Thursday, 31 December 2009

Clark boosts standing with Madrid derby winner

Great Britain forward Dan Clark has vowed not to be a "one game wonder" after scoring the winning basket in Tuesday's Madrid derby.

The rarely-used 20-year-old came off the bench for Estudiantes and hit a three-pointer with seconds left to secure a 82-80 win in overtime over Real Madrid.

"I took advantage of this opportunity but I don't want to be remembered for just one game," the Londoner said after his career-high 16-point performance in 25 minutes of action justified his extended showing in the wake of an injury to veteran Germán Gabriel.

"I don't clearly remember the moment (of the shot). I'll have to reconstruct it through photos and videos."


The 10 Best Basketball Stories of 2009

1. The Win That Almost Was. September 8 2009. Warsaw. 3:27 left in the fourth quarter. Spain – reigning world champions, Olympic silver medallists – are staring a most improbable defeat in the face to Great Britain after leading by 16 points at one stage. Mike Lenzly puts the underdogs 73-69 ahead. The sound of pins dropping.

It was not to be. The Spaniards put up a 15-3 finish to avoid an early exit before going on to lift the title. GB went home but with some face saved.

2. Phil Jackson’s Supremacy. Sure, the legends of MJ, Scottie, Kobe and Shaq will live on in history. But Phil’s NBA title number 10 affirmed his place in the pantheon, if any additional evidence were required. The late Red Auerbach, ceding his throne atop the rankings, would have hated that the Lakers won another crown but you can’t begrudge Jackson his dues.

3. And likewise Kobe… All the talk about who is better: Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, has been settled. For everyone who thought the young pretender had assumed the crown (myself included), the Lakers guard provided the answers with a string of stellar showings and his fourth championship ring. LBJ, at 25, still has it all to do.

4. Capital Calamities. We were promised that London Capital wouldn’t remain the laughing stock of the BBL after last season. They were wrong. London lost 110-38 to Leicester in December, equalling a league-record of infamy. There have been claims of bills unpaid. Their only consolation is that Essex are bottom on loss difference headed into 2010. As one BBL director said recently: “I think the time is coming where no matter how much we want a team in London, it’s not doing us any good to have them in the league.”

5. Worcester-isms. It says a lot about basketball’s decline in the UK that the claims of racism made against former Wolves coach Chuck Evans received scant attention in the mainstream media. Or perhaps, it says something about our culture that while white-on-black racism is (thankfully) spotlit and decried, the inverse provoked little comment. Throw striking players, sackings and the welcome return of Paul James to the BBL into the mix, and what a bizarre tale it all was.

6. AI or not AI? Is Allen Iverson done or about to do something improbable? His meek exit from Memphis hinted at the mortality of a once-omnipotent star who could not accept his slide into the realms of lowly back-up. As anticipated, , he made a swift, unlikely, return in the colours of the Philadelphia 76ers. In the last chance saloon, this will either be AI’s time to cement his legacy or the ignominious final chapter in his riveting journey.

7. The enigma that was Andre Smith. Two weeks after arriving in the BBL, Everton’s expensive capture admitted the league “wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.” It was one thing to accomplish the astonishing feat of regularly putting up 30 points and 20 rebounds while, at the same time, appearing utterly disinterested. It was quite another when he was alleged to have told an opposing player that he hoped the Tigers would lose the game so he could go home early for the summer. One of the best performers in BBL history, it spoke volumes when the ballot of coaches declined to vote him as MVP.

8. The Ups and Downs of the NBA Brit-Pack. Luol Deng will surely be glad to see the back of 2009, having been sidelined for six months with a fractured tibia and watching the mixed messages surrounding his return to the Bulls damage his stock – and his reputation. With coach Vinnie Del Negro on the verge of being sacked, and Deng no longer considered an potential All Star, where does Lu go from here?

Credit, at least, to Pops Mensah-Bonsu for sticking to his pursuit of his personal NBA dream. Cut by San Antonio, dropped by Toronto, jettisoned in Houston, the popular Londoner is back in Raptor-land, hoping to stick through the end of the season. Coming back to Europe may have been his best bet. But who would argue with his persistence?

9. Joel stays in Spain. In an unrelated move, Great Britain forward Joel Freeland turned down a three-year rookie deal with the Portland Trailblazers in the summer, in favour of a (slightly) more lucrative move from Gran Canaria to ACB rivals Unicaja Malaga. "I would prefer to go (to the NBA) when I feel I am ready,” he said. “I don't want to sit on the bench for a couple of years.”

Ironically, with Portland’s injury problems, playing time wouldn’t have been an issue. Those of us who have followed the progression of Aldershot’s finest would argue he is ready as he’ll ever be – right now.

10. Two steps forward, two steps back. For basketball in the UK, this was a year of minimal progress. Great Britain’s men and women did not produce the results needed to advance their cause sufficiently to get FIBA to end their damaging Olympic dithering. The BBL went an entire year without any TV coverage and the trend toward smaller venues continues.

The NBA sold out the 02 Arena but, for all the noise it made, it otherwise flirted with obscurity on these shores at a time when the NFL is solidifying its own position. And for all the extra cash arriving in the lead-in to 2012, there are still too many familiar tales of volunteers not getting the support they need at a grassroots level.

There is a coherent strategy on paper for British hoops but no real evidence of delivery or results. Must do better in 2010.


Saturday, 26 December 2009

Spragg exit leaves Newcastle bench short-handed

Newcastle Eagles have agreed to a request from assistant coach Billy Spragg to quit his role after nine years - with son and reserve player Will Spragg following him out of the club.

Spragg Sr. joined the club in 2001, joining then head coach Tony Garbelotto, before becoming Fab Flournoy's regular number two.

Managing Director Paul Blake, in a statement, said “We wish Bill and Will all the best in their future endeavours and thank them for the huge role they have played in bringing success to the team in recent years."

However, with the reasons unknown for the exit, this is a huge blow for Newcastle. Spragg, hugely respected within the BBL, has been the key factor in allowing Flournoy to function as both a player and coach while other similar arrangements around the league have floundered.

While it is understood that the American is seeking a replacement "in the long-term", it will likely hunder the team's chances of retaining their title.

"I was sad to see Billy go," Flournoy told The Chronicle. "He was my friend and I think in many ways he was the Ying to my coaching Yang."


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Season's Greetings

Britball wishes you a Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Leicester Riders hit by Minor departure

Leicester Riders point guard Tack Minor will not be returning to the club for the second half of the season, after his contract was terminated by mutual consent. Personal issues have been cited as the reason for his departure.

The American has led the Riders in scoring this season and was second in the BBL in scoring and top the charts in assists.

Riders' coach Rob Paternostro said, "Tack has had some personal issues in the last few weeks which was affecting him and we all agreed that it would be best if he returned to the US to resolve these matters. He is an outstanding talent and the Riders wish him well for the future. Now it is up to the other guys to pull together, while we find a replacement."

Minor missed Riders controversial defeat at Worthing on Saturday due to flu. Paternostro is now looking to sign a replacement in time for Riders next game at home to Guildford Heat on January 9.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Davis rips into Rocks

Glasgow Rocks coach Sterling Davis blasted his side for a lack of effort on as the BBL leaders Sheffield Sharks cruised to a 77-67 win on Sunday that gives them a four-point cushion heading into Christmas.

The Kelvin Hall outfit, who now sit in seventh place, were ripped apart when the Sharks hit 11 in a row in the second quarter.

And a furious Davis said: “I’m completely disappointed in that performance. We only really played hard for one quarter and I think some guys were already thinking about the Christmas break.

“Sheffield are a good team but we didn’t fight to stay with them. I just saw in some of the guys eyes that they didn’t come out to compete.”


Everton, Worcester, Plymouth do last-minute Christmas shopping

Everton Tigers have, as Britball forecast last week, completed the capture of former BBL MVP Trey Moore amid a flurry of pre-Christmas signings.

The American veteran guard, who spent the 2008/09 season helping Newcastle top the BBL League and Playoffs, held talks with a number of clubs after failing to land an early season offer but settled on joining the Merseyside outfit - adding the playmaking and leadership the Tigers have lacked since the retirement of Richard Midgley.

Moore, a Mississippi State graduate, first came to Britain in 2003 when he joined Birmingham from his native Houston. Since then the 33-year-old has spent a season in China and in Strasbourg before returning to the BBL with Chester, then Newcastle.

Tigers head coach Tony Garbelotto said: “Trey has made a huge impact on the BBL in recent years and he is a player that we have all been watching.

