Basketball fans will have plenty to cheer this weekend regardless of their allegiances. Across the country, a variety of National League (NBL) competitions tip off whilst in Manchester the final Regional Development Tournament (RDT) of the season will also take place.
As the oldest tournament in the NBL, the National Cup is set to begin with 13 ties being played across the weekend. With the sides in D1 and D2 not entering the draw for a little while yet, it is a great opportunity for new teams to get their first taste of National League basketball. Amongst the sides taking those first steps are Team Derby, who host Shropshire Warriors, and Blackpool Basketball Club, who travel to Manchester Giants. Division Four Midlands winners from a year ago Northants Taurus will be hoping for a successful start to their season, they’ll be welcoming Chelmsford to Northamptonshire on Sunday.
Elsewhere, there are 4 games in the National Trophy pool stage as D1 sides look to get their campaigns underway and create some team chemistry before the league schedule begins. Beaten semi-finalist in the Trophy last season, Derby Trailblazers, will look to go a few steps further this year as they start their season hosting Lancashire Spinners. New to D1 are Team Newcastle University and they’ll be rubbing shoulders with the NBL’s top teams this term, beginning with a trip to Bradford. There’s a local derby on the South coast as Worthing Thunder travel across to Solent to face the Kestrels and Leicester Warriors and Hemel Storm face off in Leicester to round us out. Loughborough can enjoy the weekend off as their game with Lituanica was awarded 20-0 as the Lithuanian team have taken the tough decision to pull out of D1.
Worthing Head Coach Daniel Gayle is excited to lead his team for the first game of the season (Graham Hodges)
For the D2 sides, the Patrons Cup also gets going with 3 pool games over the weekend. Thames Valley were unfortunate to miss out on promotion last year and will be hoping they can carry some momentum over into this campaign. Their season gets underway on Sunday with a trip to newly promoted Middlesex LTBC in what should be a good test for both teams. As a side on the way down from D1, recently relegated Essex Leopards will be hoping to bounce back at the first time of asking and that task gets underway against Nottingham Hoods this weekend. The final game on tap is between Liverpool, who struggled near the foot of D2 last season, and newly promoted Team Birmingham Elite.
Last but by no means least, there are 2 D4 fixtures this weekend, marking the start of the league season as well as the Cup, Trophy and Patrons competitions. Team Derby will be on the road in Warwickshire to face the Hawks and Kent Crusaders II will be trying to make a winning start to the year at home to London Thunder Lewisham.
Up in Manchester, the next generation of potential NBL players will be looking to take their own game to the next level with potential selection to U15 and U16 National up for grabs. With the U13s and U17s already in the books, this is the final RDT of the year but the rewards for the players involved are still just as high. National Team staff will be on hand to evaluate which players could make the step up to international play, and observers will be providing feedback to the referees, officials and coaches in attendance as well.
The competition will involve 10 regions on the boys’ side and 9 regions for the girls as West Midlands are unable to attend. It makes for a busy weekend but with plenty of fixtures comes plenty of opportunity to showcase talent for those looking to make their mark.
Play gets underway on both days at 10am and the event is at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester. Entry is free throughout the weekend, but if you can’t make it we will have updates throughout on our social media channels: