The DBL Sharks Sheffield return to BBL Championship action this Friday after a blank weekend to renew old rivalries with their neighbours from across the Pennines, the Manchester Giants. The Giants currently languish at the foot of the table but have some key components that suggest this is not a game to be taken lightly.
One such component is Giants Player / Coach Yorick Williams, who was around in the glory days of Manchester basketball played out in front of arena-sized crowds. Of course, Williams may now have seen his fortieth birthday come and go but can still mix it when he needs to and coaches in a thoughtful manner that few would have credited him with in his younger days. To aid Manchester’s efforts to move up the standings, Williams has recently recruited ex-Cheshire Phoenix guard Michael Creppy (12 ppg 4.7 rpg 4.0 apg) to good immediate effect. Possibly the revelation of Manchester’s season has been the form of ex-Shark Samuel Toluwase. Playing a different role from the one that helped secure the BBL Playoff Final win for the Sharks, Toluwase is now contributing a very healthy 16.6 ppg on 54% shooting including five twenty point plus returns. The Giants have always pursued a policy of predominantly British talent and so it is no surprise that the likes of Richard Bell and Barry Webster have been crashing the boards. Manchester always get an all-round statline from Callum Jones (11.9 ppg 5.4 rpg 4.1 apg) and building from last season has been Jerelle Okoro (13.4 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.8 apg). It has been another tough year for the Giants as their 3-15 record suggests but they have taken wins against Surrey (91-79), Worcester (89-88) and Bristol (82-80) as well as running Newcastle (74-78) and London (94-103) close. A stated before, Coach Williams remembers the Sharks – Giants tussles of old and will be keen to impress the need to put one over on their Yorkshire rivals and kickstart a drive up the table into the top eight.
The latest one week break for the Sharks (there are more to come) will hopefully have given time to mend a few niggling injuries in time for the second half of the season. The Sharks showed that they can live with the teams at the top of the league despite going down by 78-82 in their last outing against Leicester Riders. Overcoming a slow start and a fourteen point deficit at one point, they turned the situation around to the stage where the game could have been sent to overtime or even won with seven seconds to go. Devastating though the eventual defeat was, there were plenty of positives to take from the game. Malcolm Riley was again the go-to guy with 20 points and 7 rebounds being the latest in a series of MVP winning performances. Rashawn Rembert provided the energy to kick start the comeback and Tony Wroblicky got to impose his physical presence after returning from a broken hand. Disappointing though the Riders defeat was, the Sharks have a series of head-to-heads to focus on in order to achieve the best league finish possible. They are currently down 0-1 to Glasgow and Newcastle, tied at one each with Leeds, Plymouth and Surrey and in front by 1-0 against Bristol, Manchester and Worcester. Plymouth and Glasgow currently sit above the Sharks in fifth and third respectively with Worcester, Surrey and Bristol all below but making moves up the table in recent weeks. Ultimately, the way to improve on their current sixth place and 10-7 record is to keep putting numbers in the win column and Coach Lyons and his team will undoubtedly taking each game as it comes in order to achieve this.
It is one of the oldest rivalries in British basketball. This Friday evening the Manchester Giants are in town for the Roses derby. We need the SharkNation out in force as Yorkshire pride is at stake against our Lancastrian neighbours. Get your ticket over on the www.sharksbasketball.org home page link and get down to the EIS for a 7.30pm tip off. It’s what winter Fridays were made for!
Image: Sharks Team Photographers