“His score sheet proves his strengths – averaging in excess of 20 points per game throughout his two seasons with Cheshire Jets and helping both the Jets and the Eagles to collect silverware.

“He has played at the highest level in this league so will be sure to bring his experience and versatility to the team. 2010 promises to be an exciting culmination to the season.”

Elsewhere, Worcester Wolves have signed Lithuanian guard Kastytis Normantas, 6'9" American wingman Devin Smith and recently released Worthing Thunder power forward Petroslav Zafirov, while Plymouth Raiders have extended Anthony Rowe's deal until the end of the season.

“I’m delighted that he’s committed himself to the team for the remainder of the year,” said Plymouth coach Gary Stronach. “Anthony is a young player with a great future ahead of him. His leaving the team in France came at just the right time for us both – we needed someone to replace James Noel until he was fit, and Anthony needed to get back on the court again. The past 2 games have seen Anthony prove what a big part of this team he has become, so we’re all delighted that he has decided to stay.”


Sunday, 20 December 2009

Capital calamities continue

Had a visit to London Capital's website today for news on just why their game against Milton Keynes was postponed - only to be greeted with this bizarre message.





According to Milton Keynes, it was off due to "health and safety issues".

Only in London.


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Coe awaits FIBA ruling but time has come to Britain to get 2012 reassurance

FIBA’s decision not to offer Great Britain a wildcard for next summer’s world championships was hardly a surprise. One Eurobasket finals does not a credible contender make. For all the lobbying undertaken by British Basketball officials, for all the brash talk of what-ifs and maybe surrounding the potential availability of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, the simple fact was that GB don’t deserve to be in Turkey. The dues are not yet fully paid.

So it is off to the qualifiers for 2011 Eurobasket for Britain’s men and women. That is a challenge in itself. But what of the following year? The Olympic Games, on home soil. A shop window for every domestic sport to bask in the spotlight.

Plus that legacy thing. “We want as many opportunities for big British moments. And we want as many opportunities for young people to be inspired to take up the sport.”

Not my words but those of Lord Coe. Yet here we are, 30 months out, and with no confirmation that GB will be invited to the hoop-la in East London. Basketball is the only sport that reserves the right to withhold an invite to the host nation at an Olympiad. For the past four years, FIBA have trotted out the mantra that GB must prove themselves “competitive” to merit a free pass. The string remains of undetermined length. No decision is expected any time soon.

The fate of the two GB sides remains in the hands of Patrick Baumann and his henchmen in Switzerland. The mathematics play their role. One host berth equals one less from Europe’s established order at the Games. FIBA are not yet sure that basketball in Britain is a serious business, not with the low profile of the domestic league, the paucity of media coverage and the relative disinterest in its own international competitions. Given the choice between, say, Greece, and GB, where would the political weight lie within the corridors of power?

So far, by necessity, it is business as usual within British Basketball. Last week, UK Sport pledged £8 million in the road to 2012. One of the largest funding packages, it suggests the government anticipates that likes of Deng, Archibald and Leedham will be marching at the opening ceremony. Yet, there is a still a nervousness. The uncertainty sits uneasily with the players, coaches and sponsors alike.

Speaking with Coe, he wants GB at his party. Why would he not? But there is a reluctance to issue edicts and make undue fuss. However, FIBA should remember this. These are the UK’s Olympics. The dues for this one have been paid out of the hosts’ collective pocket. It is a one-time opportunity to cement basketball in the nation’s consciousness. And without it, the sport may regress back into the shadows.

Patrick, the ball’s in your hands. Don’t drop it.


Home moves see BBL downsize over decade

Guildford Heat’s re-location to the campus of the University of Surrey by the end of this season means that three British Basketball League teams will – presuming the line-up remains unchanged – start the next campaign at a different home than this one.

With Milton Keynes about to decamp Bletchley for a temporary venue at Middleton Hall, and Newcastle Eagles packing their bags for Northumbria University next summer, it’s interesting to draw the comparisons with ten years ago – a season that represented the high watermark in terms of available seats around the BBL (and also in the sheer number of freebie tickets that were given away to fill the vast empty expanses in Manchester, Sheffield and London’s Docklands).

Only one team – the Chester/Cheshire Jets - has stayed put (although Plymouth and Worthing were then in the EBL). Even more remarkably, only 5 of the 13 teams from the 1999-2000 campaign have hung around (the Rocks subsequently switched from Edinburgh to Glasgow).

Looking at the capacities from ten seasons ago, down 83 per cent, it’s a stark measure of the down-sizing in the BBL’s ambitions. A year later, Birmingham Bullets and London Leopards retrenched from arenas to leisure centres, Leicester were forced out of their long-time base at Granby Halls and things were never quite the same again.

Cheshire (Northgate Arena): 1300 capacity
Essex (Southend Tennis Centre): 1100
Everton (Greenbank Academy): 600*
Glasgow (Kelvin Hall): 1200
Guildford (Surrey Sports Park): 800
Leicester (DMU): 800
London Capital (Willesden): 300
Milton Keynes (Middleton Hall): 1500
Newcastle (Northumbria University): 2600
Plymouth (Pavilions): 1480
Sheffield (EIS): 1200
Worcester (University): 800
Worthing (Worthing LC): 700
TOTAL: 14,380

Birmingham (NEC): 13000
Brighton (Brighton Centre): 5000**
Chester (Northgate): 1300
Derby (Thunderdome): 2500
Edinburgh (Meadowbank): 1900
Leicester (Granby Halls): 1500
Leopards (London Arena): 15000
London Towers (Crystal Palace): 3500
Manchester Giants (MEN Arena) 18000
Milton Keynes (Bletchley): 907
Newcastle (Metro Arena): 11000
Sheffield (Hallam Arena): 12500
Thames Valley (Bracknell SC): 1200
TOTAL: 87,307

*Some games at Echo Arena (7500)
** Some games at The Triangle (1500)


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Spain get lucky in world championship draw

The countdown to the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey has begun with the draw for the first round taking place on Tuesday.

The 24 participating teams were drawn into four groups of 6 teams each.

Group A (Kayseri): Serbia, Argentina, Australia, Jordan, Germany, Angola
Group B (Istanbul): Croatia, Brazil, Tunisia, Slovenia, Iran, USA
Group C (Ankara): China, Turkey, Russia, Puerto Rico, Ivory Coast, Greece
Group D (Izmir): Lithuania, Lebanon, France, Spain, Canada, New Zealand

The four top placed teams from each group will advance to the Eighth Final Round, at which point the Championship continues in a standard knock-out format.

Defending championships Spain have a relatively easy passage into the last eight with France their toughest challengers. While the draw has also thrown up the intriguing tie of USA against Iran.


Players reveal details of Wolves showdown meeting

Some interesting revelations in the Chuck Evans affair at Worcester Wolves in the team's local paper - confirming much of the speculation around the league over the American's departure amid allegations of making racist comments against his team.

Axed player Skoukson Harker claims that Evans crossed the line in multiple ways during a team meeting: “He compared our team to a couple of other top teams and felt that we had too many white players and that is what he said – it got worse from there.”

Evans defended himself, saying: “I thought professionals could handle a closed-door discussion on race but I was terribly wrong and the discussion got out of hand."

The full notes are here.


Monday, 14 December 2009

Guildford Heat quit Spectrum for campus venue

Guildford Heat are to quit their Spectrum home – and move to a new arena in nearby Parkway.

The BBL outfit will switch to the £36 million facility, which is based at the University of Surrey’s Manor Park campus, in time for this season’s play-offs in April.

It ends a five-year stint at the Spectrum with Heat managing director Alan McClafferty citing the opportunity to train and play at a single venue as the primary reason for the change.

“Until now the Heat’s various teams have trained and played at a range of different venues throughout Surrey,” he said.

“We are delighted that the Surrey Sports Park, with its outstanding facilities and ideal location, will be able to accommodate all our needs under one roof. Whilst the Spectrum has been very supportive during its five years as host to the Heat’s BBL League games, unfortunately they could not accommodate all our current and future needs.”


Practice is Glasgow Rocks secret: Copeland

Glasgow Rocks forward Mike Copeland insists his team’s ultra-tough practice games have sparked the Scots back into title contention.

The Kelvin Hall outfit will bid for a fifth straight win against Plymouth on Wednesday. And the fast-improving North Carolina product claims that the fight for playing time within the Rocks reinforced nine-man squad has added an edge to their preparations.

“Practices have become very competitive," said Copeland. "Everyone wants to show they deserve to play. And I like that. We’re going hard every day to get a spot in the team.”

