Surrey Scorchers coach Creon Raftopoulos keeps faith in his bench players

Basketball coaches often preach about the sport being a team effort and to win games as a unit. That mantra has been followed religiously by Surrey Scorchers playcaller Creon Raftopoulos.

So far this season, Surrey have made a solid start, lying in fifth place with a 3-2 record and last weekend, they booked their place in the quarter-finals of the BBL Cup with a narrow 74-71 win over the Plymouth Raiders.

In each of their games though, coach Raftopoulos has shown tremendous faith in his role players, especially the ones coming off the bench with those very guys that began waiting to tag in, guiding Surrey in the final few minutes of their Cup clash against the Devon outfit.

Traditionally the starting five are utilised in the closing minutes, or in the vital stages but after Sunday’s game was done, no Scorchers player had registered 30 minutes on the court.

Surrey Scorchers Caylin Raftopoulos in action. Photo: Ezra Robinson

“It was a big thing for me, because we spend pretty much all of the off-season going to exposure camps across Europe and we sit down with other coaches that play in top European leagues, like the A1 League in Greece and in the ACB in Spain, they look at our statsheets and they ask us ‘how conditioned are your players?’,” said Raftopoulos after the win over Plymouth.

“They see players that play 35, some even the full 40 minutes a game and they say that it doesn’t matter how good they are, playing the entire game can lead to potential injury, fatigue and poor performance.”

Two of the players that Raftopoulos brought in during the off-season, Josh Steel and Creon’s son Caylin, have been brought up from the country’s second tier league, the National Basketball League, Division 1, where Steel played for London Leopards in 2012 and Caylin spent last season with Southampton-based Solent Kestrels. The latter has jumped between the BBL and NBL before that.

Both players were integral parts in Surrey’s last few minutes against Plymouth on Sunday and even though the bench only contributed 12 points to the winning total, it’s the things that happen away from the statsheet that the playcaller looks for.

“I believe, and so do most coaches that basketball is a team sport and so if there are guys on the bench, then you need to use them,” Creon states.

“I think we as BBL coaches sometimes don’t see the talent that is on show in the NBL Division 1 and for them, they do well in Division 1, come to the BBL and mainly just sit on the bench.

“So for us, we brought in players that played Division 1 and they play solid minutes because I believe that they can contribute. It doesn’t have to be scoring or rebounding, assists but it can be the stuff you don’t put on the statsheet, like contesting jump shots, forcing turnovers, setting a screen to free a shooter. They can be effective.”