation, everyone around my age, we’re all making a statement. But basketball’s always been big. We always had talent.

“But now, guys see the path. Look at Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett. We had back-to-back number one Draft picks. There’s a lot of hype off the back of that.

“Even back in the day when Vince Carter was in Toronto, we all looked at guys like that. It’s not quiet now. I felt basketball was the number one sport in the city, bigger than hockey. Everyone loves it.”

Bennett was Lewis' AAU running mate

Bennett was Lewis’ AAU running mate


A prep school in New York gave Lewis a shot at keeping his own ambitions alive. A British father – and grandparents who still live in Leicestershire – handed him a passport to Europe.

Now in his third year at the Sharks, the 21-year-old – who has played for GB at Under-20 level – is putting up career-highs across the board while shooting over 40% in the league.

For a brief spell mid-season between Allen Payne’s exit and BJ Holmes’ return, Lewis was running the show – and with some distinction.

Now back as a sixth man, he has had to bide his time to deliver cause and effect.

“It hasn’t been awkward,” he insists. “Coach is just trying to find the right line—up so if that means me bringing the energy off the bench, that’s what I’ve got to and help the team as much as possible.

“Since my first year here, coming out of high school, I’ve been looking up to BJ as a role model. I’ve learnt a lot from here, how to play guard, picking his brains here and there. That’s been a huge help.”

Some would argue that a little less listening and more action from Lewis might help the ailing Sharks.

Heading into last weekend, Sheffield were only eighth in the BBL in scoring and offensive rating, averaging a woeful 78.04 points per game

Adjust the metrics for pace, however, they leap up to second behind Newcastle. It seems evident that not pushing the ball is holding the Sharks back, a trait that appears to accommodate the likes of Holmes and not-at-100% Mike Tuck and Mike Cook, rather than their young-and-effective bench.

“We just need to start gelling, start playing hard together,” Lewis opines. “We need to get on the same page. If we do that, we can beat anyone in this league. But we’ve haven’t found that chemistry yet.”

This summer, the playmaker is set to graduate from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Culture and Exercise. Like most in his position, it will be a pivotal moment, a chance to spread his wings and extend his career horizons.

“Wherever the world takes me, I’ll go there,” Lewis declares. One Bounce, one planet, so many avenues to explore.

A Forceful deadline

The BBL signing deadline is coming on Friday. Plymouth Raiders, as is almost traditional, have made their move by signing American centre Derek Elston until the end of the season and released the ineffective DeAndre Medlock. Cheshire Phoenix brought in Martin Gayle for some extra depth.

Bristol Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas has considered an addition but decided against. Which may leave Leeds Force as the only club to enhance their roster by the time the clock ticks down.

“We’ve got a few feelers out with a couple of players but it comes down to budget and timing,” said Force coach Matt Newby. “If we can pick up someone decent, we’ll have a look at it. But it has to suit our requirements and what we’re trying to do here.

“It might be more helpful for us to expose someone from our Academy to the BBL. You could end up cheating the guys who are already here by bringing in someone who just wants to push their own agenda and pump up their stats as a career move. We ask a lot of our guys and we want to make sure they get something positive in return.”

Leeds have impressed of late with upsets of London Lions and, last Sunday, Cheshire. Regardless of how they complete their debut campaign, it will be adjudged a success on the court. Yet why limit their ambitions at this point, Newby affirms.

“The play-offs would be hard,” he said. “But I look at the nine games we have left and if you take out Newcastle, seven of them are winnable if we play like we did against Cheshire and London.”

Double up

The BBL Trophy final might end up being the best value ticket this season. Why? Because it’s all but certain Glasgow Rocks will end up facing Leeds in the second part of a double header at the Emirates Arena on March 22.

The Scots have had to lose a lot of home dates with the Davis Cup tennis at their venue along with the now-aborted European Judo Championships. So to ease their fixture congestion, the Trophy finale is set to be a two for one deal.

Outside shots
Fab Flournoy insists hatchet buried with Drew Sullivan

Age no barrier for Durham Wildcats’ Ralph Bucci 

A nice video profile of GB prospect Eilidh Simpson

BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP

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