The additional depth has allowed Rocks player-coach Sterling Davis to cut back his minutes with the side rotating its cover in the middle with Copeland and Mike Crowell sharing duties as the Scots try to combat size with speed.

And that, in turn, says Copeland has given the players a clearer sense of direction.

"Sterling’s helping us a lot when he’s coaching from the sidelines," he added. "But he’s also telling us what to do a lot more when he’s out on the court. He’s seeing the whole floor and picking up what we’re doing wrong."


Stronach aims for Raiders remedy

Plymouth Raiders coach Gary Stronach ordered his players in for training on Monday on their day-off after a locker-room tirade following the side's record eighth consecutive loss.

The Devon outfit's 108-93 reverse at Milton Keynes left them bottom of the BBL with their 1-11 record equalling Raiders' worst-ever start to the season. And Stronach, whose team are now 4 points adrift at the foot of the standings, has demanded more effort against Glasgow on Wednesday
“I am getting tired of hearing my own voice and I am sure the supporters and the media have heard enough excuses,” he told The Herald. "The simple fact is we have got to start winning matches sooner rather than later.”


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Zabas joins Worthing. Moore to Tigers?

Worthing Thunder have confirmed the signing of Evaldas Zabas, two weeks after the Lithuanian was one of five players sacked by Worcester.

Zabas, who also held talks with Everton Tigers, is likely to make his debut against Leicester on December 19.

Long-time Thunder absentee Janis Ivanovskis is set to resume practice this week but will likely make his season debut in the New Year.

Everton, seeking a replacement guard, could now make a move for former BBL MVP Trey Moore. The American is understood to have been offered to a number of teams but the Tigers are the most likely to hand him a deal.


Saturday, 12 December 2009

Great Britain snubbed for world's wild card

Great Britain’s men have missed out on a place at next year’s world championships after FIBA chiefs opted to offer wild-card entries to Lithuania, Russia, Germany and Lebanon.

British Basketball had lobbied for a spot in Turkey to improve their chances of getting a guaranteed berth at the 2012 Olympics. However, GB’s lack of pedigree counted against them in yesterday’s vote and Chris Finch’s side will now play in the qualifiers for the 2011 Eurobasket finals in Lithuania.

“We thank FIBA for giving us careful consideration,” said performance director Chris Spice. “We must now take a different path, which will be to qualify for EuroBasket 2011 next summer. If anything we arrived at this point in time much earlier than initially expected, which is credit to the players and coaching staff and we are proud to have been able to put ourselves into the mix.”

The draw for the qualifiers takes place on January 16.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Lewis hoping for wild-card shock for GB

Great Britain assistant coach Tim Lewis insists a place in next year’s FIBA World Championships in Turkey would provide a massive boost to the sport – even if the chances of earning a wild-card are deemed slim at best.
FIBA’s executive committee, who are meeting this weekend in Turkey ahead of Tuesday’s draw, will vote on Sunday on which four nations will fill the vacant places in the 24-nation event.
FIBA states it will take into account "Sporting Aspects", based on the popularity of basketball in the country, previous international results and the ‘quality of work’ by the National Federation. It also will factor in the potential economic benefits from television and other commercial revenues.
With no track record, and little chance of a lucrative TV deal in the UK, it puts Britain behind luminaries such as Russia, Germany, Israel and Lithuania with a maximum of three European sides to be added.
However Lewis is hoping that the draw of bringing the 2012 Olympic hosts into the fold might cast a spell over the voters.
“Everybody would love to compete at the world championships,” said the Essex Pirates coach. “When we started out playing those B Division games four years ago, nobody would even though we’d have had a chance to do that. It would be a great opportunity. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
“The chances are slim but in our favour is 2012 and the way we’ve come through stuff. Despite those losses at the Euros, we were right there with teams. And people recognise we were without Luol Deng and Ben Gordon who would make a big difference to us.”


Deng, Gordon not in All-Star hunt

Thew first voting returns for this season's NBA All-Star Game have been released - and as expected, there is little chance Great Britain duo Luol Deng or Ben Gordon will be headed to Dallas in February.

Deng - currently out-of-sorts on a dreadful Chicago Bulls squad - is in eleventh place among Eastern Conference forwards with 37,428 votes, well behind leader LeBron James.

While Gordon, who moved to the Detroit Pistons last summer, has failed to crack the top ten for guards in the East.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets top the Western Conference, while Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and James of the Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Eastern Conference after the first returns of 2010 NBA All-Star Balloting presented by T-Mobile. Bryant, who shared All-Star MVP honours with Shaquille O’Neal last season, is the overall leader with 692,518 votes.

Fans can vote on


Finch pleads for world spot for Great Britain; funding cut

Great Britain coach Chris Finch wants FIBA to send its strongest signal yet that the hosts will get a place in the 2012 Olympic Games by handing his team a wild-card berth in next summer’s world championships.

With a vote on the four available spots for Turkey set to be taken on Sunday, British Basketball officials have been lobbying to earn an invite in the face of competition from established powers including Lithuania, Israel and Russia.

Basketball is the only Olympic sport that does not provide an automatic spot for the home teams with the governing body demanding that GB’s men’s and women’s sides demonstrate their competitiveness before any decision is taken.

And despite finishing bottom of their first-round group at this year’s European Championships, Finch is hoping for a positive sign on the road to London.

"With regard to the wildcard, as we were in Poland, we are competing against some top nations for those finals few places in Turkey next year and it will be no mean feat in achieving one,” the American said. "If you look at our performances alone then we have demonstrated to FIBA exactly what they have asked of us since we began this journey in 2006. We gained promotion at the first attempt, then qualified for the European Championships at the first time of asking, and finally competed well in Poland against three group opponents, two of whom went on to contest the overall final.

"We are still striving for that Olympic place in 2012 but to warrant that we have to play against the best teams in the world and the only way of doing this is to compete at the World Championships.

"With a fully fit roster available to us we would not just be making up numbers in Turkey next year, we would be there to compete. The long-term goal for the team is to medal at 2012, but the long term goal for the sport is to establish itself in Britain for years to come and I believe the efforts of our two GB teams will be integral in providing a platform for this."

UK Sport have announced that British Basketball's funding through to 2012 has sustained a small cut, reduced from a planned £8,751,800 to £8,575,000.

"UK Sport have so far showed tremendous support and belief in what British Basketball is trying to achieve and in turn I believe we have demonstrated that we deserve this through our rapid rise within the European rankings; both our men and women,” Finch added. “And if we are to be successful in three years time, then we undoubtedly need that continued support from them."


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

BBA draws up new play

The British Basketball Association - the presumed rival to the BBL - is still gearing up for a launch in 2010, according to sources close to the New York-based venture.

"There is more meat on the bones this time," said a person with knowledge of the plans. The BBA, which has appointed well-known sports finance consultant Keith Harris to approach potential investors, previously tried to begin play three years ago but its plans fell through to a lack of backing, as well as the collapse of a buy-in with the BBL.

More news is expected on the venture in the New Year. However the BBA, run by Wall Street investor Ron Scott, has unveiled its new logo and branding campaign.


Harker exits Worcester

Former Worcester Wolves coach Skouskon Harker has been officially dismissed by the club for his role in the strike action that previously saw the contracts of five players terminated.

The Canadian, who continued in a playing capacity after being replaced at the helm by Chuck Evans in the summer, went through a disciplinary procedure on Monday.

And officials have decided to end his stay at the Wolves.

“Skouson will not play for the Wolves again,” club chairman Roger Clarke said. “He was one of the striking players and his playing contract has been terminated."


Monday, 7 December 2009

Paul James named as Worcester coach

Worcester Wolves have named Paul James as their new head coach - replacing the departed Chuck Evans at the helm of the crisis club. And the ex-Guildford boss will now be faced with the challenge of re-building a squad with at least five players axed in the wrangle that surrounded his predecessor's exit.
One of the most successful coaches in the British Basketball League, James made his league debut for his hometown club Leicester weeks after his 17th birthday and after a successful spell with them, he went on to play for nine years with the Bracknell/Thames Valley Tigers and while at both these clubs throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s he won numerous BBL Championships, BBL Trophies and runners-up medals.

In summer 2005, the Guildford Heat were formed and James was appointed head coach. In just four years he led the franchise to two trophies but was jettisoned last summer amid cost-cutting.

