Guide to the BBL (Part 2)

You have read part one, now here is part two – as we start with the Mersey Tigers, down to the Worthing Thunder

Mersey Tigers – Coach Tony Garbalotto’s side are, for me, joint favourites for the BBL title – along with Newcastle. Anything can happen though – and it all depends if the Tigers players can stay healthy. Frightening thing is – they are still awaiting their American imports.

Great Britain internationals, Andrew Sullivan and Tafari Toney are the two players opposing teams would focus on mostly. But in James Jones and Andrew Thompson, they have two no-nonsense players that are more than capable of winning games. Jones, a great shooter and excellent passer. While Thompson can score and rebound in bulk.

Expect the team from Liverpool to end the season with at least one trophy to shout about. If they don’t. Questions will be asked…

Milton Keynes Lions – The league’s most unpredictable team, you just don’t know what Lions side will show up. When they are on form, they can beat anyone in front of them. Lions are a quick and athletic set of players, who all play as a unit. Then, there is the alter-ego. A team that solely plays for they and defensively is all over the place.

Despite being in his fourties, Mike New is a first-year BBL coach, having retired last season. So he is finding his feet, after being an assistant to previous coach, Vince McCaulay last season. New though know Milton Keynes inside-out – so he shouldn’t have difficulty moulding himself into a role as a coach.

Lions have signed a 5’8 guard in Stefan Gill, who was undoubtedly the best player in the English Basketball League last season (tier below the BBL). A player who has incredible quickness and range, a great pick-up for Mike New.

A lot has been said of Jelani Gardner in the off-season, as has Kris Clark, a 6’2 guard out of Utah State. We’ll see how they settle into the season, but after reading many scouting reports on these guys, they could have a big say in where the MK Lions will finish.

Newcastle Eagles – BBL Champions and joint-favourites to repeat, Eagles have retained the services of dead-eye shooter, Joe Chapman; Eagles have also brought in Kadiri Richard from Worthing Thunder and Trey Moore from Mersey Tigers – adding their usual cast of Bridge, Smith, Neilsen and Flournoy.

In Trey Moore, Eagles have arguably the best all-round player in the BBL right now. He can score from anywhere on the court, has great vision, is a solid man-marker and is a winner everywhere he goes. Every team Trey has played for in the league – he has won at least one trophy.

The one question is where Kadiri Richard fits in the Eagles team? A great player and an intimidating presence, Richard is the BBL’s leading shot blocker and amongst the leaders in rebounding, but is not a prominent scorer overall – and a question was asked before the season started: Is Kediri a suitable replacement for Lynard Stewart – or will Eagles need a big man who can score consistently?

As the Eagles fans say: In Fab we trust, I guess.

Plymouth Raiders – An interesting team this season. Plymouth recruited early in the off-season and they recruited well. The one question mark is with their first year coach, Gavin Love and how he performs on the sidelines? As a rookie, Love is still learning the trade – but with the group of players he has, does Gavin have the mentality to take Plymouth to the playoffs – is he Plymouth’s weakness?

In Evaldas Zabas, they have a player with the complete package. Zabas has supreme court vision, he can shoot, get to the lane and can hustle for every loose ball defensively. England international, Samuel Cricelli has a fantastic one-on-one defensive game – and is a prominent threat offensively. Unfortunately, Sam is known to score big one night, and go cold the next. Intensity and a willingness to win is second-to-none.

With the team they have, Plymouth should comfortably make the playoffs. But a lot depends on how Gavin Love coaches his players and gets the best out of him. In time – Love will be a great coach, he is willing to learn – and as a fantastic attitude to basketball.

Sheffield Sharks – Retaining the services of Ryan Patton and Mike Tuck was so important to this well established club, especially as top scorer, Mike Cook was always going to move on. Coach, Atiba Lyons looks to have recruited a solid pool of talent that should be good enough for a playoff spot.

In Patton, they have one of the most well productive guards in the league. On par with Newcastle’s Joe Chapman, as the leading three-point shooter in the BBL, his passing ability as the point guard is very underrated. Patton will be the anchor in this season’s Sharks squad.

Certainly not as talented as last season, but should be amongst the playoff bunch. Keep the core of this team for next season and you could see title contenders.

Worcester Wolves – Missed out on a playoff spot by one game last season, Paul James’ side are almost certain to be the BBL’s most improved team this time around.

A pure scorer in Danny Gilbert, and a solid point guard in Rod Middleton – Worcester have also secured the services of Justin Dobbins and David Watts for this season as well. Dobbins a powerful presence under the glass and can score in a bunch of ways, Wolves have a player that could be a regular in the BBL Team of the Week – and in Watts, a dead-eye shooter who has been long overdue his shot in the BBL.

Look for the Wolves to challenge for the top four spots this season.

Worthing Thunder – It has been a summer to forget for club director Frank Gainsbury and his staff. New player-coach, Rick Hite missing countless flights and no player signings, until the last few weeks. Thunder have had to soldier on despite the off-court problems.

Assistant coach, Alan Sweetman-Hicks has taken temporary charge of the Sussex-based outfit – and it hasn’t been all bad. But, no doubt, Thunder have to add a few names to their line-up if they are to make any noise this season.

A lot of people have already predicted a doom-and-gloom season for Worthing, but this team is ready for the challenge this season and they will cause a few surprises along the way.

Underestimate them, if you dare.

John Hobbs for