The curtain will be raised on a brand new BBL season tonight and for the very first time, it will be the BBL Trophy which takes centre stage when the new campaign tips-off. For those teams that can hit the ground running, it provides a terrific incentive to progress in a knock-out competition and stake an early claim for silverware.
For coaches, players and fans all over the country, there will be the usual heady cocktail of nerves and excitement as everyone finally gets to see how things will pan out in a competitive situation for the first time.
The opening weekend of the season throws up some truly mouth-watering clashes and none more so than what is looking like a super Sunday. There is the North-West derby game between last years Trophy runners-up Cheshire Jets and the newly named Mersey Tigers while in Glasgow, the hometown Rocks will face their old foes Newcastle Eagles who will commence the defence of their BBL Trophy.
Regional bragging rights will be at stake at the Northgate Arena with Paul Smith and his team full of confidence having finished above Tigers in the league last year with a terrific fourth place finish while the visitors will arrive in Chester even more buoyant as reigning BBL Play-Off champions. The Jets will again be relying on Colin O’Reilly to come up trumps, while for Tigers, all eyes will be on the debut of Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan and fellow big man Tafari Toney.
At Kelvin Hall the Rocks will have a new look backcourt in operation after the departure of Jessie Sapp and the irrepressible Rob Yanders. Trying to fill the void will be difficult but veteran EJ Harrison will no doubt shine. While for the Eagles, it is a case of back to the future as former league MVP Trey Moore returns to link up with Joe Chapman for the first time and that looks like a potentially explosive and devastating scoring combo for the defending league and Trophy champions.
Rocks will have one possible advantage in their favour when they face the Eagles and that is they will have been able to make any required adjustments since Sterling Davis takes his team to his former club this evening to face a new look One Health Sharks Sheffield team. The BBL Cup winners have lost their talisman Mike Cook as well as Tafari Toney but can at least rely on Ryan Patton who many feel was actually the most influential player for Lyons and his side last term.
The other game on opening night sees UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders entertain Worthing Thunder with both clubs having had a clear-out during the summer and installed new coaches. Gavin Love becomes the first new coach of the Raiders in 16 years as he somehow tries to follow in the footsteps of club legend Gary Stronach. He has a raft of new faces to gel together while Worthing could find it tough this season having achieved a creditable play-off spot last year under Dave Titmuss who decided to quit after one year in charge.
There are also two games tomorrow night as Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders host Essex Pirates and the Worcester Wolves open up their season against Cheshire Jets. Rob Paternostro and his team will be expecting to start the season with a convincing win against last years new boys Essex who will be desperately hoping to improve on a solid first year.
Worcester Wolves seem to have been chosen by all and sundry as this seasons potential dark horses and they have a fantastic game to test that particular notion against Cheshire Jets who will provide stiff opposition. Paul James really got the Wolves rolling after he was parachuted into the mix early last season and with a summer to recruit and a full pre-season, his experience and influence could just mean the Wolves have a real shot at their best ever season in the top flight.
After a historical and memorable summer for British Basketball at National team level, there is no time for fans to catch their breath as the baton is passed back to the BBL teams whose turn has arrived to entertain us all once again.