Wolves chairman Roger Clarke said. "PJ is out of the very top drawer of British coaches and with him joining the Wolves it shows to our loyal fans, and all other interested parties, that we are over the unfortunate incidents of the last few days. I am really happy at the speed in which we were able to tie up the details with Paul and by inviting one of the best coaches in the UK to work with the Wolves it shows our intentions very clearly.

"The fight back has begun in earnest and we aim not just to free wheel and complete the remainder of this season but also to try hard and really achieve something."

James' first competitive game in charge is in January.

"Having spoken with Roger Clarke it was an easy decision to make," he said. "There is a passion and tradition for basketball at all levels in Worcester and there is, in addition, ambition as well. We want the team to be challenging for BBL honours season after season and we hope to get better and better over the next few years. The potential here is huge and I sincerely hope to bring success to the club before too long. I can assure fans that the hard work of recruiting a team has started and I hope to start announcing players soon."


Friday, 4 December 2009

Yanders set for GB call-up

Great Britain coach Chris Finch has revealed that he is ready to hand Glasgow Rocks captain Rob Yanders a dream opportunity to play in the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Milwaukee-born point guard is set to receive his UK passport in the New Year, rendering him eligible to play for GB.
With each international team allowed to field one naturalised star, Yanders will be given the chance to compete with former Sheffield team-mate Nate Reinking for the vacancy. And with Finch looking to address one of his side’s weak spots, the Rocks playmaker is firmly on his radar.

“Nate is our naturalised guy and he’s done a great job for us,” said Finch, who is now at the helm of NBA D-League outfit Rio Grande Vipers. “But Nate’s not able to play forever. We understand that. We certainly have a need in the backcourt as well to try and keep strengthening our side. And we’ll welcome anybody with Rob’s talent into the team so we can assess him our own environment.”


Rush to leave Everton

Under-performing Everton Tigers have ditched guard Steven Rush after exercising an opt-out clause in the American’s contract.

Rush, who arrived late due to visa issues, joined from German Pro-B side Franken Hexer in the summer.

However the Tigers lack of size has led to an indifferent start to the campaign – with Tigers head coach Tony Garbelotto admitting Rush "wasn't a good fit" in his under-sized backcourt

He added: "Steven was an excellent player and we are sad to see him go. Although our results have been disappointing there have been some very positive results in the past few weeks.

“Taking this into account I think we had to take a longer term view to our season and we are now talking to a couple of players who will bring something to the squad going forward. “

Everton hope to have GB forward Flo Larkai back in action for next week's clash with Milton Keynes.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Stand-in Worcester Wolves coach backs fixture move

Caretaker Worcester Wolves coach Guy Evans has backed the BBL’s decision to allow the club to postpone a number of fixtures while the hunt for a new boss – and replacement players – continues.

The troubled side have received a fine after pulling out of their next five scheduled games in the wake of the crisis that saw Chuck Evans depart amid allegations that he made racist comments. The 'other' Evans took over last Sunday as a squad made up primarily of Worcester’s EBL Division 4 side suffered a battering at Glasgow Rocks, despite a spirited showing.

The league has come under fire from critics who argue that the Wolves should have to carry on fielding a weakened team. However, Evans insists it would do his youthful line-up no good.

“We had to fulfil the fixture,” he said. “The club made the decision to send mostly second-team players. I don’t think it would have a positive impact on the players if it were repeated. A one-off game, we take something from it but it would be detrimental to do it again.

“I was really proud of what they did. Under the circumstances, I don’t think they could have done any better. I just hope the players recognise the positives from that game and don’t look at the scoreboard as the end all. We’re a Division 4 team who went up against an experienced BBL team on its own court. I think we represented the club well.”

Under BBL and England Basketball rules, players from a club's second-tier side can 'play up' in the senior side for a number of games per season without losing their right to represent the developmental team.


Lasker makes Plymouth return

Plymouth Raiders have re-signed American guard Drew Lasker for the remainder of the season, filling the void left by injured Eric Flato.

The move means that Raiders’ top scorer for the last four years is back in place with the team. In 2008-09, Lasker averaged 17 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2 assists and nearly 2 steals per game. He will be registered in time to play this Saturday against Everton.

“I’m really pleased to have him back in the Raiders fold,” said Raiders’ head coach Gary Stronach. “He’s a proven BBL player and will slot right back into our system. He’s been working out hard since the end of last season, and is eager to get back into game shape again.”

“We’ve been in contact a number of times since Drew left at the end of last season, and when he heard that Eric was seriously injured, he spoke to me about coming back again. It means that our guard rotation from last year is back in place.”

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Worcester granted fixture break

The BBL has, as Britball forecast, allowed Worcester Wolves to postpone their next five fixtures - levying a fine against the crisis-hit club.

Their away fixture against Guildford this Saturday will now be replaced by a BBL Championship clash between the Heat and the Sheffield Sharks, with the Wolves’ next fixture away to the Sharks on the January 3 2010.

In a statement, the league said: "The club reported that following last weekend’s games, during a post match analysis session, Coach Charles Evans had allegedly used inappropriate remarks when addressing the players. Mr Evans was immediately suspended by the club and, following a review of the matter through the club’s Disciplinary Procedures, was given a formal warning. Subsequently, Mr Evans has resigned from his post.

"Six of the Wolves players are also currently the subject of ongoing disciplinary action by the Club due to a material breach of their playing contracts.In light of the above the Wolves club are not currently in a position to fulfill their next 5 fixtures and, in accordance with BBL Rules, have been fined."

The new dates for the postponed games will be finalised in the coming days.


Evans breaks silence on Wolves racism row

Chuck Evans has confirmed that he resigned as coach of Worcester Wolves after making comments to members of his team that were deemed racist.

The American quit the club last week when a group of his players threatened to strike rather than work under him following an incident that, it was claimed, took place in a team meeting.

Multiple sources told Britball that the tirade was directed primarily against the Wolves trio of Lithuanians – Vidmantas Uzkuraitis, Evaldas Zabas and Nerijus Karlikanova - who are among the five whose contracts have now been terminated. Evans, whose wife is white, has now returned to the USA but insists his words were mis-interpreted.

“If you look at the make-up of our team, it is very European in terms of colour,” he told the Worcester News. “I am colour blind. I recruit guys who can play basketball. On one occasion I used words that imply I am a racist, which is not true. I was wrong for my comments and regret the incident ever happened.”

The sacked quintet are understood to be considering legal action against the Wolves. But their actions have been backed by reserve guard, Roy Owen - one of the few players who remain under contract following the internal combustion.

“I came to Worcester to play basketball so I thought the best thing was to stay out of it,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectations of anything. A lot of guys decided to stick together as a team and to stick to doing what they thought was right. It’s not for anyone to agree or disagree with that. But I wish the guys were still here playing with us.”

Worcester chairman, Roger Clarke, has pledged to stack the roster with fresh talent – and a new coach – within “2-3 weeks”. And Owen insists the off-court issues need to be left behind.

“It’s been a strange situation,” he added.” I didn’t expect this to happen. Hopefully we can move forward now and build another team."


Monday, 30 November 2009

‘Hanging from the Rafters’ by Kieran Shannon

(Evening Echo Publications)

It’s a rare day when you get a book that enthrals you by reminding of moments you’ve forgotten but also provides an insight into the stories that remained elusive. For those of us who grew up watching Irish basketball explode into a unique cultural and sporting phenomenon before bouncing back down to earth, the definitive book on the game’s golden era on the Emerald Isle is the perfect riposte to every bland and pointless autobiography that is begging for a place in Santa’s stocking.

Kieran Shannon, a writer for The Sunday Tribune, views history through the eyes of Cork’s biggest club but has every gym northward in his sights during the course of ‘Hanging from the Rafters’. Sub-titled ‘The Story of Neptune and the Golden Age of Irish Basketball’, it recounts the trail that basketball blazed on both sides of the border. It is true that, for so many, their first experience of a black person was when they encountered one of the gregarious professional hoopsters imported to add a touch of razzle-dazzle to a nascent domestic product. For those who landed, fresh off the plane, it was an equally alien environment.

A rare specimen, like Mario Elie (once of Killester, later of San Antonio) would go onto greater stages. Many like Lennie McMillan, Javan Dupree, Soup Campbell, and Jerome Westbrook stuck around, went native and spawned their successors. For every stalwart, there was a fly-by-night. Players who turned up, caused havoc and departed. Places like Kerry are as far from Boston as basketball goes. For some, it was a flight too far when they realised that dreams of turning out for the Celtics had been replaced by trips to teams with names like Burgerland and Jameson.

