2014-15 BBL Season Preview: Team-by-Team Guide - Hoopsfix.com

2014-15 BBL Season Preview: Team-by-Team Guide

The new season of the BBL is upon us after a long off-season. Two in, one out as Birmingham Knights exit to leave 13 teams to battle it out over the next 7-8 months, finishing with the Playoff Final at the 02 Arena. Here’s our quick team-by-team guide:

Bristol Academy Flyers

One of two BBL new-boys this season and Bristol want to be competitive. Andreas Kapoulas has been at the helm for a long time and knows what he wants from his players. Alif Bland spent a season with Cheshire and brings valuable experience while fellow new import Doug Herring impressed out in Canada last season. The Flyers have a number of returning players with several young and hungry to do well at the top level including England under-18 duo Deane Williams and Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye. Bristol will be competitive but the playoffs most likely out of reach in their first season.

Cheshire Phoenix

Cheshire have certainly not gone un-noticed with their summer recruitment headed by former NBA D-League Head Coach John Coffino. The early capture of David Aliu, who had a great 2013-14 season with Manchester, send signals before a number of high-profile additions followed. GB internationals Devan Bailey and Gareth Murray provide depth to a squad that features four Americans with point guard Aleek Pauline holding dual-nationality. Demond Watt has the tough task of filling the shoes of Victor Moses but will be determined to make the most of being able to grow into a team having previously had short spells across Europe. A strong roster has been assembled and the ‘Nix will be very confident of breaking into the top 4 and beyond.

Durham Wildcats

Another new-look Durham side led by veteran assistant-player coach Ralph Bucci, who is always on ‘Triple Double Watch’. Chris Jones, Tom Knight and Jon Puk are the new trio of imports and Lee Davie will be hoping they can have a similar impact to his Americans last year, who helped the Wildcats to an historic top-8 finish. Italian-American guard Sam Martin could relish an increased role than from his time at Plymouth while the likes of returnees Odi Attah, Matias Bradascio and Joel Madourie will be eager to push on. Something of an unknown quantity, but don’t rule out the Wildcats being contenders for another visit to the post-season.

Glasgow Rocks

After a disappointing league campaign, Sterling Davis is keen to avoid missing out on the playoffs again and has made a number of changes to his squad. Role players Jonny Bunyan and Dale Grieve are the only returnees while the Rocks have brought back former BBL players Tommy Freeman (Worcester) and Tayo Ogedengbe (London, Surrey) and a familiar face in Danny Huffor. GB forward Ali Fraser returns home for his second season as a pro having played out in Germany while rookie Paul Egonwuonwu and JaJuan Smith will be expected to play key roles. The pieces are there for Glasgow to be the surprise package in the BBL this season but time will tell whether or not they can come together on the court. Dark horses for a cup win and look likely to push for a top 6 return.

Leeds Force

Another of the BBL new-boys, Leeds will look to make their transition into the BBL a seamless one as they now go forward as their own entity. Matt Newby has recruited an abundance of British talent and his back-court will be formed by the partnership of American James McCann and Austrian Matthias Weissl. Former GB U-20 centre Zak Wells gets his chance at the highest level while forward Patrick Nyeko returns to Britain after finishing his time at the University of Nevada. Will be the obvious candidates for the wooden spoon but Leeds can spring a few surprises and won’t be a million miles away from the playoffs.

Leicester Riders

The Riders will no doubt be buoyed on by their confidence-boosting win over EuroChallenge side Okapi Aalstar last week. Influential leader Drew Sullivan has parted ways while Jay Couisnard has headed to France following a two-year spell but Rob Paternostro has recruited well. Rookie Neil Watson looks like he could be the real deal while Pavol Losonsky is no stranger to the BBL having helped the Riders to the treble in the 2012-13 season. Leicester have managed to maintain the core of their side with seven players returning including American big-man Rashad Hassan. Derrick Roland and Tyler Bernardini complete the roster for the two-time defending BBL Cup champions, who will again be in contention to challenge for silverware.

