Monday, 31 May 2010

Scotland lose to Newcastle

29 points from Great Britain cap Steve Leven failed to stop Scotland from a late collapse in their friendly against Newcastle Eagles as the BBL champions grabbed a 74-66 win at Benfield.

The Scots, in one of their final warm-ups ahead of the European Championships, built a commanding 42-35 half-time cushion.

However the Eagles second-string, led by 18 from Aaron Neilson, out-scored the visitors 25-12 in the fourth quarter as Tom Campbell’s men fell away.


Eurobasket to expand to 24 teams from 2013

FIBA Europe has decided to expand the number of participating teams for EuroBasket 2013 from 16 to 24. The change means the elimination of the Division A and B concept.

EuroBasket Women will continue with a 16 team field.

"The growth of our sport in Europe means that the level of play across the continent has improved and we believe that now is the time to expand the tournament," commented FIBA Europe President Olafur Raffnson. "Expanding from 16 to 24 teams is an important step in allowing basketball to continue to flourish."

It is unclear how the move will affect Scotland and Wales who, under current rules, are not allowed to play in the same division as Great Britain. The two smaller home nations are presently in Division C.

A new rule by which coaches will be allowed to bring 14 players to EuroBasket and EuroBasket Women was also approved. One hour before each game the coach will be required to name the 12 players who will play in that game.


Friday, 28 May 2010

Mike McGregor debuts for Scotland in friendly against Newcastle Eagles

Glasgow Rocks guard Mike McGregor has been handed his first Scotland call-up for Saturday’s friendly with BBL champions Newcastle Eagles at the Benfield Centre (6pm).

The Kelvin Hall reserve joins team-mate Gareth Murray in the squad for the tie which is one of the Scots final warm-ups for this summer’s European Championships.

Tom Campbell’s side also includes Great Britain cap Steve Leven, who left Newcastle two years ago after an acrimonious bust-up with coach Fabulous Flournoy during the BBL play-offs.

The Eagles will field most of their domestic contingent, including Darius Defoe, with Flournoy set to give a trial to a number of potential summer recruits, including Birmingham-born guard Lamar Morrison.

Scotland squad: Gareth Murray, Mike McGregor (Glasgow Rocks), Gareth Lodge, Simon Flockhart, Laurie Costello, Paddy Campbell (Edinburgh Kings), Grant Gibson (East Lothian Peregrines), Ross Campbell, Daniel Donnelly (Troon Tornadoes), Steve Leven, Ike Attah (Teesside Mohawks), Tom Pearson (Manchester Magic)


Thursday, 27 May 2010

BBL to re-jig format

The BBL is to move to two-legged play-off quarter-finals next season, Britball has learnt.

The move, according to league sources, comes in response to unhappiness at the lack of revenue for away teams in the first round of the end-of-season competition.

A proposal to move the BBL Trophy to the start of the campaign remains under consideration but it was postponed at last week’s meeting of the league’s board.

However it is likely that the 2010-11 campaign will start a week earlier to accommodate the switch.

Great Britain name Futures squad

Great Britain’s newly-established Under-23 squad has been named for a four team tournament in Lille from June 18-20 against France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Chris Finch will take charge of the GB Futures team with Paul James, the head coach of England Senior Men and BBL team Worcester Wolves, as his assistant.
And the roster includes senior cap Justin Robinson as well as several Under-20 players.

British Basketball Performance Director, Chris Spice, believes that this tournament is an exciting opportunity for British Basketball and it is a programme that fits within the existing ‘Towards 2016’ strategy.

“Our vision was to create a programme that will keep developing long beyond the delivery of 2012, and the Future’s team is just one of many strands in place to ensure this happens.

“We take the legacy of the sport very seriously, and to have the commitment of Chris Finch is a demonstration of this. We believe that the selected players will be an important part in the long term future of the GB team.

“It will be a challenging programme, but it will provide the players a lot of experience and game time, whilst also receiving some of the best coaching GB has to offer. I have no doubt that all the selected players will take this opportunity to ensure they are an important part of British Basketball for years to come.”

The team will assemble on the 14 June for three days of training, before heading to Lille which will see them take on France (18 June), Belgium (19 June) and Luxembourg (20 June).

The players selected for the GB Futures Team are:

Adegboye, Ogo - Saint Bonavenutre University, USA
Bailey, Devan - Central Connecticut State, USA
Bryan-Amaning, Matthew - University of Washington, USA
Sturt, Adrien - Dexia Mons-Hainaut, Belguim
Eaves, Ben - Rhode Island University, USA
Guymon, Matt - unattached
Hamilton, Ashley - Loyola Maramount University, USA
Potter, Liam - Sacred Heart University, USA
Robinson, Justin Jones - Rider University, USA
Sing, Colin - Essex Pirates, UK


Guildford Heat name Creon Raftopoulos as new head coach

Guildford Heat have appointed Creon Raftopoulos as their new head coach and Director of Basketball.

The former Zimbabwean international, who joined the club last season as the Youth Development Manager, has former coaching experience in charge of EBL Division Two side, Tees Valley Mohawks.

He replaces Chad McKnight, who was sacked as player-coach after the worst season in the Heat's brief history.

“I am very excited about the season ahead," said Raftopoulos. "I share the board’s vision to build the Heat from the grassroots level right up to the BBL. I am passionate about the sport and passionate about helping players of all levels to reach their full potential.

“My immediate goal for the BBL team is to make the play offs and I am currently recruiting some exciting players who will be announced soon. In the longer-term, I want Guildford Heat to once again, be one of the most successful teams in the British Basketball League.”