Critically, the pursuit of the best American imports knew no boundaries. If only Reggie Lewis had accepted an offer to join Ballina in place of Boston, might it all have turned out differently? Or if Blue Demons hadn’t been rebuffed in their cheeky approach for Dale Ellis? They may still have followed Elie to the NBA. Or been the next Deora Marsh. Posted to Mayo, the knock came on the rookie’s door to show him around town. The last thing the club needed was the usual bout of homesickness as the estranged worlds of African-America and small-town Ireland collided.

The concern was mis-placed. The man who would become one of the league’s legend was already forging bonds. “My motto from day one coming to Ballina was if you sit in the house all day you’ll never meet nobody,” he recalled. “Ireland’s the type of place where you meet everyone in the pub. So that’s where I’d go. Even if I didn’t know them, they’d know of me.” Soon, many would.

Like its counterpart in Britain, with which its history is shared through player moves and regular friendlies, Irish basketball is still trying to regroup and evolve back towards its heyday. That golden era may never be replicated.

“We now all know why basketball in this country suddenly became a spectator sport. And it wasn’t by design,” Shannon argues. “It was when Paudie O’Connor decided unilaterally to sign a couple of American professionals. If he hadn’t challenged the status quo, the clubs and their league would have remained in the backwaters of Irish sport. Then came the two-to-one American decision of 1988. After that, a club-based national league had little chance as a spectator sport.”

Shannon’s arguments are compelling. More so is the rich history he has chronicled within these pages. Going forward, no matter how optimistic you are, it’s hard to believe that such a fantastical era with characters as glorious as these will be seen again.


Spice turns heat on FIBA to give Britain a world champs wildcard

Great Britain performance director Chris Spice has urged FIBA to grant the senior's men's national team a wildcard for next year's World Championships.
Britain finished fourth in the group of death at this summer's European Championships - where their three group opponents went on to finish first, second and fourth – missing out on automatic qualification for Turkey.
Now Chris Finch's side must wait until December 14 to see whether FIBA has granted them one of four wildcards – in competition with the likes of Germany, Lithuania, Italy and Russia.
Sources at the organisers have maintained GB’s hopes are slender unless a British television deal is completed for the event. However Spice, with one eye on the 2012 Olympics, wants FIBA to boost his side.
"In many ways we, GB, find ourselves in yet another tough group as we bid for a wildcard, only this time the players cannot physically step onto a court to play for victory,” he said.
"We hope that our rapid progression over the past few years, coupled with our efforts in Poland and continued desire to prove ourselves for the 2012 Olympics, will put us in a strong position to be considered for Turkey.
"With a fully fit and available roster we believe that we can put forward a valid campaign for the World Championships. And of course, the only way GB can prove its credentials against the best teams in the world is to play them."


Harker's future unclear as Worcester Wolves confirm 5 sacked

Worcester Wolves have left the door ajar to former player-coach Skouskon Harker to re-join the club, despite his absence in Sunday's heavy defeat to Glasgow Rocks.

Club officials have confirmed that the contracts of Evaldas Zabas, Vidmantis Uzukurailitis, Nerijus Karlikanovas, Randy George and Chey Christie have been terminated after the five threatened strike action when former boss Chuck Evans was not dismissed following allegations of mistreatment against his charges.

However, Harker is to go through a formal disciplinary process before any firm decision on his future is taken.


Saturday, 28 November 2009

Worcester Wolves in meltdown after coach Evans walks amid player 'strike'

Worcester Wolves have been thrown into turmoil after head coach Chuck Evans quit the club, with up to six players also suspended and likely to have played their last games there.

The scheduled BBL tie against Glasgow Rocks on Sunday will go ahead following the bust-up, league officials confirmed. The Wolves are expected to field French forward, Harry Disy, who was not involved in the issue, along with several fringe and second-team players.

However, Worcester management has alleged that an un-named group of players had threatened to go on strike after railing against Evans' coaching methods. While the American playcaller is thought to have apologised to his charges following showdown talks with management, it is understood that matters descended into chaos following a meeting between the disgruntled sextet and club chiefs.

24 hours later, sources claim, the group asserted that they would refuse to play for Evans again. While the former Euroleague star subsequently resigned from his post, Worcester chairman Roger Clarke has insisted, in a statement issued on Friday, that he was left with no option except to proceed with disciplinary action.

“It has been a very difficult week," said Clarke. "We were left with no alternative but to terminate the contracts of players who refused to play for the Wolves.

“Coach Evans accepted disciplinary action but decided that in the best interests of the club he would resign from his position with immediate effect. The club is now in talks with the BBL and hopes to turn out a full squad as soon as possible.”

Evans, who had made a number of changes to the Wolves squad already this season, was in his first season in charge. His predecessor, Skouskon Harker, continued to play for the team but is among those sacked. It is, however, understood that the ousted stars could sue for unfair dismissal.

One departee, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Britball: "It's a really bad situation. We've taken legal advice and been told not to discuss what's gone on until the situation becomes clearer. But you know things had gotten pretty bad for it to come to this."

It is expected that Worcester will ask the BBL for a number of postponements of December fixtures in order to re-build their roster and appoint a replacement for Evans.

Plymouth Raiders guard Eric Flato done for season

Plymouth Raiders guard Eric Flato is to miss the rest of the season due to a freak leg injury sustained in practice last month.

The American rookie is expected to undergo a third surgery before Christmas, ending his hopes of a speedy return. According to club sources, the Raiders expect to bring in a replacement point guard next week.

“Following the meeting earlier this week with the consultant, Eric and myself sat down and discussed the best possible way forward, "said Plymouth coach Gary Stronach. "Both of us are very disappointed that he won’t be able to finish the season, but for his own health and the longevity of his career, it’s the only way forward.”

In 6 BBL outings, the Yale graduate averaged 10.3 points and 3 assists per game, and 83% from the free throw line.

"I want to thank everyone involved with the Raiders for helping me through this frustrating injury,” said Flato. “The players, fans, and front office have all been wonderful. I have really enjoyed my time here in Plymouth and am sad to leave, but I'm optimistic about returning to peak fitness after rehab."

Stronach added: "It’s an absolute tragedy that this has happened to him in his first professional season.”

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

This should not be Iverson's final bow

Allen Iverson claims he's retiring. Is it for good? We have, as yet, no answer. This time, only questions remain. How did a four-time scoring champion of the NBA end up in such a predicament? Why did the penny (or dime, if you prefer) not drop that sometimes, no matter how great you've been, you have to take a step back and let youth shine?

If the last image on a court we have of AI is the tetchy, wayward, hapless character that could not contemplate coming off the bench in that basketball backwater known as Memphis, it would be a tragedy. Not just for those who admired the little guy that could. But, most of all, for the man himself.

There was the young Allen, all petulant and foreboding, the rebel with a cause celebre. The raps, the tattoos, the corn rows that struck such fear into the heart of the NBA's marketing men that they commandeered the airbrushes and pulled a Kate Winslet on this bright young punk of Philadelphia.

They didn't understand him. Neither, in truth, did we. He didn't seem to care. Surprisingly, deep down, he did. At some point, everyone needs a hug and an embrace. Like anyone else, he just needed a little love plus the wisdom of years. To embrace responsibility, parenthood, even - just occasionally - practice.

The transformation didn't happen overnight. The mutual appreciation society granted membership by stealth over a long period. We got to know him. He began to open up. We saw this funny, passionate character beneath the shell. The punk lived on. But like Johnny Rotten, he buttered us up and won both hearts and minds.

And the thing is, he knew it - and he enjoyed it. We always admired his guts on the court, throwing his fragile frame where behemoths feared to tread. That ability to excite with the unexpected. At some point, we saw past the flaws and saw the human within.

It took effort on both parts to achieve that rapprochement. Which is why this may not be the last act in the play. Memphis was always ill-fated. The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. In modern America, that is sadly so often the prefix to a premature final scene.

But AI is no longer on the mean streets. Just 34, there is a place for him, somewhere, on the right side of the tracks that mark out the four edges of the parquet. Greece will surely come calling. In his statement, he declared only that he had retired "from the NBA". Josh Childress would be a mere blip if the Athenian coffers were opened up. Let the Euro rumour mill begin.

"I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank," he said. "I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level." No-one is calling, yet. The Knicks let the phone ring off the hook. Others have passed. It will only take an injury for Iverson's name to be floated once more.

You'd like to think AI will spend his 'retirement' asking himself the tough questions. Can he embrace a new role on the terms of others, rather than his own? Will he realise that teams, in the NBA at least, will no longer bow to his whims? The answer, you hope for all our sakes, is yes.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Boyd working on ball skills

GB guard Flinder Boyd is training hard on his ball-handling skills, ahead of his expected arrival at Newcastle Eagles next month.

