A team by team look as the new BBL season begins

Bristol Flyers

The Flyers head into their fifth season in the BBL off the back of their highest-ever league finish last season.

Under the continued guidance of former GB Under-20 head coach Andreas Kapoulas, the South-West side finished sixth in the BBL Championship before taking the scalp of Newcastle in the Play-Offs.

Daniel Edozie – a Team England participant at the Commonwealth Games – has been named captain as Mike Vigor is given a period of rest ahead of 2019 and there are also returns for Panos Mayindombe, Marcus Delpeche, Chris Taylor and Jordan Nicholls.

Bristol have a new trio of American recruits to grace the SGS Wise Arena as Justin Gray, Jalan McCloud and Fred Thomas all arrive keen to impress.

Tevin Falzon joins as a BBL Cup winner with Cheshire Phoenix, while British basketball fans will be keen to see Lewis Champion finally make the step up from NBL Division 1.

Having had a winning league record for the first time last season, will 2018-19 be the season Bristol challenge for silverware?


Cheshire Phoenix

Despite not making the post-season, last season was one to remember for Cheshire as they secured the BBL Cup  under the guidance of young playcaller Ben Thomas.

The majority of that roster has not returned, though the Phoenix have not looked too far afield with their recruitment. Louis Sayers, Momcilo Latinovic, Ashton Khan and Sol Rolls-Tyson were all in opposition at Cheshire Oaks Arena last season, while Dii’jon Allen-Jordan makes his return to the club.

Former high-school teams Daniel Norl and Jimario Rivers reunite at the start of their pro careers with Jordan Session another rookie arrival, out of Georgia State.

Victory in a pre-season tournament in Ireland will give reason for optimism as Cheshire target at least a top-8 finish, though they have missed out on the Play-Offs three times in the past six years.

A new-look roster may take time to gel, but the club will be hopeful of building on last season’s Cup success which ended a decade-long silverware drought and first in the Phoenix era.


Glasgow Rocks

A disrupted 2017-18 campaign ended in disappointment for the Rocks as their wait for a BBL trophy continues.

The club’s last title triumph came in the 2003 Play-Offs and they will be desperate to end that drought in their 20th anniversary season.

Continuity remains as the Scottish contingent of Kieron Achara, Gareth Murray, Ali Fraser and Jonny Bunyan all return, while faith has been put in Darryl Wood to start his first full season as head coach.

Point guard Greg Pryor will be the new on-court general at the Emirates Arena with compatriots Bo Zeigler and Kenny Carpenter both starting their pro careers in Scotland.

The Rocks have also added Bouna Ndiaye following a summer on international duty with Norway, while Chris De Souza and Murray Hendry round out the roster.

A throwback to the 1998-99 season in homage of their anniversary as the Rocks bring back their golden jersey for road games and that will be the standard they aspire to in search of silverware.


Leicester Riders

The Riders have been the team to beat in recent years with eight trophies accumulated in the past three seasons including back-to-back trebles.

Rob Paternostro’s side are entering new ground this campaign with Basketball Champions League qualification possibly followed by a route into the group phase of the FIBA Europe Cup.

Following the retirement of Tyler Bernardini after May’s Play-Off Final victory, veteran forward Andy Thomson takes over the captaincy as one of several returnees.

Pierre Hampton was a Team of the Year member, while JR Holder picked up MVP honours for his performance in the Trophy Final success and TrayVonn Wright’s athleticism is always worth the admission fee.

Kiefer Douse and Rema Lascelles continue in a back-court strengthened by the return of Conner Washington with Jamell Anderson also making his comeback to the club as the duo epitomise the team’s defensive prowess.

With a tough schedule in wait with European commitments, a deep roster is required and the likes of Harrison Gamble and Josh Ward-Hibbert will be called upon, while newcomers DeAndre Burnett and Alex Larsson will look for instant impacts.


London City Royals

The newcomers to the league are not prepared just to make up the numbers as they made a number of statements with their recruitment.

Former GB internationals Ashley Hamilton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning bring the star status for the Royals as they look to make a splash in South London.

Back-to-back BBL Cup winner Orlan Jackman makes the switch from Cheshire with Will Neighbour and Elvisi Dusha also bringing BBL experience having both played for Surrey and Plymouth.

AJ Roberts impressed in NBL Division 1 at Hemel Storm and Ed Lucas also has his chance to shine in the BBL as the Royals look for strength in depth.

Junior Williams is tasked with making it happen on the court in his first season as a head coach in the BBL with the club setting up intriguing derby clashes with the London Lions in the battle of the capital.

Lofty ambitions will demand results as the Royals embark on a big challenge in the BBL.


London Lions

The Lions were not far off capturing a first piece of silverware since 2008 last season having secured their highest-ever league placing with second spot.

Vince Macaulay resumed the coaching reigns in the New Year and it sparked a stunning change of fortunes for London as they found their form and also reached the Play-Off Final at The O2.

Justin Robinson was named league MVP and the GB international is one of several players staying on for another tilt at a title, including American Brandon Peel, who impressed in his rookie year.

The Lions have a mix of experience and youth at their disposal as Dzaflo Larkai, Andre Lockhart, Joe Ikhinmwin, Jerelle Okoro, Abraham Ekperuoh and Jonathan James round out the returning players.

