- National Teams
Words by Joe Fitzpatrick
BUCS Premier North is arguably more wide open this season than ever before- every team has won and lost at least one game and after one full round of fixtures the battle for playoff places is far from decided. In their first season in the Premier North Durham have already established themselves as title contenders and they are currently in 2nd position level on points with the University of Worcester. In week 2 the north east university shocked defending national champions Leeds Met Carnegie on their home floor, beating them 80-77. Hoopsfix caught up with Durham Head Coach Dave Elderkin ahead of the reverse fixture this Wednesday (which ended up being postponed due to snow-Ed).
Hoopsfix: This is your first season in BUCS Premier North and you appear to have adapted quite easily as you are currently joint top with Worcester, how have you managed to make the step up from Conference North to Premier so successfully?
D.E: Although we were in Northern Conference 1 last season we were really Premiership standard as was shown by our 5th place finish in the end of season Championship.
Hoopsfix: You have only lost one game so far, 83-75 at home to Worcester, do you think you will be able to reverse this result in the return fixture?
D.E: I thought they we played really well against Worcester for the first 3 quarters. Basketball wise we played ok in the final quarter but shot really poorly from the perimeter, and at the same time Callum Jones did a really good job penetrating and kicking out to shooters who hit a very high percentage.
To reverse this fixture we have to do a better job keeping Jones out of the middle and get into their shooters better.
Hoopsfix: In week 2 you beat the current National Champions, Leeds Met, on their home court with only a squad of seven, do you think you can repeat this result on Wednesday when you face them at home?
D.E: We had only 7 and not our best 7 because the programme at that time was badly affected by injuries. We got lucky, that was also the start of Leeds injury woes. If we play as tough as we did in the second half against Northumbria last week, and we rely on teamwork for points production we will give Leeds a hard game.
Hoopsfix: Were you surprised by the poor start Leeds made to the season?
D.E: My first thoughts on Leeds were what a shock to lose in Edinburgh. Then we played in Edinburgh and they’ve got 2 guys who can flat out score if you don’t get after them for 40 minutes. With key players missing Leeds were always going to find it tough against Worcester, and you never underestimate Northumbria.
Hoopsfix: In your opinion what are Leeds’ strengths and weaknesses?
D.E: Albert does a really good job running the show, he’s a good penetrator and you can’t let him get set for a ‘3’. The big guy can be a handful if he gets good service, and Fenyn is a proven points scorer at this level. I not sure what I would class as their weaknesses because we are always looking to our team work to maximise our strengths.
Hoopsfix: Does the fact you play Leeds so often over the season in BUCS, Division 1 and the National Trophy mean the games come down to more of a coaching battle because both teams know each other so well?
D.E: It should be that way but after 4 meetings we’ve never had a full team out against them – we’re close to it for Wednesday’s game, and I’m not sure what stage they’re at with their injuries.
Hoopsfix: What are your aims for this BUCS season, do you think your team has the capability to win the national title in your first season in the top conference?
D.E: BUCS Premiership is without question a big step up from Northern Conference. But we’re not new in that this is the fourth season of a programme we started to get Durham University on the map, but, we lost Scott Morton, Anthony Trigg and Ian Hewitt at the end of last season, and have had to bed in 4 new players – Kevin Bulger [Columbia], Paul Nelson [Yale], Chris Pearce [Northumbria] and Colm Hickey [Loughborough]. They are very different players to the leavers and I’ve changed the way we play. The new system is well on the way to being installed and I hope it will make us really competitive in the new year and into the period leading to the BUCS championship. Results from the south suggest that LSBU and Oxford are very strong, and Worcester’s wins over us and Leeds make them a strong contender. You can never rule out Northumbria, and if we develop our chemistry we’re in the mix. What I do know for certain is that BUCS Premiership Basketball is very strong this year, and there’s some good things happening throughout university basketball.