Phifer cut by Cheshire

Cheshire Jets have released American forward Frank Phifer. Jets coach Paul Smith said the move was taken following "decisions made about the on court dynamics of the team."

“While we have made a good start to the season we felt that if we were to fulfill our potential this year, we needed a stronger inside presence," said Smith. "Frank has been a very professional member of the team for us last season and this season. We would like to thank him for all his hard work in the local community and wish him well for the future.”

Brawlin' in Russia

Europe's version of the Malice at the Palace at a Russian League game between Lokomotiv Kuban and Dynamo Moscow.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Worcester drop Saunders

Struggling Worcester Wolves have released American guard Kenny Saunders after the club's disappointing start to the campaign.

Saunders played just 7 games, averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds.

“I expected a lot more from Kenny,” Evans said. “It just hasn’t worked out for him with us."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rocks add swingman Crowell

Glasgow Rocks have signed American-born small forward Michael Crowell to reinforce their BBL title challenge. The 23-year-old from Arizona, who has a German passport, previously played for Bundesliga side Weissenhorn and is slated to make his debut for the Kelvin Hall outfit against Worcester on November 29.

Rocks coach Sterling Davis said: “I felt like we needed some extra back-up at that position for Gareth Murray. Michael gives us another option. He’s 6’7” and can play a couple of positions as well as shooting the three-pointer. He can also defend and having that extra depth is going to help.”

Davis will now accelerate his chase for a centre to strengthen his under-sized line-up and confirmed: “We’re still looking there.”

Best foot forward as Everton fly the FC nest

The future of Everton Tigers has been secured after a deal was struck that will see Everton FC provide the BBL outfit with continued backing, despite a loosening of the links between the two clubs.

The move is the culmination of five months of talks that began when the Premier League giants initially signalled their intent to withdraw their subsidy completely, leaving the Tigers in danger of folding after just two seasons in the league. Having previously been integrated into the Goodison set-up through its community programme, the basketball arm will now be formally spun-off with chairman Martyn Best, and club stalwart Henry Mooney, taking control.

Critically for the Tigers, Everton FC will still maintain some financial support while continuing informal ties. The funding is around one-quarter of what was provided in the heady days of the past but Best, who runs a PR company in the north-west of England, insists it is an arrangement that will benefit both parties.

“The club’s now stable,” he confirmed. “We had two good first years with Everton Football Club supporting us totally. They wanted to reassess where our club lay. Is it part of the charity? Is it part of the football (club)? And they decided it’s best that it is an independent entity, winning trophies on the court and developing really good community links off it.

“Everton are fully behind us as our official partner. That’s just been confirmed this week, which is great. Between the management team: myself, Henry Mooney, Tony (Garbelotto) a great coach who has committed to the club, and a good general manager behind us, we feel we’ll be a big part of the BBL going forward.”

The trick is trying to build a brand in a city that is either red or blue, with talk of little else around the water cooler. Accruing sponsors is one part of the challenge. Increasing crowds is another. While Everton has flourished in its handful of appearances at the 7,000-capacity Echo Arena, attendances are still – by necessity – small at the team’s normal Greenbank home. And that, Best admits, may mean moving elsewhere in the longer term.

“The key to that is getting the fan base behind us,” he acknowledges. “The guys at the Echo Arena are fully behind us as a basketball team. It’s the same people who ran the NIA when Birmingham Bullets played there so they understand the make-up of the sport. They’re urging us to play 2-3 more games this season but the dates haven’t worked out to do something before Christmas. So we’re probably looking at one in January and one in April to sign the season off. 

“The other thing we’re looking at is possibly playing a few games around Liverpool, away from Greenbank. We might play one in Knowsley, where we have our admin and training court at Kirkby Sports College. And possibly one at Sefton where there is a strong hold on grassroots basketball. Greenback is our base for the foreseeable future but I want to take basketball around the city.”

Winning more silverware can only help. It has not been a smooth start to the campaign for the Tigers after their titanic battle for supremacy with Newcastle last term. On their economised budget, there are no Andre Smiths to carry the load. However, that doesn’t mean that mid-table consolidation is now the ambition. The ambitious Best, appropriately, still wants the best of all worlds.

“But,” he concedes, “it’s going to come down to a range of activities on and off the court: community engagement, fan engagement. On court, in Tony, we’ve got one of the best and most experienced coaches in the league. We are assembling a younger team this season which, when they do click, they are worth watching.

“We are building up a momentum in Liverpool. The city’s not used to having a professional team but we’re creating something there. I agreed to become involved long-term and we’ve made that same long-term commitment to the BBL.”

Garbelotto calls for Tigers to start showing claws

Everton Tigers coach Tony Garbelotto has insisted his players must show more desire if they want to see off Sheffield Sharks on Friday night and keep alive their ambition to retain the BBL title.
The winners at the EIS will take on Leicester in a two-legged semi-final with the hosts the clear favourites to end the reign of the Mersey outfit.

Garbelotto, who could welcome back Flo Larkai, believes Sheffield's race to the head of the league is no fluke but is still refusing to write off his team's hopes.
“They are the BBL form team at present, but as we have seen if there is one thing you can count on this season it is that nothing is going to for," he said.
“I feel we match up well with them, especially if Flo Larkai comes back from injury. This will be a highly exciting game to watch, I am pretty sure about that'."
He added: “They have one of the best players in the league in Mike Cook, a solid point guard in Ryan Patton and three excellent players in Tafari Toney, Perry Lawson and Atiba Lyons.
“They can score in bunches and have become a very solid defensive team. Atiba Lyons has done a great job with this team and their confidence is sky high.”

Everton go into the tie after a mixed set of results from last weekend as a defeat of London Capital was followed by a damaging  loss against the Glasgow Rocks, which left their coach furious.
Garbelotto added: “I was not happy with the whole weekend. We looked out of sorts in both games.
The Capital game was a good win against an improved side, and I was able to give both Dani Gonzalez and Darrell Bethune major minutes, which they have worked hard to get and deserved.
“Sunday was again one of those games that you would like to forget. We were up ten points at half time and we ended up losing by fifteen. They just wanted to win more than us and that is something that I cannot accept.”

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mensah-Bonsu makes Raptors return

The Toronto Raptors announced on Tuesday they have been awarded forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu on a waiver claim, signing the Londoner to a non-guaranteed deal despite interest from the New Jersey Nets and an un-named Russian side. And the GB international went straight into action against the Denver Nuggets, claiming 5 points and 4 rebounds in 6 minutes in a 130-112 loss.

Mensah-Bonsu, who signed with Houston this past offseason, was waived by the Rockets on Friday after appearing in just four games, averaging 1.3 points and 3.3 minutes.

Prior to signing with the Rockets, Mensah-Bonsu, 26, averaged 5.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 13.8 minutes in 19 games with the Raptors. He was signed as a free agent by Toronto on March 6 and became a popular figure coming off the bench. "It's good to be back," he said, after linking up with his new side in Denver.

Mensah-Bonsu saw action in three contests with the San Antonio Spurs in 2008-09, averaging 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 6.7 minutes. He appeared in 12 games with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006-07 season where he totaled 29 points and 22 rebounds in 72 minutes. He also spent part of that season in the D-League with Fort Worth, averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 30.7 minutes in 26 games. He earned 2007 D-League All-Star Game MVP honours with 30 points and seven rebounds.
He spent two seasons overseas, playing with Benetton Treviso in 2007-08 and Joventut in 2008-09. He averaged 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds in 31 regular season games with Benetton. He saw action in just two games with Jovenut before returning to North America to play in the D-League.  

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

BBL set for Sky return

The British Basketball League is set to agree a deal with Sky Sports that would see the game return to the satellite broadcaster after a decade’s absence.
Talks have reached a final stage on a tie-up that would likely see a weekly game screened from the BBL, starting in the New Year.
Although the funds are not yet finalised to finance the costs, an agreement - backed by a meeting of the league’s board on Monday - is understood to have been reached with a production company with final confirmation of the move expected “within days”.
“The only thing that would delay it would be scheduling,” said the league’s chairman, Paul Blake. “Our anticipation is that something will come off for the back end of the season. Our pitch has been for the last ten weeks of the campaign.”
The BBL has had short-lived deals with the ill-fated ITV Digital and Setanta since departing Sky, a move seen as pivotal in the league’s decline in recent years. The proposed link-up would likely see recorded extended highlights due to logistical difficulties in moving fixtures to mid-week for live transmission.
“It causes major problems from a venue point of view,” Blake confirmed.
The league is also set to relaunch its website in the next week after the two companies involved in a planned summer revamp went into administration.

