Retaining a core of players the key to helping the British Basketball League grow

Recently an email from British baller Caylin Raftopoulos surfaced asking sports journalists for their opinion on the game in Britain and how the mainstream media can promote it more.

For years, the BBL has been an incredibly difficult nut to crack in terms of exposure to mainstream media but over the last three seasons, it’s been slowly getting the attention that it rightfully deserves and this season, all games have been broadcast on LiveBasketball.tv with selected Friday games being broadcast on the BBC. There are also pieces featured in popular British newspaper outlets, the Daily Star and the Express, who are both owned by Northern & Shell Media.

Caylin’s father, Creon Raftopoulos, currently the head coach at BBL side the Surrey Scorchers believes that with all BBL games being shown online, the league is going in the right direction but he also says that the players need to play their part in taking the game in Britain to the next level.

“It’s huge and it’s great for the sport,” Raftopoulos said about what looks to be a now stable TV deal.

“I feel that the media covering the game is what’s missing. We have specialist writers that cover the game but we need more exposure and with all BBL games being broadcast, it gives fans a better insight into the British Basketball League and the more the product is shown, the better the exposure we will get so having our games streamed online, having the BBC involved is huge.

“One thing is to keep the product watchable and to keep it going is to retain players. I truly believe that if players stay at their respective clubs and become recognisable to the fans than it helps people watching know who those players are and it keeps the new fans coming back as well as the long time supporters, too. And that is the goal for me when this season is done, is to keep as many players as I can, of course build on the squad but to keep as many as I can. You look at Newcastle and Leicester and how successful they have been and it’s because they have kept a core of players and built around them.”

For years, coaches in the BBL have struggled to obtain game footage so that they could study their opponents. For the Scorchers playcaller, a LiveBasketball.tv subscription is an added bonus, not just for him, but for the other coaches around the league.

Caylin Raftopoulos (no.4, Worcester Wolves) is a former BBL player and is finishing his dissertation on the game in Britain and the mainstream media. Photo: Worcester Wolves

“It’s fantastic because we can scout teams easily now instead of asking teams for film, it doesn’t make our partners happy but now you can watch five games at one time if you could so it’s really good and it’s going in the right direction,” Raftopoulos says.

The Zimbabwean-born Raftopoulos is currently enjoying a second spell with the Surrey Scorchers, who as a team are in their second year of existence following the failed Surrey United franchise that only scored a total of nine wins in 69 games.

Raftopoulos took charge of the new look Scorchers in 2015 and with his arrival came a host of backroom staff from the old Surrey Heat side, that disbanded before Surrey United were born. And in his first season, the Guildford-based outfit struggled with an overall record of 7-26, good only for 12th spot, miles off the Playoff positions.

For the Scorchers, the 2015-16 BBL season was a honeymoon period. A chance to get back into the swing of things and find their feet before they could challenge for post-season spots again.

This campaign has seen a dramatic improvement with the Scorchers entering the final weekend of the regular season in a three-way tie for both seventh and eighth spot with Plymouth Raiders and Bristol Flyers. Surrey face both teams on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The Scorchers certainly helped their cause with a dramatic 112-111 overtime win over second placed Newcastle Eagles last Saturday in what was hailed as one of the games of the season with fans as far away as Japan tuning in to watch. Guard Quincy Taylor scored with 0.3 seconds left to secure the win.

Surrey Scorchers grabbed a dramatic 112-111 win over Newcastle Eagles after a period of overtime on Saturday night. Photo: BBL.

“The guys have proven that they can compete with any team in the league, but what we haven’t done is show the consistency to play with maturity in each game and be consistent at both ends for 40 minutes,” Raftopoulos said after his side’s win over the Eagles.

“Hopefully the win against such an established team like the Newcastle Eagles can give us that momentum going into the final week and we build on our performance against the Eagles where we were consistent at both ends.”

Surrey conclude their season with a trip to Plymouth on Saturday, which is followed up with what potentially could be a win or bust home clash with the Bristol Flyers on Sunday. And if the Scorchers are successful, then maybe more of the mainstream media will follow up on Caylin’s dissertation questionnaire and take note of the British Basketball League.