Ville MakalainenIn only their second season in the top-flight – Worthing Thunder secured their first playoff birth, by winning their remaining four games to finish ahead of closest rivals, Worcester Wolves.

Thunder’s overtime win away to the Plymouth Raiders sealed their playoff birth with Worcester missing out, due to Thunder winning the head-to-head series. Unfortunately for the south-coast outfit, they lost their first round playoff tie with the British Basketball League Champions, Newcastle Eagles.

The season though has been one of major improvement compared to last season’s debut campaign – where they finished 11th. But one of the players responsible for Thunder’s surge up the BBL table this year is Finland International, Ville Makalainen – who joined Worthing towards the end of last summer.

A consistent scorer [17.0 PPG] and game-night performer. Makalainen is a coaches dream who has won the respect of most coaches in the British Basketball League, and understandably, the Finn was satisfied with what was achieved this season.

“We had two goals for the season, to be the most improved team and make it to the playoffs. We were the one of the improved teams and we made it to playoffs. So I am and we, as a team have to be very proud of what we have done.” Said Makalainen just after the loss to Newcastle last Friday night.

The Finnish national, also believes that Worthing’s team spirit was the best he has ever come across, and amongst the best in the BBL.

“Sprit was great for the whole season. We had lot of fun as a team. I think no one in the BBL had so much fun than we had.” He said.

Worthing Thunder have more than established themselves as a BBL outfit. Only the Everton Tigers have swept the regular season three-game series over them – and despite that, Makalainen was upbeat about the progress made.

“Nobody believed us that we can make it to the playoffs, but we did it. And beating big teams, like Newcastle, Rocks and Sharks. Those are very big achievements for the club in it’s second season in BBL.” The Finn said.

But playing for two seasons straight and having a busy programme with the national side has taken it’s toll on Ville, who has already decided he will rest this summer, and then weigh up his options when the season draws nearer.

“My season started last May, so all I want to do is relax. My body needs that.” Ville stated.

“And I will spend the whole summer in Finland and the national teams camps start in June. So I have to be fully recovered and full of energy for the those camps.”

Finland will be in Group A of their EuroBasket Qualifying Round. Where they will face-off against, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro and Israel. Next year’s European Championships will be held in Lithuania.

John Hobbs for