Stronach blasts 'sloppy' Raiders

Plymouth Raiders coach Gary Stronach has lashed out at his side after a loss to London Capital that left the Devon outfit bottom of the BBL.
That result, which followed defeat to Leicester, left the Raiders with a 1-7 record and raised further doubts about the team’s ability to challenge with its current six-deep rotation.
And Stronach refused to make excuses about the performance.
"I'm bitterly disappointed,” he told The Herald. “People have been critical of us after some games this season, but people can be as critical as they want after tonight. We weren't where we should have been and I'm not happy with our overall performance.
"We were sloppy with the basketball, and at critical times. What eats away at me is the fact that if we come, even with just a six-man rotation and play to our best we can beat any team in the league."

Yanders: Rocks are back

Glasgow Rocks captain Rob Yanders believes Sunday’s win over Everton can be the result that inspires his side to start playing like BBL title contenders rather than also-rans.
The Kelvin Hall outfit roared from behind to beat Everton 84-69 despite seeing coach Sterling Davis ejected from the sidelines.
And Yanders believes the eighth-placed Scots – and especially rookie star Mike Copeland – have finally understood what is required to compete.
He said: “This is something we can build on. Doing what we did against Everton can definitely be a spark for us to start moving up the table. I think Mike illustrated that by showing so much maturity, getting 12 rebounds. He was key for us. But the whole team grew up. Sterling called on everybody to step up and they did.”
The Rocks now have a fortnight’s break from action before meeting Worcester but Yanders will demand maximum effort on the practice court.
The American said: “We have to focus on what we have and build on that over the next two weeks. We don’t need to keep having excuses. We just have to move on.”

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sky deal on BBL table

The BBL's board meeting on Monday is slated to discuss a proposed television deal with Sky Sports for the league, Britball understands. 

The move, first revealed last month, would kick in for the second half of the season, if it goes ahead.

A highlights show on Monday evenings is thought to be the most likely slot on the satellite broadcaster.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Parillon remains with Rocks

Glasgow Rocks boss Sterling Davis has vowed to stick by Steve Parillon despite talk that the controversial Virgin Islander might be on his way.
The Kelvin Hall outfit return to action on Saturday at Cheshire Jets after battling back from an outbreak of swine flu but have the nightmare task of also hosting in-form Everton Tigers 24 hours later.
And Davis wants Parillon, who has averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds this term, to start imposing himself off the bench.
The American revealed: “Steve’s doing better. It was a matter of him understanding his role and what the team expects of him. He needs to focus more on what he needs to take care of rather than getting involved in everything else. I like to give everyone a chance before trying to rectify it and at the moment, I want to add to the squad rather than losing anyone.”

Friday, 13 November 2009

Pops waived by Rockets

Great Britain forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu has been surprisingly waived by the Houston Rockets after less than a month of the NBA campaign.

The 26-year-old Londoner, who had a non-guaranteed contract worth a reported $825,497 per year, played only four regular season games for his new team since joining in September, averaging a lowly 1.3 points. However Rockets general manager Daryl Moray admitted the move was more about strategy than the British star’s form under coach Rick Adelman.
Morey said: ”Pops did a great job while he was here with us at the Rockets. "This move is only being done to give us some roster flexibility in case of an injury or a potential call up from the (minor league) RGV Vipers.
"With the way Coach currently has the rotation set up, this will also allow Pops an opportunity to explore options for more playing time.”
Mensah-Bonsu, who is now a free agent, is likely to be the subject of interest from leading European teams with Real Madrid thought to be keeping tabs on his availability.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Sullivan remains GB captain

British Basketball officials have denied reports that Drew Sullivan has been stripped of the Great Britain captaincy and replaced by Luol Deng.

It followed a news release from the NBA's UK office that claimed Deng was now the team skipper, which was also reported by the Daily Telegraph.

"The process for captain selection is for Chris Finch to appoint at the beginning of each international season," said a British Basketball spokesperson. "It has always been this and will remain to be this, therefore at present it probably makes sense for any reference to the GB captain to be to Sullivan, as he was the 2009 captain.  

"Unfortunately it has previously been wrongly reported that Luol was the GB captain, but this was an assumption from both the NBA and the non-basketball press at various events."

Hope that makes sense.

Eagles boss issues axe threat

Newcastle Eagles owner Paul Blake has put his players on notice over their futures after the team's three game losing streak that included BBL Cup exit.

The Eagles, who are continuing their pursuit of Great Britain guard Flinder Boyd, have been accused by Blake of lacking desire in the absence of injured player-coach Fab Flournoy.

And the Eagles chief has warned that he will not be afraid to wield the axe if matters don't improve.

"It is just not good enough and I will make changes," Blake told 
The Chronicle. "I am calling every single player in for talks and we will discuss their individual futures. Without Fab on the court, nobody is taking responsibility and stepping up. 

“There is no leadership, the body language is terrible and I have had enough."

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Rowe set for Raiders return, Plato out

Plymouth Raiders have signed locally-born born forward Anthony Rowe with the newcomer set to debut against Leicester on Friday.

It comes after US guard Eric Plato was ruled out out for several weeks after thigh surgery, having sustained an injury in practice. 

Rowe, a product of the club's junior development system, was given a four-year scholarship to North Georgia State College and signed his first professional contract last summer with Cognac, in N1 division in France.

However, the move went sour with the rookie moving home to join Gary Stronach's side on a short-term deal.

“His enthusiasm is infectious and he’s going to make a big contribution to this team," said Stronach. "He works hard at both ends of the floor, but will help us enormously in the rebounding department. He’s developed a lot since he left Plymouth – physically, as a basketball player, and as a person, and I’m excited to have him in the Radiers green.”

Rowe has initially signed until December 20 with options to extend the deal.

“Getting the chance to come back to Plymouth, and play in front of my family, friends and the great fans of the Raiders, is a dream come true,” Rowe declared. “I grew up watching the Raiders and always wondered if I would get to play and make a big contribution to the team – now I have that chance, and I’m blessed to have been given the opportunity.”

Friday, 6 November 2009

Swine flu rips through Rocks

Glasgow Rocks have been forced to postpone Sunday's meeting with Guildford Heat after a swine flu epidemic left the Kelvin Hall outfit with just three fit players.

Player-coach Sterling Davis, and import stars Steve Parillon and Mike Copeland, spent yesterday in hospital receiving treatment after the trio reported sick at practice. With reserve guard Mikey McGregor also laid up, and with American guard Jessie Sapp ruled out after injuring his ankle in training, club officials were left with no option last night but to call the tie off.

It will rescheduled later in the season.

Finch disappearance explained

The mystery of Great Britain coach Chris Finch's mystery disappearance during the build-up to Eurobasket has finally been solved.

While team officials were insisting Finch had flown from Ankara to his club base in Belgium during a two-day hiatus - with players none the wiser - reports in Texas have now revealed that the American flew to New York for a mere five-hour stopover, undergoing an interview with Houston Rockets officials for his new job in charge of the D-League's Rio Grande Vipers.

Since them it has been a whirlwind as Finch prepared for this week's Draft. “Everything has happened so fast,” Finch told local media. “We’re still trying to get our feet under us. Logistically, we are trying to pull our life together. We’ve got stuff in Europe, stuff in Florida, stuff in Chicago. We’re just trying to get it all timed up to come down here.”

Here's Finch's introductory press conference.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wolves corner Karlikanovas

Worcester Wolves have signed 6'8" Lithuanian forward Nerijus Karlikanovas, who could make his debut this weekend.

Karlikanovas, now aged 33, attended Creighton University, and has previous Euroleague experience with Zalgris Kauna as well as a prior 26-game stint in the BBL with Guildford Heat.

"We are are still awaiting his clearance," said Wolves coach Chuck Evans. "Nerijus is a big Lithuanian who is going to add another dimension to our offensive plays. At 6ft 8ins he can hit three-pointers, but also he will draw the opposition’s defence out and that will allow us to try and get in behind them."