American duo Ladarius Tabb and Kervin Bristol look to add further quality to the roster and Jordan Spencer makes his comeback after excelling in the States at Augustana University.

London have new rivals in the capital and will be out to go one better than their exploits of 2017-18.

Manchester Giants

The Giants have endured a tough past few seasons and have only made the Play-Offs once since their return to the BBL in 2012.

Danny Byrne’s side could only muster four league wins last season, but have reason for optimism heading into the new campaign.

Having not always utilised their full quota of imports, Manchester have looked to make their mark and will be relying on American trio Mike McCall, Willie Clayton and Torry Butler to hit the ground running.

Long-serving captain Callum Jones is re-joined on the roster by his brother, James, as the sharpshooter laces back up his trainers after a spell on the sidelines as an assistant coach.

Barry Webster also finds his way back to the North-West following a season in Italy with Latvian sharpshooter Ingus Bankevics back again, while Croatian forward Vlatko Granic has been added to the roster.

Coupled with their struggles to make it into the top 8, the Giants have only won one knockout encounter and will be hoping to avoid further First Round exits this season.

 Newcastle Eagles

The Tyneside outfit do not often find themselves heading into a summer without having added to their trophy cabinet, but it was a challenging 2017-18 campaign.

45-year-old Fab Flournoy will look to put that right and the Eagles pulled off a couple of eye-catching signings as former two-time league MVP Rahmon Fletcher’s return was followed by the addition of ex-Cheshire star, Victor Moses.

Darius Defoe continues his long-term service to Newcastle with brothers Jamal and Kai Williams also back for another season along with veteran guard Drew Lasker, who also takes to coaching Gateshead College.

American forward Ahmad Thomas joins with a strong defensive reputation, while Kyle Williams’ arrival ensures the surname will not be out of service in the BBL this season.

Eddie Matthew makes his way back to the Eagles as a former academy product with Themba Yabantu looking to make the most of his chance to develop.

An exciting season awaits the club as they finally move into their new arena.


Plymouth Raiders

More change for the Raiders, but the appointment of Paul James as head coach will cause excitement for the home faithful at the Pavilions.

The vastly experienced play-caller will be tasked with steering Plymouth back into the top eight having missed out on the thrill of the post-season in recent seasons.

Summer recruitment led to returns of former fan favourites as Josh Wilcher and Donte Nicholas both re-join the club having had spells overseas in Germany.

Former GB international Zak Wells is back to captain the side with Estonian Joonas Jarvelainen also back alongside young guard Denzel Ubiaro, who was rewarded with his breakthrough performances with a two-year contract.

Shawn Shelton, Javis Howard and Jamal Williams all start their pro careers in Devon and there is also a spot for Declan Soukup as he joins from NBL D1 side Reading Rockets.

One way for James to get the supporters fully behind him will be masterminding successes over south west rivals, Bristol Flyers as they meet in the First Round of the Cup and Trophy competitions.


Sheffield Sharks

Another Final against Leicester Riders last season, but this time Atiba Lyons and his side came up short in the Trophy.

The Sharks’ consistency is remarkable as they continued their long run of consecutive top-eight finishes.

Captain Mike Tuck has pledged to finish his career with the club and they also secured the vital returns of Chris Alexander and Dirk Williams after strong displays last season.

Hard-working forward Rob Marsden is also back with the Sharks adding to their roster with the additions of Matthew Don and Matthew Martin as well as Duquesne guard Rene Castro-Cannedy.

Despite their consistency, the Sharks have added just one piece of silverware in the past five seasons and twice finished in seventh place in the past four years.

With the speed and athleticism of their guards mixed with an imposing front-court, the Sharks will be hoping to have struck the right combination for more success.


Surrey Scorchers

The Scorchers have really enjoyed home comforts in 2018 having gone unbeaten at Surrey Sports Park since the turn of the year.

Led by MVP contender Tony Hicks, Surrey just missed out on a place in the top four then fell at the hands of the Rocks in the Play-Offs.

It’s a case of unfinished business for the returning players with captain Tayo Ogedengbe one of the veterans in the BBL.

Josh Steel’s form earned a call up to the GB Senior side earlier in 2018, while Jordan Williams also impressed and Caylin Raftopoulos Is back to play under his father, Creon, once more.

Quincy Taylor was a past favourite in Surrey and he returns to the club with Willie Atwood and Demario Beck looking to impose themselves in the front-court.

Familiarity has often been a factor for success in the BBL and the Scorchers will be hoping to push on from last season’s efforts and mount a serious challenge for silverware.


Worcester Wolves

A new era for the Wolfpack as they look to move in a different direction.

Paul James has moved south to Devon with the Wolves appointing Ty Shaw as the new head coach and director of basketball.

A completely changed roster sees the club opt for pro experience from their imports. Americans Robert Crawford, Darell Combs and Quadir Welton have all played overseas, while Spaniard Mika Servera and Austrian Filip Kramer have spent several seasons in their home nations.

Adam Thoseby arrives for his first season in the BBL following a year playing for Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL having also represented Team England at the Commonwealth Games.

There’s a switch from Manchester for Jordan Whelan with Terrel Martin-Garcia turns pro after finishing his college career at Adelphi.

With no returning players, only the fans will remember the painful defeat to Cheshire in last season’s Cup Final before an agonising loss in the Play-Offs at the hands of London Lions.


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