Raftopoulos will take charge of the Heat's off-court outreach work at their new campus-based home.

“Our move to Surrey Sports Park next season marks an exciting new phase for the Heat, giving us the opportunity for our junior national league teams and men’s senior team to train and play in a single venue,: said Alan McClafferty, managing director at the Heat.

"As head coach and director of basketball this will help Creon, who will be responsible for the quality of coaching we deliver at all levels from the BBL team to the under 10’s.”

“We had a number of excellent coaches to consider for the role but Creon’s appointment was a unanimous decision by the board. He has already proved himself to us with his impressive coaching skills, committment to the club and the respect he receives from players, coaches and parents alike. We are looking forward to working with him in his larger role.”


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

British Basketball set to launch host bid for Eurobasket 2015

British Basketball is set to launch a bid to host the 2015 European Championships, using several major facilities - including the new Commonwealth Games Arena in Glasgow - to strengthen its case.
Officials have been encouraged to press ahead with a proposal in order to capitalise on the London Olympics, as well as boosting Great Britain’s chances of qualifying for Rio 2016. And an initial study will be drafted later this year to assess the feasibility of staging the tournament.
“If we are to become a regular player on the world and European stage then we must also look to stage major basketball events in the UK,” British Basketball director Chris Spice said.
“We have incredible facilities around the UK for such a tournament, some of which we already use for our home internationals - the O2 and Olympic arenas in London, the Liverpool Echo Arena, the NIA in Birmingham. And it would be great if we could take the game north of the border to Glasgow where a new indoor arena will be built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
The move has been backed by UK Sport as well as by FIBA Europe, the sport’s governing body.
“We are delighted that we have recently obtained the go-ahead to pursue the prospect of hosting a major basketball event in the UK within the next six years,” said Spice. ”Personally, I would love to bring the Eurobasket 2015 tournament to the UK – another great example of a London 2012 Olympic legacy.”
There is much work to be done before we get to bidding for any major tournament, but our partners at UK Sport are assisting us with preparing the ground via a feasibility study which we hope to complete this year.”
This year sees several new initiatives designed to develop elite players in line with the British Basketball high performance strategy, Game On. The first of these will be a select Great Britain men’s futures team that will play in a four-nation tournament in France. A primarily under-23 tournament for men, it is hoped that this will become a regular feature on the GB performance calendar.
Spice has confirmed that the head coach of this team will be GB Standard Life men’s head coach Chris Finch. “We have always thought that we need to continue to develop our male talent beyond the under-20 team so we have taken this opportunity to participate in this tournament with our neighbours from France, Belgium and Luxembourg. To have Chris coach the team is an obvious added bonus and reflects the high priority we are placing on this team.”
Further elements of the programme will see the introduction of several new high-performance development camps across Britain – the under-20 combined camp for men and women in early June, two national team camps for boys and girls which will bring together for the first time the national team programmes of Britain and the home nations of England, Scotland and Wales.


Friday, 21 May 2010

Ryan Richards makes impression at NBA Draft camp in Chicago

British prospect Ryan Richards has received rave reviews for his performances on day one the NBA’s pre-Draft camp in Chicago.

The Kent-born forward, who was widely criticised for his decision to enter the Draft after only a handful of professional outings in Spain and Austria, impressed scouts and observers in work-outs against some of the best college talent in the USA.

The 19-year-old still has until next month to decide whether to keep his name in contention or return to Gran Canaria for next season but he has now earned the attention of the league’s talent evaluators.

“He’s fundamentally sound,” said Len Elmore, the former NBA star-turned-television analyst. “He doesn’t some of the flaws in his game that you might have if you developed your game in the States, like rolling the ball out or playing in some areas.

“Those are the kinds of guys the coaches want to work with, somebody who has with a bit of purity in their game and with the fundamentals. You can build talent off that foundation.”

Jay Williams, once a college star at Duke University, believes Richards – who was left out of Great Britain’s squads for this summer, was the most surprising performer on show.

“He also showed the ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” he said. “And also he’s only 19. He’s still growing into that body.”

Watch ESPN's highlights on Ryan from Chicago.


Thursday, 20 May 2010

Dave Titmuss quits as Worthing Thunder coach

Worthing Thunder Head Coach David Titmuss has quit the club, Britball can reveal, despite leading the south coast outfit to the BBL play-offs in what turned out to be his only season in charge.

The former Great Britain wheelchair boss joined last summer from Reading Rockets and won admirers for the way the Thunder went from also-rans to fiercely competitive with recruits from both America and Eastern Europe.

"I'm very pleased to have had an opportunity to play a part in key developments at the Club, and with what we were able to accomplish as a second-year BBL franchise," he said. "I have made many friends in my short time on the south coast and although I am unable to continue I do wish everyone there the good luck for the future that they so richly deserve."

Titmuss, who had opened initial talks on a new contract, could now be a potential contender to fill the vacancy at Guildford Heat. And Worthing's chairman Frank Gainsbury, who admitted his disappointment at the decision, must now begin the search for a successor.

"I had not imagined we would be looking again so soon for a new coach but I fully understand and respect the personal reasons David has given us for not extending his appointment," he said.

"I wish David well in the future and he will always receive a very warm welcome back at the Club. His work has set the club off on a sure footing to continue to develop in the future. For that legacy and his tremendous efforts over the last year we extend our most sincere and grateful thanks."

It has already been confirmed that Lithuanian guard Evaldas Zabas has rejected a new contract at the Thunder.


Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Newcastle Eagles raise funds for Euro tilt

Newcastle Eagles could yet enter next season's EuroChallenge Cup.