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Worthing boss warns against self-destruction

Worthing Thunder boss Dave Titmuss has warned his side that the main threat to them this weekend, is themselves. His side face Cheshire Jets on Saturday evening at Worthing Leisure Centre with the ex-Great Britain Paralympic coach warning his injury-hit side to raise their games or face the consequences.
“If we can cut down on our handling errors, read each other and the opponent a little better on offence, and keep playing with the heart and commitment in the effort areas that we've shown recently, then we can surprise our opponent,” he said.
Titmuss confirmed that Reggie Bratton and Sherrad Prezzie Blue – along with long-term absentee Janis Ivanovskis – will again miss out.
“Janis may not suit-up for us until the Yew Year although he is making good progress,” he added.

Herriman heads to Wales

Delme Herriman, who was released by Everton Tigers in the summer, has returned to basketball after signing for Welsh side Glyndwr Nets, who play in EBL Division Two.

The former international, now 36, was part of the England team that claimed a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and spent four years of his early career playing for Wright State University in Ohio.

Freeland sparks Euro win for troubled Malaga

Joel Freeland had his first Euroleague double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday as Unicaja Malaga cast aside their disastrous start to the ACB campaign to shock Olympiakos 86-68.

The Great Britain forward, coming off the bench, helped the Spaniards build a ten-point half-time cushion and they never looked back.
However Malaga remain in crisis domestically after a 0-4 start that has led to talk of roster changes. And GB centre Robert Archibald admits the Euro victory has not ended the problems.

"This is not going to change anything in the ACB," the Scot said. "We've arrived at the point where we're going to have two games a week ands we have to play them at a high level."

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Davis raps Rocks

Glasgow Rocks coach Sterling Davis has issued a scathing critique on his team after their disappointing start to the campaign.

The Kelvin Hall outfit lost 78-73 to Cheshire Jets on Sunday to exit the BBL Cup in the first round, mirroring their league struggles.

And the American, who is still looking for at least one new signing, said: “I don’t feel like we’re playing together. I don’t feel like we’re mentally there. I’m not sure the guys know how to win a basketball game. They’re not on the same page at the moment. And we have to wake up, otherwise it’s going to be a long season."

Deng's return invites interest, questions

Luol Deng’s official return to the NBA on Thursday won’t quite be viewed around the league with quite the same anticipation as that of Kevin Garnett on opening night. The Boston Celtics beating the Cleveland Cavaliers? Hype that up as a really early Eastern Finals forecast. The Bulls, Deng included, against San Antonio? Keep us posted.

However for Deng, playing a competitive game for the first time since February 28 means a lot. Months of recovery and rehab. Enduring the criticisms of the doubters who wondered why a stress fracture of the tibia was enough keep him on the sidelines. Plus, inevitably, proving to himself and his employers that he can be an elite player who merits every dollar of his $70 million contract.

No pressure then.

Two years ago, the Londoner played all 82 games, averaging 18.8 points, 7.1 rebounds – both career-highs. He led Britain in the Eurobasket finals. Life couldn’t be better. Then fate took a twist. Deng is having to prove himself all over again in an offense that has evolved during Vinny Del Negro’s second offseason and with the replacement of Ben Gordon with John Salmons in the Chicago line-up.

So what can Lu do? “I really have to use my versatility, focus on defence and rebounding," he said. "It's not going to be one of those things where I have to get 20 or 30 points every night. We have different options. The most important is going out there, chipping in and doing all parts of the game."

If he doesn’t, the criticism, the doubts and the analysis will continue. But that comes with being paid the big bucks. Lest we forget, it’s only a year since no-one questioned Deng’s primetime value. His best, quite probably, is still to come.

"I can't tell you how confident and excited I am for the season to start," he declared. 
A long time coming, the return starts here.

Season predictions
Eastern Conference champions: Boston Celtics
Western Conference champions: LA Lakers
NBA Finals winners: LA Lakers
Regular season MVP: LeBron James
Rookie of the Year: James Harden
Coach Of The Year: Flip Saunders

Rocks starlet set for States

One of Glasgow Rocks newly-formed women’s team has landed a move to the United States after being scouted by a top university. Erin McGarrachan, who captains Scotland’s junior national team, will join the University of Texas-El Paso next year after landing a four-year scholarship to study and play basketball.
The 5’11” teenager from Cumbernauld, who is already on the radar of the Great Britain Under-20 team, was approached by several colleges throughout the USA but opted for UTEP after being impressed by their facilities and coaches.
“Erin has genuine GB aspirations and is a very smart girl, so am sure she will enjoy and contribute to UTEP's on court success over the next four years,” said Scotland junior coach Donna Finnie, who facilitated the switch.
“She is on her own in her school and club in terms of vision and commitment, and as a 17 year-old girl that is tough when friends are out partying. She has stuck with her workout programme of club training, strength and conditioning and individual workouts because she wants to be the best she can be every time she steps on court. She is a dream to coach because she soaks up information, but more importantly, is the most consistent player I have worked with.”

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Pops ready to fizz for Rockets

Great Britain forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu will step into the biggest shoes in basketball when the new campaign begins in the NBA tonight but the Londoner has insisted he is capable of making himself a permanent fixture in the world’s toughest league.
Mensah-Bonsu will make his official debut for the Houston Rockets in their opening game against the Portland Trailblazers after successfully battling to win a roster spot during the team’s month-long training camp. Mission one, accomplished, acknowledged the 6’9” swingman, who split time last season between the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and Spanish club Badalona. However, with the daunting prospect of trying to replace injured Chinese superstar Yao Ming, he concedes there is pressure to deliver from Rockets coach Rick Adelman.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “I’ve been working all summer for this opportunity and hopefully, I’ll get the chance to play a lot and showcase what I can do. I’d like to stay in the NBA for good. Coach Adelman has told me I have a chance to play and when I get that, I have to do the best I can with it and solidify my position.”

Friday, 23 October 2009

Sky deal in the works for BBL?

The BBL is in talks with Sky Sports over a deal that could see domestic basketball return to television screens later this season.
League officials have met with the satellite broadcaster and are understood to be at an advanced stage in agreeing a move that would end the BBL’s black-out after a 18 month hiatus.
“We have been in conversations with Sky for a while and I think we are close to getting a deal done before too long,” BBL chairman Paul Blake told Journal Live.
“I don’t want to make too many promises and there is some work to do but there is a good chance we could have some sort of deal in place in time for the second half of this season.”

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Pops on brink of Rockets deal

Great Britain forward Pops Mensah Bonsu survived the Houston Rockets first tranche of cuts on Wednesday, lowering the odds that the Londoner will be on the team’s roster at the start of the NBA season.

Mensah-Bonsu, who agreed a non-guaranteed contract with the Rockets last month, had his hopes of surviving raised on Monday when he played in his team’s win over Oklahoma, a game in which coach Rick Adelman hinted would feature his intended rotation.

And he contributed 13 points in 17 minutes to advance his cause.

“He's done what we hoped he will do,” Adelman said of the GB star. “He's strong around the basket. He's been aggressive. He's got to be consistent in the way he plays.

“His strengths are around the basket, so in our stuff, he has to roll hard, he has to establish himself inside, he has to use his quickness and his athleticism to get shots.

“And he's got to run the floor. That's one thing he can do, run the floor and get easy opportunities on the run.”

Garbo bids to plug Everton leaks

Everton head coach Tony Garbelotto has ordered his side to toughen up after back-to-back losses to Cheshire and Newcastle compounded the Tigers disappointing start.

The Merseyside outfit, who return to Greenbank Sports Academy to host Worcester on Friday, are counting on American point guard Steve Rush to finally receive his work permit and make his often-delayed debut.

However Garbelotto, who has criticised the BBL’s referees for corralling his players, insists an improved defensive showing is the top priority against the struggling Wolves.

“For me, these next two games are must-wins,” he said. “We cannot afford to drop any more games if we want to be considered a top team. We can score 90 points on almost any game. Our challenge is simple, to stop other teams from scoring.

“After a really solid week of preparation where we will really start getting into our defensive stuff I feel we will be ready. We are like a sieve at the moment - just leaking baskets.”

Friday sees the return of former Tiger Chuck Evans to Greenbank, in his new role in charge at Worcester.

“They are pretty deep in the back court and have a few guys that can really shoot the ball, so it will be important for us to play with intensity right from the start,” Garbelotto added.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Worthing set to sign Schmidt

Worthing Thunder have lined up a move for American point guard Jon Schmidt amid an injury crisis that threatens to derail their promising start.

With regular starter Sherrad Prezzie-Blue sidelined for a month with a broken bone in his wrist – and impressive swingman Reggie Branton likely out two weeks with a foot injury - head coach Dave Titmuss is looking to sign Schmidt on a short-term basis.

Schmidt, who has an Irish passport, played last year for Long Island University.