2017-18: BBL SEASON PREVIEW

We preview the new British Basketball League season.

The old mantra is that hope springs eternal for all 12 teams. Reality soon, if not already, will hit home. Some will win, others might, a few will speedily look desperately forlorn. Such has been the predictable division of the spoils in recent years in the BBL.

If there is such a thing as a certainty, it is that Newcastle – our predicted champions – and Leicester – the best-placed to threaten – will be contending.

Coaching changes give the likes of London, Glasgow and Plymouth a fresh direction. While the posse of Sheffield, Worcester, Surrey and Bristol have tried and tested methods to get the most out of their budgets.

And then there is Cheshire, Leeds and Manchester, the bottom three from last term – seemingly destined for more of the same.

Or perhaps not. The only safe bet is that, over the next seven months, upsets will occur and our 1-12 prediction will not be 100% accurate.

But here goes nothing…

 

  1. NEWCASTLE EAGLES

Player-Coach: Fab Flournoy
Last season: (23-10, 2nd in league, plus BBL Cup)
Major ins: Saah Nimley, Terry Martin

The rebuild starts here. What Nimbly lacks in size, he makes up for in stature with speed and a shot making ability which plugs the gap left by Rahmon Fletcher. His backcourt tandem with Jaysean Page is set to be a huge weapon and the guard depth the Eagles have accumulated is as strong as we’ve seen in recent times. Losing Scott Martin hurts and the Eagles don’t have as solid an interior as a consequence but the likes of Kai Williams and Terrence Martin offer so many options on the wing. How will it all combine? “We’ve spent a lot of time on defence because that’s what we’ve needed,” said Fab Flournoy, who will continue to play on. If they can, as expected, put up 90+ points per night, their roster should be more content than in recent seasons and very tough to stop.

Eagles won the BBL Cup last January and then faded (Mansoor Ahmed)

  1. LEICESTER RIDERS

Coach: Rob Paternostro
Last season: (27-6, 1st plus BBL Trophy, Playoffs)
Major ins: Phillip Leonard, JR Holder

The bulk of 2017’s treble-winning squad return with a seemingly-improved Pierre Hampton joining stalwarts Tyler Bernardini, Shane Walker, Andy Thomson and Eric Robertson. And while the retirements of Drew Sullivan and Taylor King hurt, Paternostro’s scouting search has unearthed Holder along with Leonard, a late arrival to take over the point. They’ll be well-coached, stoic defensively and ready to compete. But have they enough to stay ahead of Newcastle and retain their place atop the pile?

  1. LONDON LIONS

Coach: Mariusz Karol
Last season: (18-15, 6th)
Major ins: Justin Robinson, Brandon Peel

Here’s the skinny on the Lions. There’s talent aplenty. Solid players who know how to feed off one another and to win, while in Robinson, there’s a proper face for the capital franchise for the first time since… well, ever. But it comes down to organisation – and, specifically, Karol. There’s been grumblings about a lack of coherent scheming in pre-season as the Pole gets to grips with a roster of complete strangers. On his shoulders rests so much.

Justin Robinson led Lions to the All Stars Championship

  1. GLASGOW ROCKS

Coach: Tony Garbelotto
Last season: (21-12, 3rd)
Major ins: Jalen Billups, Ali Fraser

After ending the long reign of Sterling Davis, the Rocks have brought Garbelotto home to win and nothing but. In their favour is a core group of Scots who know each other well and are desperate to bond with one eye on the Commonwealth Games. Fitting into that are their American imports – with one still to come in following the season-ending injury to Dante Holmes. New PG Martez Harrison has had an inconsistent build-up following a year out. Centre Billups has bags of potential but not all untapped. The jury is very much out.

  1. SHEFFIELD SHARKS

Coach: Atiba Lyons
Last season: (20-13, 4th)
Major ins: Mackey McKnight, Chris Alexander

Sharks go seven deep this term with Lyons ready to experiment with his line-ups with new guard duo Mackey McKnight and Chris Alexander looking like good complements for each other rather than being interchangeable. Dirk Williams and mainstay Mike Tuck can share minutes on the wings with the former’s length set to pose defensive headaches for opponents. Getting Tony Wroblicky back is a plus, as is bringing over the under-rated Rob Marsden from Leeds to join him in the middle. Expect Sheffield to push the pace more and be a constant threat even if consistency is their greatest challenge.

