New name, fresh start. But the Surrey Scorchers have tabbed a familiar face as coach.

Having been taken over fully by Surrey Sports Park, the re-branded Guildford outfit have installed Creon Raftopoulos as head coach.

The move – first revealed in MVP earlier this year – is both a nod to the Zimbabwean’s past record in the BBL but also a means to reach out to significant swathes of fans of the Guildford Heat who became disenchanted during the Surrey United era led by Jack Majewski.

In three years with the Heat, Raftopoulos secured three play-off runs plus a high of fourth place in the league but will also have to devote time to re-igniting the franchise.

“The biggest priority,” he said, “is to try and get back into the community and engage it in a number of way. We need to increase the fan based and bring back old fans. One problem over the last two years with United is that the players were based in High Wycombe so just weren’t around. So we want to get into schools and in front of people again.”

Raftopoulos expects to complete a first signing “within days” and predicts that the Scorchers will be able to improve hugely on United’s last place of last term.

“The key thing is we have to have a budget which is sustainable over the whole season,” he confirmed. “In talking to the Sports Park, I’ve asked for something we can afford at the start rather than speculating based on what might come in when we speak to sponsors. I’m confident we’ll have enough to make the play-offs and, if we get a good core, to push for the top half of the BBL.”

The Scorchers will sit along side SSP’s netball Superleague franchise Surrey Storm and badminton franchise with the economies of scale – and cross-fertilisation – likely to benefit all three.

And it is, signalled franchise director Gavin Baker, a reboot of the BBL in the area with the logo and identity unveiled on Tuesday.

“We were keen to reflect back on the proud history of basketball in the area and had explored a return to the Heat franchise following two years as Surrey United,” he said.

“However due to a number of factors, this was unachievable and therefore we have today launched a fresh club identity, which is an extension from the Heat years, but we feel gives us a new start and an opportunity to fully professionalise the team on and off the court.

“We hope the entire basketball community of Surrey including fans past and present can get behind the new team, as we look to build a competitive squad and a club with community at its heart.”

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