NBL PREVIEW

Division One Men

Hemel Storm (6-1) are the pace-setters in D1M, and will hope to follow up impressive performances last weekend as they brushed aside Manchester Magic on the road (55-77) then progressed to the semi-final of the Men’s National Cup behind some late-game heroics from David Ajumobi. This weekend they will look to go two from two, facing a double-header of Bradford Dragons (2-3) at home, followed by Derby Trailblazers (2-4) on the road. Coach Robert Youngblood has been pleased with the way his team has come together as of late, “We have been in good form over the last month and our team chemistry and depth has been the key in our good run. I think if we can stay together and keep gelling, then we can expect success this this season. We love playing together and everyone on the team is playing their role and getting the job done. We have the highest bench scoring team in Div1 and that's shows by the way we play and trust each other no matter who's on the floor.”

Loughborough Student Riders (5-1) and Reading Rockets (5-1) are close behind Hemel, and there is a top of the table clash on Saturday as these two face off at Bohunt School. Loughborough then return home to face Team Newcastle University (2-7) on Sunday, and the North East side will hope to follow up their victory against Bradford last weekend, as Newcastle’s Thanasis Ioakeimidis reflected on the game, “I believe that although we started the game rather poorly, we were able to react by applying what our coach asked of us defensively. Playing aggressive on defence and being more focused on our plan allowed us to come back and win against a very talented and dangerous team. We are becoming more and more aware of the importance of our defensive performance and it is definitely something we plan to focus on for the rest of the league against all teams.”

Team Newcastle University’s opposition on Saturday are a Derby Trailblazers (2-4) side looking to bounce back from a loss to Reading, and Coach Matt Shaw is hoping his team can make the necessary adjustments heading into the game, “We’ve focused largely on team chemistry and defence this week. We haven’t been far away from winning some of our recent games so we are hoping to be able to improve in a lot of small areas, and we think that will make a big difference.”

Elsewhere in D1M, Leicester Warriors (2-5) travel South to face Team Solent Kestrels (5-2), and Coach Karl Brown is hoping his team can stay competitive as they battle through adversity, “We still have a long way to go with many injuries and being short-handed with players. Solent are a very good team and we are looking to go there and show a good account of ourselves and be competitive.” However, Team Solent won’t go down without a fight and Coach Matt Guymon is glad to be back at Fleming Park for their double-header, “We are glad to be back at home after three road games and are focused on our Saturday game against a dangerous Leicester Warriors side. They can never be underestimated, especially with the recent addition of Rodney Saunders. We will then turn our attention to Lancashire Spinners where we hope to protect home court and keep up the pressure on Loughborough & Hemel.”

Lancashire Spinners (0-7) will see plenty of the South coast this weekend as they travel to Worthing Thunder (3-3) on Saturday before heading to face Guymon’s Kestrels on Sunday. Coach Daniel Gayle reinforced Worthing’s game-plan ahead of hosting the Spinners, as his side then travel to face Manchester Magic (5-2) and look to gain some ground on the league leaders, “Our team’s philosophy is to try and get the ball to the person with the high percentage shot and we have players who are developing quickly as the season progresses; we hope to be able to call on them to contribute when needed. Spinners are having a rough season so that might be a game where we are able to use some of those role players a bit more. Facing Manchester the day after I feel that everyone will be required to be focused more on the defensive side of the ball as they have multiple weapons.”

Division One Women

There’s a mouth-watering top of the table clash on offer this weekend in D1W, Essex Blades (6-0) put their undefeated record on the line, as they head West to face third-placed Bristol Academy Flyers (5-2). Flyers’ Coach Gareth Till is looking forward the challenge of hosting the league-leaders, “Preparation will be the same for this game, as we are in a competitive league where all teams must be respected. We have good experience in our team and we always look forward to competing on game day. In terms of league positioning, this game is very important. If we want to be challenging for league honours, it’s two-fold. We can’t afford to drop another game and we need to stop Essex from winning, to stay in touch at the top.”

Oxford Brookes University (5-1), who sit in second-place, will also be looking to keep pace with Essex at the top as they travel to Loughborough Student Riders (4-3). Loughborough’s inconsistent form has Oxford’s Coach Zak Meekings unsure of the Riders team that will take to the floor tomorrow, “At this level, so many factors affect what sort of team you can put on the floor each week, particularly when players may be called up to play WBBL. This makes it hard to prepare a comprehensive plan against a team like Loughborough. However, we've looked at our recent performances and identified areas we could improve on this weekend. We're prepared for a number of situations, and if we can translate that from practice to the game, we're confident that we'll be there or thereabouts.”

Elsewhere in D1W, University of Nottingham (2-5) will travel to Southwark Pride (3-2), as Pride return to the court after two weeks away from league action. Anglia Ruskin University (0-7) host BA London Lions II (2-4), as they continue to search for their first win of the season despite keeping many of their recent games close. The final matchup in D1W this weekend sees Lancashire Spinners (4-3) travel to Team Solent Kestrels (2-5) as they hope to continue their good form, recover from three losses to start the season to now winning four on the bounce.

Division Two Men

Nottingham Hoods (7-0) return home this weekend to face Westminster Warriors (4-4), and will be buoyed by their recent run of good form on the road. Having played only two games so far this season at home, Hoods’ swingman Tevis Robinson is looking forward to playing in front of their home fans again, “Playing on the road has been tough without having a whole crowd that cheers for you, but we all stay engaged on the bench, along with a few of our own fans that give us that energy to win. It’ll be good to be back at home playing on our floor with our great fans that always come out to show support. We have the best crowd that I’ve seen so far.”

Looking to keep pace with the Hoods are Liverpool (5-2) and Thames Valley Cavaliers (5-2). After falling at the quarter-final stage of the Men’s National Cup, the West London-based Cavaliers will hope to bounce back as they host Sussex Bears (4-3) at Uxbridge College. Essex Leopards (3-2) travel to Liverpool who will be hoping that Centre David Ulph can continue his hot start to the season as he leads D2M in scoring with 26.0 points per outing, while adding an impressive 13.0 rebounds per game. Liverpool Coach Delme Herriman is pleased with seeing Ulph’s growth as a player, “I have known David since he was 15 and had just picked up a basketball. It is fantastic to see how far he has come and to have him back at Liverpool. He has been a dominant force for us at both ends of the court! I am happy with his outstanding performances so far and will keep pushing him as he has lots more to show!” Essex Leopards Coach Thomas Baker has his sights set on slowing down Ulph, but knows this will be a tough task, “We know a little about David having faced him last year when he played for Lancashire Spinners. He is an effective player who gets in done at both ends and knows how he can impact the game. I feel confident that we have a roster that can cause Liverpool some problems, However, with a record of 5-2 and some important wins coming against Thames Valley, Greenhouse and Westminster we can’t underestimate them this weekend.”

In a mid-table clash, Team Birmingham Elite (3-3) host Derbyshire Arrows (2-4) who are coming off their second win of the season with a dominant home performance against bottom of the table London Greenhouse Pioneers (1-6) behind 22 points form Joseph Baugh. Arrows Coach Jonny Kelly calls for continued improvement this weekend, “We continue to thrive to be better on a weekly basis. We picked up our defence last week and we are fine tuning everything we do. Winning away from home is incredibly difficult and we know that a good start is essential to put ourselves in position to win the game.”

Other action in the bottom half of the D2M table includes London Westside (1-5) and London Greenhouse Pioneers (1-6) both searching for their second win of the season, as Westside travel to Copleston to play Ipswich (3-4), while Pioneers host Middlesex LTBC (2-5).