The club's owner Paul Blake has told The Journal that the Eagles have raised the £20,000 bond required to take part.

"There are people working behind the scenes who I can’t name yet but who have been very supportive of our attempts to go into Europe and I would like to do it for them," he said.

"I’m not sure yet whether we would be able to strengthen the team in order to play in Europe, that will depend on various other issues, but my feeling is that we need to do it and see how it works."

Full story here.


London Capital thrown out of BBL

London Capital will not play in the British Basketball League next season, leaving the domestic competition without a team in the UK’s largest city.

The decision, which came following an internal review of the troubled club’s operations, was ratified by the BBL’s board.

The move comes as little surprise following widespread criticism of the Capital’s set-up, poor crowds and the performances last season that saw the Willesden-based outfit finish last despite a promising crop of young British players.

12 months ago, it was decided to handed London a reprieve but they will feature next term in the EBL instead.

“The decision follows a season-long review process which evaluated the performance of the franchise both on and off the playing court,” said the BBL, in a statement.

“The BBL remains committed to the development of a successful franchise in London and is continuing to progress the establishment of a BBL franchise connected to the Olympic Boroughs Basketball Legacy plan.”

No replacement franchise is expected to be promoted into the league for next season.

"It's really disappointing," said Milek Jivens, the Capital's player-coach. "We knew it was on the cards and that there was a chance we wouldn't be in the league next year.

"But we've not had a chance to sit down and talk about it yet."

Jivens admits he is undecided whether to remain at the helm but he would like to play or coach in the BBL again.

"I feel I can compete at this level," the American insisted. "I was one of the youngest coaches in the league and I have a lot to learn. But I also feel I have a lot to give with the experience I've gained."


Monday, 17 May 2010

UKAD confirms length of John Simpson ban

UK Anti-Doping have confirmed that former Cheshire Jets guard John Simpson has been banned for 16 months after testing positive for marijuana last year.

Simpson, who was released by Cheshire after the violation, served a three-month ban earlier in his career for a similar offence.

The full judgement is here.


New deal not a given, says Macaulay

Mike New is in the frame to become the next head coach of Milton Keynes Lions – but his appointment is not a done deal.

Lions owner Vince Macaulay, who created the vacancy when he stepped down at the end of the last campaign, has revealed approaches from a number of candidates at home and abroad.

New, previously his assistant, called time on his long playing career last month, having already cut his teeth at the helm of the club's successive junior programme.

And while the Chicago-born veteran remains the clear favourite for the role, Macaulay is undertaking a full review before making a decision.

“Mike is in the mix and he has a head start,” he confirmed. “He knows our system and we have a level of comfort with him. But we are looking at all the options available.

“Ideally, we'd like to make a decision sooner rather than later, probably by the end of the month.”

Macaulay confirmed that the Lions will spend next season at their Middleton Hall base, located within a shopping mall in the city. However, he remains confident that the club will move into a new arena, adjacent to the Dons football stadium, in 12 months time.

“It looks like it will be finally finished sooner rather than later, and that's where we want to be because we're a big organisation with over 9000 kids in our junior programmes and over 30 sponsors.

“But the shopping mall is a fantastic venue and they've really looked after us. And we know that's where we'll be staying until the arena's finished.”


Friday, 14 May 2010

GB to host Canada, Finland in friendlies

British Basketball have confirmed details of Great Britain's men's fixtures leading into their Eurobasket qualifiers.

Chris Finch's side side will host Canada in Surrey on July 21 before meeting Finland two days later.

They will then take part in a four-nation tournament in Tel Aviv which starts on July 26, facing Belgium, hosts Israel and the Netherlands on consecutive days.

GB's opening qualifier is against Hungary in Szolnok on August 2. Their final game, away in Ukraine, will be staged in Dnipropetrovsk on August 29 although no venues for the ties in Bosnia and Macedonia have yet been confirmed.


Pops Mensah-Bonsu looks for one-team stop

Pops Mensah Bonsu has hinted that he wants a stable season next year after splitting the current campaign between North American and Europe.

The Londoner saw just three minutes of court-time in last weekend's Euroleague Final Four for CSKA Moscow and admits he would still like to return to the NBA. However, he concedes that constantly switching teams and countries is not in his long-term plans.

"I wouldn't say it's been the easiest one because all players crave some stability," he told Basketball 24/7. "Playing Spain to getting injured, to going to the D-League for a while, then going to San Antonio and Toronto, I always say that any time the odds are against me, I'm going to finish on a positive note."


BBL changes on the table

Plans have been tabled to move the secondary BBL Trophy competition from its place in the middle of the season to the start of the next campaign in tandem with an expected return of the domestic game to Sky Sports.

There are also proposals to tinker with the format of the play-offs come next term, the BBL has confirmed.

"We want to make sure that you get something for home advantage but also that teams who are seeded fifth to eighth don't just lose money if they go out in the quarter-finals," said a league official.

The changes will be discussed at the BBL's next board meeting.

McKnight taking time out to decide on Heat return

Chad McKnight has admitted that he is still undecided whether to return to Guildford Heat next season as a player after being sacked from his position as coach after just one season.

The American, who took the Surrey side to their worst-ever finish in the BBL, lost his job amid discontent behind the scenes with one player commenting that “there was just indiscipline everywhere.”

McKnight concedes that he had a tough learning curve in the job but will now take time to assess his future after the club's owners hinted they would offer the veteran forward an on-court job.

“I’ve not made up my mind about what I’ll do,” he said. “It was a difficult transition to go from player to coach but the reverse, going back, would be less difficult.