  1. PLYMOUTH RAIDERS

Coach: Gavin Love
Last season: (14-19, 9th)
Major ins: Neil Watson, Brandon Penn

The prodigal son returns, wiser for his time overseas, but will Love be able to help regenerate a franchise that, on some many fronts, evolved into a circus last term? He’s gambled that Watson’s upside will come through and spark his younger colleagues – likewise with Penn who is bringing five years of overseas experience to bear from places like Denmark and Greece. There’s been poor luck though over the summer in losing commentators’ friend Craig Osaikhwuwuomwan to injury and Brandon Norfleet to visa issues before a late move for shooter Nick Tomsick from Croatia’s KK Zabok. Tangible progress, with the Raiders under new ownership, should suffice.

Watson will be with his third BBL team in three seasons

 

  1. WORCESTER WOLVES

Coach: Paul James
Last season: (20-13, 5th)
Major ins: Trayvon Palmer, George Beamon
As with last summer, James has had to rebuild almost anew but received the late boost of a fresh deal with Jermel Kennedy who had an impressive debut BBL campaign. Otherwise, he’s gone young with rookies Brandon Parrish and Trayvon Palmer while bringing in a solid acquisition in the shape of George Beamon who arrives from a season in Iceland to man the point. The issue is depth – there’s not as much of it as last year when no team did better over the second half of the season. PJ, ever a prime recruiter, will bank on his gems shining.
 

  1. BRISTOL FLYERS

Coach: Andreas Kapoulas
Last season: (16-17, 7th)
Major ins: Adam Weary, Rohndell Goodwin

Coming off the back of Bristol’s best season to date, it’s a lot to ask for more of the same with a pair of rookie guards on their first tour overseas. But that’s what Kapoulas has rolled the dice on with Weary and Goodwin, playmaker and scorer in college respectively. Perhaps that’s what continuity elsewhere affords: with the core of Daniel Edozie, Leslee Smith, Brandon Boggs and an energised Mike Vigor back in the old routine. There’s some decent Brits on the bench too so there are ample tools to play with.

  1. SURREY SCORCHERS

Coach: Creon Raftopoulos
Last season: (15-18, 8th)
Major ins: Tony Hicks, Alex Owumi

Tayo Ogedengbe is the lone returnee for Surrey and while BBL history suggests such transition can be overcome, the question is whether the incomers arriving into Guildford will ignite or flame out. Owumi was up and down frequently at London last term but his leadership will be vital in mentoring Hicks – who was a fringe performer in his senior year at the now-disgraced University of Louisville. Raftopoulos has found PF Darryl Palmer in the backwater of Albania while bringing Gerald Robinson back to the UK. Fourth to ninth in the BBL are set to be as close as last term. The Scorchers, if they gel, could easily leap up.

Tayo is Scorchers mainstay (Graham Hodge)

  1. CHESHIRE PHOENIX

Coach: Ben Thomas
Last season: (11-22, 10th)
Major ins: Orlan Jackman, Robert Sandoval

Apart from Raheem May-Thompson, there was yet another summer clearout in Cheshire with Thomas given the go-ahead to coach after stepping in at the end of a disruptive season. The Nix’s benefactors have funded familiar faces in landing the likes of Orlan Jackman from Newcastle, Robert Sandoval (Leeds), Malcolm Riley (Sheffield) and Andrew Bachman (Worcester) while taking towering centre CJ Gettys out of Rutgers. Everyone, however, is a role player. That is so rarely a formula for success.

 

  1. MANCHESTER GIANTS

Coach: Danny Byrne
Last season: (5-28, 12th)
Major ins: Austin Rettig, David Kadiri

The bright side for new head coach Danny Byrne is that they only way is up. And Giants have finally been able to get the backing to bring in American imports to bolster their squad, plumping for shooting guard Austin Rettig, who had a decent collegiate career at Tampa, and David Kadiri, who had an unspectacular year in the frontcourt at Buffalo. Callum Jones will add some firepower while Clayfell Harris had some productive spells at Leeds. Yet, there’s nothing to get overly excited about once again.

  1. LEEDS FORCE

Coach: Danny Nelson
Last season: (8-25, 11th)
Major ins: Tavarion Nix, Eric Childress

Have you read the book ‘How not to have a preseason’? Don’t bother – just study Leeds after a three-week spell that saw an initial change in management and then an abrupt switch of coach earlier this week. Eric Childress and Tavarion Nix, their American signings, remain – at least for now – while otherwise it’s a ragtag bunch with no real proven quality. There’s been concern about the future of the Force off the court in recent seasons and further failure will do nothing to inspire confidence over the franchise’s long-term viability.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login