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 For some, it was a flight too far when they realised that dreams of turning out for the Celtics had been replaced by trips to teams with names like Burgerland and Jameson.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."