“I would have liked to have had one more season to see how it went because I had to learn how to think differently about my role and that takes a while.”

It is understood both Julius Joseph and Mike Martin have ruled themselves out of the running to succeed McKnight.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Plymouth Raiders set to opt for American coach

Plymouth Raiders’ new head coach will be an American, Britball can reveal.

The Devon outfit received applications from all around the world, including from within the UK, for the vacancy that arose when Gary Stronach brought his long stint at the club to an end last month.

And Raiders chairman Bob Widdecombe has revealed that a decision could be reached within days to appoint his successor after officials met with a number of candidates.

“We have a short-list of six and we’ve sent someone to the USA to do interviews,” he said. “We’ll see how those went and we’ll look to try and make a decision at the end of next week.”

One route Plymouth won’t be going down is to hire a playcaller who also plays.

“We did discuss the pros and cons of bringing in a player-coach,” Widdecombe added. “Sheffield and Newcastle both have one and it can work but `I want to put together a team. It’s not just about one individual. It’s a team on and off the court with all the community work we do in the south-west.”

Stronach, who is not involved in the hiring process, remains on the hunt for a new job at home or abroad.

“It’s hard for a British coach to get in the door but we’ll see what happens,” he confirmed.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Rocks Murray keeping options open

Scotland captain Gareth Murray has admitted he will keep his options open on agreeing a new deal with Glasgow Rocks. Sorting out a fresh contract for the Arbroath-born forward is expected to be high on the to-do list of coach Sterling Davis after several of the Rocks imported stars jetted out of the country without firm offers on the table.

However Murray is likely to receive interest from elsewhere in the UK and overseas, if he chooses to move on.

He said: “We’ll see what happens. The club will be out looking for players and trying to get the best team together. Who knows what my position will be? I could be back here or I could be elsewhere.”

Meanwhile Scottish teenage Ali Fraser has been handed a shot at making it in the USA after landing a scholarship to the University of Maine.

The 6’7” Falkirk Fury forward, 17, was the second-highest scorer in the Scottish League this season and produced a dominating display to lead John Bunyan’s men to the Scottish Cup last month.

“We are very excited to have Alasdair join our basketball programme here at Maine,” Maine head Coach Ted Woodward said. “He is an extremely gifted player and a wonderful student and person. We are thrilled for him to be a Black Bear.”


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Barcelona are Euroleague champions

The footballing stars of FC Barcelona jetted into Paris to lend their support to their basketballing brothers on Sunday and they can only have left feeling a touch of envy. This year, they will not be the ones delivering a European crown back to the Camp Nou.
El Barca Basquet may rank down the pecking order within their own club but for this night at least, they stole the spotlight with a dominating display against Olympiakos at a sold-out and noisy Bercy, bringing the Euroleague title back to Catalunya for only the second time with a resounding 86-68 victory over their Greek rivals.
Inspired and impregnable, it was no less than they deserved.
Juan Carlos Navarro found defeat in last year’s semi-finals hard to swallow but the former Memphis Grizzlies guard drove the Spaniards with his will from the very outset, scoring a game-high 21 points – claiming the Most Valuable Player award.
Up 28-19 at the end of the first quarter, Barcelona rewarded their vast travelling hordes with a punishing run in the second. Ricky Rubio converted a rebound to open a 43-30 lead with 2.23 remaining and there was little sign that the onslaught would stop.
Barcelona are 18-1 this season when leading at half-time. 47-36 ahead when the interval allowed Olympiakos to regroup, Xavi Pascual’s men were determined to silence the drummer who stood at the heart of the passionate Red Army from Pireaus.
Josh Childress converted from long-range to cut the deficit to 52-47 but Barca did not wilt, patiently looking for openings inside and out.
Olympiakos star Theo Papaloukas shook his head in frustration. His team’s billionaire owners have spent a fortune on their squad but money cannot buy a title. And although Barca are the Euroleague’s best offensive side, they diligently kept up the pressure on the league’s newly-crowned MVP Milos Teodosic, leaving nothing to chance.
The 64-50 cushion at the start of the fourth looked enough and when Rubio converted the opening possession off a steal, a sense of desperation swept over the Greeks play.
With seven minutes left, Boniface Ndong produced a huge block at one end and then Pete Mickael hit an off-balance jumper at the other.
Throw whatever you want at us and we’ll take it, Barca said. An army of blue and purple soldiers, bouncing up and down in unison, roared their approval. When Terrence Morris then drained a three to make it 71-52 with 5.44 left, it felt inevitable. Even the drummer stopped, his head bowed in dejection.
Navarro, the sole survivor from the Catalan’s 2003 Euroleague triumph, took charge as Olympiakos resorted to desperate fouling. Their press was quickly broken. Their resolve followed suit.
Linas Kleiza, who hit 13 points fouled out with 1.23 when he was called for an unsportsmanlike infraction on Navarro.
Both foul shots were converted to make it 80-65. The chants of ‘M-V-P’ began as Barcelona’s players and fans began to celebrate in unison, Rubio carried aloft on the shoulders Fran Vazquez as he cut down the nets.
It will surely not be his last title. Barcelona will enjoy this for a while yet.
Earlier, CSKA Moscow won a thrilling overtime tie 90-88 against Partizan Belgrade in the third place play-off. However, Great Britain forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu remained on the bench throughout, continuing his unsatisfactory stint with the Russians, who begin their domestic play-offs next weekend.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Everton win play-off crown despite Glasgow rally