London Lions

A big summer for the Lions, bringing in the reigning league MVP Zaire Taylor and GB co-captain Drew Sullivan – two players who know how to win. Rod Brown re-signs to form an experienced trio of veterans while Americans Lovell Cook and Makal Stibbins will be keen to impose themselves on the BBL. Vince Macaulay has rounded off his roster with a number of returning players from last season including Joe Ikhinmwin, who has been rewarded with a 2-year deal. Genuine contenders to bring at least one trophy to the capital.

Manchester Giants

Losing David Aliu, Rob Marsden and James Jones has left a dent in the Giants squad but they will be keen to continue their improvements since their return. Core players Stefan Gill, David Watts, Callum Jones and Mike Bernard are all back while Ben Eaves makes his way back to Manchester after a year with Plymouth. GB U20 forward Connor Murtagh has joined from Magic while Austrian-American Jamie Kohn and Aussie Darren Best are the new recruits with a few spots on the roster still up for grabs. It could prove to be a frustrating season for the Giants, and a strong start could prove vital for their playoff aspirations.

Newcastle Eagles

Newcastle are the most successful team in BBL history and once again, Fab Flournoy has assembled a strong squad in defence of their league crown. Ricky Taylor and Rahmon Fletcher are the new import additions while Andy Thomson returns to Newcastle following a two-year spell in France. Long-serving duo Charles Smith and Darius Defoe return to add valuable experience and Scott Martin stays for his second year with the Eagles. Drew Lasker, Stuart Thomson and Eddie Matthew are all back and complete a formidable roster on Tyneside. Newcastle are always there or thereabouts challenging for trophies and once again, look the team to beat.

Plymouth Raiders

Keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s late pre-season drama, Jay Marriott was quick to tie down the majority of his roster not long after their 2013-14 campaign finished in disappointment. British duo Louis Sayers and Nick George were first to sign up and were soon followed by the league’s top scorer from Birmingham, Brent Benson. Team-mate Emile Hopkins has also remained in the league while Plymouth have recently added American centre DeAndre Medlock as a late replacement. Former player Gerald Robinson and Kris Douse add previous BBL experience to the roster as Plymouth look to ensure they don’t miss out on the playoffs for the second year running. Consistency will be key but the Raiders could well face a battle to make the top-8.

Sheffield Sharks

It’s been a quiet off-season for the Sharks but in no sense does that mean they should be discarded from title contention. The key pieces are back with Allen Payne the only new recruit to replace Jeremy Simmons, who had an injury plagued campaign last year. BJ Holmes is one of the top point guards in the league while Mike Tuck and Olu Babalola add vital experience complimented by their young core of talent including former GB U20 guard Nick Lewis. A tough team to break down on the court and tough to judge off it as to how well they will do. They look a lock for the top six but their rivals appear to have strengthened.

Surrey United

Jack Majewski promised a stronger squad this season after Surrey’s disappointing campaign last season as they finished with just four wins. The play-caller has recruited some much-needed BBL experience with three smart pick-ups of Trevor Setty, Kramer Knutson and Kirk Crecco – all under-rated last year. Elvisi Dusha is back to lead the team again while new import signing Lavione West will look to have an impact on the defensive end. Korry Callum is rewarded for a breakthrough debut BBL season and will provide a lot of energy from the bench as will Damian Edwards. Surrey look a team that may well be under-estimated this season, but have the potential to really push for the post-season.

Worcester Wolves

Losing two key players in Zaire Taylor and Will Creekmore from their double-winning squad comes as a tough blow but Paul James has recruited smartly to help Worcester remain competitive. Former Surrey guard Chavis Holmes returns to the BBL and can be expected to fill out the stat-sheet on a regular basis while Robert Thurman joins as Creekmore’s recommended replacement for himself. Keeping hold of captain Alex Owumi and BBL Trophy MVP Jamal Williams could prove to be very important for the Wolves while their young core of Caylin Raftopoulos, Kalil Irving, Disraeli Lufadeju provides important depth. Look capable of achieving another top four finish and stay in the mix for more silverware.

Check out the full squads of each team by clicking here.

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