BBL Championship Preview: Friday 16 October 2009

BBL ChampionshipFriday 16 October 2009 (7.30pm) @ Bletchley LC. Marshall MK Lions host the Guildford Heat on Friday evening at Bletchley Leisure Centre in the first BBL Cup clash of the 2009/10 campaign. Historically Heat certainly have the upper hand as they hold the all time head-to-head between the sides at 14-4. However in the Cup competition, the Lions and the Heat have only met once, with the Lions coming out 91-80 winners in the 2007 BBL Cup Semi Final at the K2 Arena in Crawley.

The Lions had an encouraging 90-80 win over the Worthing Thunder last weekend, and playcaller Vince Macaulay is encouraged by the early signs of togetherness that his side are showing. He said: 'I am very happy with the way we look now, the balance is right and we can now start to gel together as team mates' he said. Regarding the win against Worthing, Macaulay was delighted to have point guard EJ Harrison, who lead the Heat to a BBL Trophy title whilst scooping the MVP Award back in 2007/08, in the UK and playing the major role he was chosen for in the Lions set up. He added: 'I was really just pleased to have our full team on the floor for the first time this season. Playing without a point guard is not what you want to be doing in the BBL as it is so competitive. EJ slotted in well and I see us able to make improvements game on game now.'

Harrison transferred to Milton Keynes during the summer months, as the Heat relinquished the services of Guildford legend Paul James, and promoted Chad McKnight to the player-coach role, and this adds extra excitement to an already mouth- watering clash. McKnight clearly has respect for his former team mate, and sees him, along with former GB International Yorick Williams, as the major players for the Lions. He explained: 'We face MK Lions in Friday and they have good veteran players. We need to watch out for EJ Harrison and Yorick Williams as both are good players who can score and defend.' McKnight also expressed how pleased he was with his side's constant improvement. He added: 'I think that our team is getting better, and we will be a good side if we continue to improve from week to week, as we are doing.'

Friday 16 October 2009 (7.30pm) @ EIS, Sheffield. This weekend is jam packed of BBL Championship action, as well as the first few opening round cup games for this season, as all of the BBL's thirteen sides take to the court looking for early season wins in either of these competitions. Several sides face double headers, and one of these is the Sheffield Sharks, who before facing a tough Worthing Thunder, take on a talented Glasgow Rocks team at the EIS, Sheffield on Friday evening.

As well as comfortably holding the all time head to head between the two sides at 36-14, the last game between the sides on 17th April this year was a four point Sharks victory at the EIS, avenging their five point loss to the Rocks at Kelvin Hall back in January. Both sides have always been respected within the British game, and both can head into the game confident that they will have successful seasons in the league, as Sheffield currently sit top of the BBL Championship table with four wins from five games, the Rocks have won two games out of the four they have played recently, being agonisingly edged out in single digit losses to Worthing and Newcastle recently.

Player coach Sterling Davis commented on the upcoming Sharks game and his side's performance in their win against the Worcester Wolves: 'I have mixed emotions about last weekend; on one side, we made way too many mistakes with the ball and defensively we were struggling; on the other side, we came out of a tough situation with a win and at the end of the day that's what its about. Excluding the fact that they are are top of the league right now, Sheffield have everything. They have a well balanced team with big presences on both the inside and the outside. We will have to be ready.'

His equivalent at Sheffield, Atiba Lyons is pleased with how is team is coming together, but admitted that American big man Matt Gorman probably would not suit up this weekend: 'I am very pleased with how the team is shaping up. We are fitting together nicely. The bonus is that Matt Gorman hasn't even played a game. He probably won't be ready for this weekend, and I don't want to rush him back to action too quickly.'

On the Rocks, Lyons said the following: 'The Rocks have retained a quality core from previous years with (Rob) Yanders, Sterling (Davis) and (Gareth) Murray. Returning three starters is a huge advantage in the BBL. The addition of American guard Jesse Sapp makes them very dynamic and an explosive scoring team.'