Thrilled Everton Tigers coach Tony Garbelotto admitted his side saved their best for last after his side mauled Glasgow Rocks in the BBL play-off final.
Trey Moore hit a game-high 22 points, with Kevin Bell picking up the MVP trophy as the Merseymen stole the honours after a dramatic 80-72 win in Birmingham.
In a stunning finish, the Scots simply ran out of gas after a heroic fightback that saw them come from 22 down before falling at the last.
“We really had to dig deep for this,” said Garbelotto. “We were comfortable, they came back and then it was suddenly all to play for. But guys like Kevin, Trey and James Jones hit big shots when it counted at the end.”
Sterling Davis’ men nearly pulled off mission improbable after missing their first 17 three-point attempts as Everton piled on the pressure. When rookie guard Jessie Sapp netted from long range in the third period, it began a storming fightback that saw the Rocks edge 59-58 ahead with 7 minutes to go.
But Everton made one last push to steal the last piece of silverware to break the Rocks hearts.
“It’s just so disappointing because we came out so flat,” said Rocks captain Rob Yanders, who hit 15 points before fouling out on what is likely to be his last appearance for the Kelvin Hall outfit.
“We needed so much energy to come back and there just wasn’t enough there in the end. It’s probably the worst 20 minutes of basketball we’ve played this season and it came at the wrong time. But credit to Everton for the way they played.”
Earlier, Sheffield Sharks guard Mike Cook took MVP honours in the BBL All Star Game as the Rest of the World line-up beat Great Britain 110-94.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Barcelona-Olympiakos into Euroleague final

Pops Mensah-Bonsu’s dreams of becoming the first British player to win a Euroleague title were left in tatters as FC Barcelona roared into Sunday’s final with a 64-54 win over CSKA Moscow.

The Great Britain international played just three minutes of a semi-final that saw both sides well below their best, the Londoner notching up a single steal. In his absence, CSKA’s Ramunas Siskauskas hit a game-high 19 points but it wasn’t enough to contend with a steady but sure Barcelona who will meet Olympiakos after they survived a titanic battle with Partizan Belgrade before prevailing 83-80.

In the opening last-four tie at Bercy, CSKA, the 2008 European champions, burst out of the blocks with a 9-2 run but their Spanish rivals hit back, reeling off eight unanswered points to snatch a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

With Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn watching on, Ricky Rubio underlined just why he was snapped up early in last year’s NBA Draft by sparking a 10-0 burst midway through the second period that pushed Barcelona into a 27-19 lead.

Up 29-21 at half-time, Barca were in control but not comfortable with memories still fresh of their late collapse to CSKA at this stage 12 months ago. But after both sides struggled mightily to convert from three-point range in the initial stages, suddenly, their shooters found their touch.

Trajan Langdon brought Moscow within four before Rubio hit an open three that increased the gap to 39-31. And while CSKA pressed desperately, Boniface Ndong downed their spirits to put Xavi Pascual’s men 47-41 in front with ten minutes left.

The Russians tried to make history repeat itself but to no avail. Anton Ponkrashov converted off a block to guide CSKA to within three but Barcelona found an extra gear when it mattered. And when Rubio fed Fran Vazquez for a slam to put their side 56-50 in front, it broke CSKA’s resolve for food as the Catalan giants breezed into the final.

“We played as a team 40 minutes, and we had all the team together and that’s very important," said Rubio. "We had players who could score. We had our bench players helping us out and that made the difference.”

Olympiakos' progress required more effort in an astonishing overtime clash with Partizan Belgrade which went right to the wire before the Reds of Pireaus prevailed in overtime.

The sides were level at 52-52 entering the final but an 8-2 run from Partizan gave the Serbs breathing space. However Olympiakos, losers in the semis last year in Berlin, ratcheted up their defence to haul themselves back into contention. And 11-2 flurry edged the Greeks in front with a minute left as scores from Josh Childress and Milos Teodosic gave their side a 65-62 cushion.

Dusan Kecman put the 5000 manic Hellenic fans on edge when he levelled from long range and their hearts sank when Bo McCalebb converted to push Belgrade ahead again. Childress, the former Atlanta Hawks star, restored parity at 67-67 with a resounding dunk after an Olympiakos time-out but McCalebb missed the chance to seal victory in regulation when his last, gasp trey missed the mark.

And it ultimately proved costly as Olympiakos' big-money stars seized control in overtime with Linas Kleiza scoring four of his team-high 19 points in the decisive run. Although Alix Rasic twice brought Belgrade back to within a single point in the closing minute, Yannakis Panagiotis' men held their nerve on the foul line.

Teodosic hit two free-throws in the dying seconds and once more, the Serbs suffered as Rasic's desperate three-pointer fell short.



Andy Betts open to Great Britain return

Andy Betts has insisted that he hasn’t retired from international basketball, despite opting out of Great Britain’s Eurobasket qualifying campaign this summer.

It marks the first time in over a decade that the Aris centre has passed on representing his country but his absence will leave a gap in Chris Finch’s squad.

However Betts, now 32, has revealed he made up his mind last autumn to take a break to spend more time with his family who remained in Spain this season while he was overseas.

“I have a baby boy who was born in March and there is no way I could commit all summer to being away from them as well,” he revealed. “I’ve been with the national team for 13 years and I have to think about my children’s well-being now as well. I haven’t ruled out coming back if they need me next summer or beyond."

Without Betts, Finch will be without a true centre, putting extra pressure on Robert Archibald to fill the void in the middle. However the Leicester-born veteran believes GB will still end up in Lithuania next year.

“I wish the team the best of luck this summer,” Betts added. “I have seen the team announced and I think they will have no problem qualifying.”


