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."