It’s back to the bread and butter of the BBL Championship for the DBL Sharks Sheffield as high-flying Leicester ride into town this coming Friday. The Riders come into the game fresh from making progress in the BBL Trophy having overcome Glasgow Rocks by 81-74 last Sunday. The Sharks will be looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 99-68 Trophy defeat in front of the BBC cameras in Worcester, when the Wolves shot the lights out to claim the win, breaking a five game streak for the South Yorkshire side.
Although the Riders sit in second place with a 13-2 record, they have two games in hand on leaders Newcastle, who also record two losses. Leicester Coach Rob Paternostro has assembled a roster oozing with quality as the Sharks found to their cost on the opening day of the season when the Riders ran out convincing winners by 85-54. Four of the Sharks roster from that day are no longer with the club so it would be like comparing apples with oranges looking back to that encounter. The Riders have dipped just twice, against Glasgow (97-92) and Newcastle (73-92), as the team have become used to sharing the court time but now look to be a well-oiled machine. Pierre Hampton top-scored with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Trophy win against Glasgow but there have been significant Championship wins against Leeds (93-63) and London (99-89) in recent weeks when Taylor King (19/9) and Tyler Bernardini (23/6) were the key players. Missing recently has been former GB skipper Drew Sullivan through injury but when you have a line-up that includes the likes of ex-Newcastle forward Andrew Thomson, Shane Walker, guards Brandon Clark and Conner Washington as well as American small forward Eric Robertson then there is usually enough firepower to cover. King in particular has hit a rich vein of form that sees him average 11.79 points per game with 8.14 rebounds per game and looks to be returning to the shape that saw him become a fans favourite in Cheshire a couple of years ago. Only Raheem May-Thompson has left the Riders team from that opening day encounter with the Sharks so Atiba Lyons and his charges will be under no illusion as to the challenge that the Midlanders present on the night.
It was an uncharacteristic off-night for the Sharks last Friday on the road in Worcester in the BBL Trophy. Shorn at a late stage of the defensive capabilities of Colin Sing, the Sharks were blown away by some electric three point shooting from the Wolves, particularly from Danny Huffor who went 7/9 on his way to 31 points and the MVP award in front of the BBC cameras. Facts point to the Wolves going on to win games when they find the ball going through the hoop regularly and this was the case on the night. So time to brush that one aside and move on to the main focus of the rest of the season, namely being the best league finish possible and a tilt at the playoffs. Playing an in-form Riders is perhaps not the ideal way to begin the final stage of the campaign but there is clearly a point to prove from that opening day defeat and to set a marker down that the Sharks mean business for the games to come. In-form Malcolm Riley will be looking to continue the run that sees him average 12.78 points per game with 5.44 rebounds and he is being pushed all the way by Rashawn Rembert (12.43ppg / 3.57 rpg). Pleasing also is the fact that Tony Wroblicky is back on court hoping to add to the 8.5 rpg he gleaned prior to breaking his hand. The Sharks are always at their best when playing team basketball and if the rest of the side can add to the current stand-out performances, then an exciting three or four months awaits.
The rest of the season starts here! The full support of the SharkNation is needed as Atiba and the guys look to build towards the end of April. And first up we welcome Rob Paternostro’s Leicester Riders to the EIS this Friday 13th January for a 7.30pm tip off. Your job? Noise and lots of it! Head over to the www.sharksbasketball.org home page and click on the link to secure your ticket. The weather outside might be cold but it’s going to be red hot on court! See you there!
Image: Sharks Team Photographers