Yanders in, Betts out in GB's Euro squad

NBA star Ben Gordon has committed his future to the GB team starting this summer as GB look to qualify for the 2011 EuroBasket Championships. The Detroit Pistons guard will join up with the rest of the roster in early July, that also includes Glasgow Rocks guard Rob Yanders and Spanish-based prodigy Devon Van Oostrum. However there is no place for veteran centre Andy Betts.

Alongside Gordon and Deng, will be the usual mix of experience and youth, as the GB team look to take the next step towards London 2012, starting with a challenging EuroBasket qualifying campaign. Home and away fixtures will be played against Macedonia, Hungary, Ukraine and Bosnia & Herzegovina from the 2 - 29 August. It was recently announced that the GB men's and women's team will stage two double headers at the NIA Birmingham on 14 August and Echo Arena on 26 August, with further fixtures at the NIA and the soon to be opened £30 million 'Sport Central' facility at Northumbria University.

London born Gordon is looking forward to making his GB debut and joining up with the rest of the roster: "I am delighted to have committed myself to GB for this summer and beyond. I have heard a lot from Luol about the team and where we are going, so I am excited about the prospect of pulling on the GB vest. I have been in discussion with British Basketball for a while now, but various things have stopped me being able to fully commit, however I am now settled with the Pistons and the time is right."

GB Head Coach Chris Finch is looking forward to having Ben Gordon's influence in the roster and thinks it's another example of the team moving in the right direction:

"The news of Ben's inclusion is great for the team as he will bring considerable experience to the group. Over the last few years with the Bulls and more recently the Pistons, he has excelled in the NBA, so it's great to be able to include him in the roster. We have always been aware of this desire to play for the team, but unfortunately things didn't quite come together, however this year everything has worked out.

"We have a challenging summer programme ahead, so myself and the rest of the coaching team will be looking to get Ben settled in the team as quickly as possible to enable him to bring his considerable talent to the team. For me the inclusion of Ben is just another great example of the progress British Basketball has been making in the last few years, and I truly believe we are pulling together a very talented roster of players."

Chris Finch will select approximately 16 players from this group to attend training camp in July.

GB Standard Life Senior Men's Squad List:
Achara, Kieron - Angelico Biella ITA
Archibald, Robert - Unicaja Malaga, ESP
Boateng, Eric - Arizona State University, USA
Boyd, Flinder - Ourense Balonceto, ESP
Bryan-Amaning, Matthew - University of Washington, USA
Clark, Dan - Estudiantes, ESP
Deng, Luol - Chicago Bulls, USA
Forbes, Jermayne - BBC Nyon, SWI
Freeland, Joel - Unicaja Malaga, ESP
George, Nick - Fastweb CM, ITA
Gordon, Ben - Detroit Pistons, USA
Hart, Jarrett - Keravnos, CYP
Larkai, Flo - Hamamatsu Phoenix, JPN
Lenzly, Mike - CEZ Nymburk, CZE
Mensah-Bonsu, Pops - CSKA Moscow, RUS
Reinking, Nate - Mons Hainaut, BEL
Robinson, Justin - Rider University, USA
Sullivan, Andrew - Newcastle Eagles, ENG
Toney, Tafari - Sheffield Sharks, ENG
Van Oostrum, Devon - Caja Laboral, ESP
Yanders, Rob - Scottish Rocks, SCO


Thursday, 6 May 2010

Chris Haslam to retire

Former Great Britain international Chris Haslam is set to retire following Saturday's BBL play-off final, 13 years after making his debut for Birmingham Bullets.

The veteran Southport-born centre played in mainland Europe for several years before returning to the domestic league three years ago with Everton Tigers.

The winner of over 60 caps for England and GB, Haslam, now 35, made his last international appearance in the 2007 European qualifiers.

"It's just time," said Haslam. "I'm way too old to be chasing 20-year-olds around. This is my 13th pro season, I'm 36 next month and my body's breaking down, especially since I had knee surgery two years ago. I just can't do what I used to do."

Haslam - who attended the University of Wyoming - signed a three-year deal with the Tigers but it is understood that the club was not prepared to offer him a new playing contract. However, he could yet remain on Merseyside.

"I've spoken to Tony Garbelotto and (Tigers chairman) Martyn Best about next season and the possibility of being assistant coach," he revealed.

"I've been coaching the Academy side this year and I'm definitely looking to get into coaching. I might also look at any opportunities there are in the States in the college system."


Euroleague Final Four: Pops looking for history bid

Pops Mensah-Bonsu is confident that he can become the first British player to lift Europe’s club title in Paris this weekend. The former NBA star, who joined the Russian giants from the Toronto Raptors in mid-season, features for CSKA Moscow against FC Barcelona in Friday night’s first Euroleague semi-final (ESPN, 5pm), with the winners facing Olympiakos or Partizan Belgrade in Sunday’s final.

“CSKA’s chances of winning the Euroleague are as good as any,” said the Londoner, who spent Thursday visiting a children’s hospital in the French capital. “It all just depends who is able to perform the best here.”

Securing the crown would be one of the biggest accomplishment of his careers, admits the 6’8” Great Britain international. And he insists that the eventual champions would be able to hold their own in the NBA.

“The standard of competition is tough to compare because the game is so different here,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “Obviously the NBA is the best league in the world but over the last few years, Europe has come within arms reach of the NBA level.”

CSKA is looking to reach its fifth consecutive Euroleague final, an achievement surpassed only by Varese in European basketball history. Barcelona is playing a record eleventh Final Four and is gunning for revenge for last year when Moscow rallied with an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to beat Barcelona to the title game.

“Anything can happen when you arrive at the Final Four and you have to be ready for that particular moment,” admits Barca coach Xavi Pascual.

”CSKA has a plus with its experience. They are also used to opening the Final Four, which is a very tough competition to start. Once you are aware of it, you are already on the court. There is a lot of attention on these games and you need experience to give your best from the very beginning. You need experience for that - and they have it.

“At the same time, they have a lot of talent, so I wouldn't say it's our talent against their experience. They are a very talented team. Holden, Siskauskas, Langdon and Planinic are super-talented backcourt players. If you add Khryapa, Kaun, Vorontsevich and Smodis, they are really strong inside, too."

Plucky Partizan never expected to be in Paris, admits Belgrade boss Dusko Vujosevic, 18 years after the Serbs last won the title. Up against free-spending and free-scoring Olympiakos, whose line-up includes three All-Euroleague candidates in playmaker Milos Teodosic and forwards Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza, they will again look to upset the odds.

“When this season began even in the most daring dreamers could not have imagined this,” said Vujosevic. “It has already been a fantastic success, but it's not something we won in the lottery. It is the result of our well-established system.

“We have flaws and shortcomings that need to be corrected to make it so such results can be expected, but if we want to give birth to such success, the roots must be deep. And we have done so now. This generation has really shed a lot of sweat and put in a lot of very hard work to get here.”

FRIDAY Euroleague, semi-finals (Paris). FC Barcelona v CSKA Moscow (5pm - UK), Partizan Belgrade v Olympiakos (8pm)


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Tony Garbelotto warns Everton's stars that their mission is not yet accomplished

Everton Tigers’ head coach Tony Garbelotto says his side can’t dwell on their destruction of Newcastle Eagles in the BBL play-off semi-finals - insisting the job is not complete.
The Merseysiders club upset the odds and beat the Eagles twice last weekend to put them one step away from becoming playoff champions and make up for the team’s fifth place in the league.
Garbelotto insists the achievement against the BBL’s dominant force won’t be recognised if the team don’t go on to beat Glasgow Rocks in the final at Birmingham this Saturday – the Tigers’ second in three seasons as a professional club.
He said: “The team is playing at it’s very best at the moment. I think Newcastle weren’t prepared for the level we were playing at and we fully deserved our victory over two legs.
“No-one has achieved that sort of result against the Eagles in the last few years, but that will be to no avail if we don’t beat Glasgow in the final. The job will only be done when we bring home the play-off trophy.”
And he also praised the impact of Kevin Bell in spurring the Tigers to seven consecutive wins to tee up a season finale, adding: “Since Kevin l has come back we have clicked in a way which we hadn’t managed up to now.
“Kevin’s helping scoring easy baskets, giving us confidence, as well as letting Trey Moore really play to his level. All the team are focussed and we are playing at a peak intensity in defence to make us almost unpressable – closing down shooters, getting to the ball first and winning rebounds.”


Copeland looks to set new Tar Heel mark

Glasgow Rocks forward Mike Copeland plans to call the coach who turned him into an All-American hero and urge him to jet to Birmingham to back his bid to earn a slice of sporting history that eluded the great Michael Jordan.

The rookie star won America’s college title last year at the University of North Carolina, playing for the legendary Roy Williams.

However the 24-year-old has revealed that a few words from his former boss helped him find the extra gear that boosted the Rocks unexpected BBL play-off run that will culminate in Saturday’s final against Everton.

Copeland said: “I talked to Coach Williams and his assistants on Skype a week or two ago and they told me to go out and win a championship. They said ‘we got you one here, so you could be the first UNC player to do that and go out and win a pro championship the following year, back to back.’

“Michael Jordan didn’t do it. James Worthy didn’t do it. Vince Carter didn’t do it. None of the legends whose shirts are up in the rafters have done it. So I want to go and get it.

“So I’m calling him to tell him what’s happened and see if he’ll fly over. He loves playing golf at St. Andrew’s so I’m hoping he’ll come watch us play in the final.”


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Macaulay quits as Milton Keynes coach

Vince Macaulay has confirmed he is stepping down as the coach of Milton Keynes Lions.

The club's owner, who guided the side to their only major honour in the BBL Cup final of 2008, has spent the past three seasons at the helm and was Coach of the Year in 2008.

Assistant coach Mike New, who retired from playing at the end of the campaign, is the favourite to take over.


Voting doesn't always produce a clear election victor

So the votes are in. And there’s a convincing winner.

Fabulous Flournoy, living up to the name, is the Coach of the Year in the eyes of both the Basketball Journalists Association and among the New Yorker’s peers, who vote in the BBL’s international awards.

I confess that I put Worthing’s Dave Titmuss one place ahead of Flournoy on my ballot but there is no disputing the job that he has done on Tyneside over the past seven year.

Being a player-coach is no easy ride. Flournoy’s legendary drive, 7am practices, and general intolerance of anything less than the fabled 100 per cent, would have taken Newcastle into a position of strength even if their budget were not among the highest in the league.

“Hiring him initially was a risky decision in some ways but I saw something in Fab the year before that made me think this guys could be the next Chris Finch or Nick Nurse,” said Eagles owner Blake in tribute. “It was clear he had that character but we didn’t know if he understood the Xs and Os. But eight years later, it’s clear he has an absolute command of it.

“The only reason we’ve not seen the full scope of his abilities is that I keep putting him in the difficult position of continuing to be a player as well. “But I’m keen to get to a position where Fab can retire and focus exclusively on coaching.”

The award also reflects Flournoy’s backroom staff, from former assistant Billy Spragg (whose mid-season departure has not yet been explained), recruitment supremo and one-man brains trust Dave Forrester, and team statistics-cruncher Jeff King.

By contrast, there was no unanimity when it came to determining the best player in the league.

The journalists went for Joe Chapman. The coaches for Mike Cook.

The Eagles guard, I admit, came second on my ballot (to Rob Yanders, if you’re interested) for the manner in which he adjusted to coming off the bench to provide spectacular consistency for the league champions. In many ways, the greatest compliment comes from Flournoy himself – in the way, he handed over that sparkplug role to Chapman, allowing the coach to spend more time, um, coaching.

For me, Cook is a baffling choice from the men who call the plays. He’s had some terrific offensive performances and dominated at times. But he doesn’t defend (much) and he has gone AWOL more than once in big games. Arguably, Ryan Patton has proven more valuable to Sheffield, judging on how his injury almost certainly cost the Sharks the title.

I’ve had more than one Tweet/email/text on Luol Deng winning the BJAUK International Player of the Year, ahead of Joel Freeland and Matt Bryan-Amaning. “What has he done other than play in the NBA?” I was asked.

True. But that’s democracy in action, as we’ll witness again on Thursday.


James signs new deal at Worcester

Paul James has agreed a new one-year contract as coach of Worcester Wolves.

The club have also confirmed that James will also lead all playing and coaching responsibilities as the Director of Basketball which includes both the Wolves and University basketball programmes.

James, who took over mid-way through last season, said: "It was great to finish the season playing so well and having won seven games in a row. In a way I feel a little cheated as the team was just starting to play the way I wanted them to, only for the games to run out! We lost some games early on that we just would not have lost towards the end of our season and so everybody involved in Worcester Wolves should have a good feeling about the future."


BBL coaches pay tribute to Flournoy

The BBL coaches have voted Mike Cook as MVP while Fab Flournoy is Coach of the Year.


Monday, 3 May 2010

Newcastle's Chapman, Flournoy head awards list

Newcastle Eagles duo Joe Chapman and Fabulous Flournoy have been named, respectively, as the Player and Coach of the Year.

The awards from the Basketball Journalists Association come at the end of the 2009-10 season in which the Tyneside outfit secured the double of winning the British Basketball League and BBL Trophy.

Sheffield Sharks centre Tafari Toney has won the Pete Jacques Trophy for Best British Player in the BBL.

While Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng has been named International Player of the Year for the Great Britain star’s performances in the NBA.

Chapman claims the Player of the Year prize despite being Newcastle’s sixth man for much of the campaign. The American edged out Sheffield’s Mike Cook (second) and Glasgow’s Rob Yanders (third) in a poll of media who regularly cover the domestic league.

Flournoy picks up Coach of the Year for guiding the Eagles to a fourth league title in five years, beating out Sheffield’s Atiba Lyons (second) and Cheshire’s Paul Smith (third).

Toney averaged 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds to help Sheffield lift the BBL Cup in January before the Sharks missed out on the league crown on the final weekend of the season. The Great Britain cap narrowly beat out Newcastle’s Darius Defoe for the Pete Jacques Trophy for the leading British Player in the BBL. The award has been newly named in honour of much-respected basketball journalist Pete Jacques who died last month.

“Pete was a good guy so I’m honoured to get this,” said Toney. “It’s been a great season even if I’m disappointed that we’re not in the playoff final."

Luol Deng takes the International Player of the Year award after helping the Chicago Bulls reach the first round of the NBA play-offs. The Londoner, who is expected to feature for Great Britain in this summer’s Eurobasket qualifiers, finished just ahead of Unicaja Malaga’s Joel Freeland in the voting with the University of Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning in third following his impressive performances Stateside in March’s NCAA Tournament.

BJAUK Awards Winners 2009-10
Player of the Year: 1. Joe Chapman, 2. Mike Cook, 3. Rob Yanders
(Others receiving votes, in order, were: Charles Smith, EJ Harrison, Jason Johnson, Reggie Bratton, Jessie Sapp, Shawn Myers)
Coach of the Year: 1. Fab Flournoy, 2. Atiba Lyons, 3. Paul Smith
(Others: Dave Titmuss, Rob Paternostro, Sterling Davis, Tony Garbelotto)
Pete Jacques Award for Best British Player in the BBL: 1. Tafari Toney, 2. Darius Defoe, 3. Olu Babalola
(Others: Anthony Martin, Sam Cricelli, James Jones, Mike Martin, Perry Lawson, Ibrahim Gariba, Andrew Bridge, Drew Sullivan)
International Player of the Year: 1. Luol Deng, 2. Joel Freeland, 3. Matthew Bryan-Amaning
(Others: Andrew Betts, Justin Robinson, Nate Reinking, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Robert Archibald)


No new teams for BBL

It has been confirmed that no new franchises will be added to the BBL for next season. Applications from groups based in Birmingham and London were among those who were rejected by the league.

Essex Pirates and London Capital’s positions are both under review with both clubs likely to learn their fate later this week.

Read the full story here .


Everton to face Glasgow in play-off final

Everton Tigers and Glasgow Rocks upset the odds and the formbook to tee up a BBL play-off final showdown in Birmingham next Saturday.

Everton defeated league champions Newcastle Eagles 95-79 in both legs of their last four tie for a comprehensive 190-158 aggregate win that sent the Merseysiders into the final for the second successive year.

Glasgow had to scrap past Sheffield Sharks to reach their first major final in three years, claiming a 75-64 victory in the second leg for a 165-157 win on aggregate over the league runners-up.