The DBL Sharks Sheffield hit the road for a four game spell following a six game home stretch that saw them go 5-1 in the league and make the semi-finals of the BBL Cup. Their first opponents on their travels are the reigning league champions, Leicester Riders, who have made something of a low-key start to the campaign. It is certainly a case of ‘beware the wounded tiger’ as the Riders have all the tools to take charge of the league once more and will be buoyed even further by the signing of former favourite TrayVonn Wright.
Leicester are 4-1 in the league and 4-2 overall for the season but still remain poised in fourth spot. Wright returns for his third season at the club where he has averaged 13.22 points per game with 7.12 rebounds. He is known for his versatile game all over the court and may be the spur to rejuvenating the Riders campaign. Leicester still retain several components from last year’s terrific season. Pierre Hampton currently puts up 8 points per game with 7.2 boards, Andrew Thomson makes 10.2 points with 7 rebounds and captain Tyler Bernadini weighs in with 10.6 / 5.2. Phillip Leonard (8.8 points 2 assists) and Kiefer Douse (7.6 points 3.6 assists) have been charged with ball handling duties so far and it remains to be seen whether the signing of Wright means in any changes in a roster that is already some twelve deep.
Thomson led the way with 20/6 in the 75-73 win over Plymouth last week, backed by forward JR Holder (17 points). Prior to that, the Riders went down by 59-67 against London Lions in the BBL Cup; Leonard (16) and Hampton (13) heading the scorers. Quite good doesn’t come into the vocabulary of Leicester’s expressive Coach Rob Paternostro and the signing of Wright signals that he again intends to take his side to the next level. While their current form hasn’t quite achieved the heights of last year, it is still respectable and when he gets them firing on all cylinders once again, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Maybe the acquisition of Wright is just the phillip they need.
The tests and trials keep coming at the Sharks and they keep passing them. Last Friday’s 93-64 win over Surrey booked a BBL Cup semi-final berth against Worcester Wolves and was a sixth straight success. The win was achieved without point guard Mackey McKnight, currently sporting a boot support for an ankle injury expected to keep him out for two to four weeks. The Sharks have run on a relatively short rotation so far and it was Chris Alexander who stepped up to the plate against the Scorchers with a 23 point haul to ensure McKnight’s absence wasn’t felt. A return to fitness for Eddy Brownell also took the pressure off at the point and Coach Lyons also gave minutes to Marko Backovic, keen to enforce that he will use all the players at his disposal.
Equally impressive in the Surrey win was the frontcourt trio of Mike Tuck, Tony Wroblicky and Rob Marsden. Tuck has displayed all his veteran wiles in the last two games; Wroblicky continues to build on a solid first season with 9.5 boards per game and it was pleasing that Rob Marsden got All Star Five recognition from the bench for a fine and typically workmanlike 8 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Their input cannot be under-estimated and it will take their outstanding teamwork to push the champions all the way on Friday evening.
We are on the road for the next four games. First up, it’s just a short hop down the M1 to Leicester this Friday for a 7.30pm tip-off. Leicester Arena is the venue, LE1 3UD is the postcode if you wish to lend your support.
Worcester Wolves in the BBL Cup Semi-Final second leg is currently our next scheduled home game on Wednesday 20th December. Get your tickets early at:
We’re riding the wave around the country. Why don’t you join us as we set out to make everyone #FearTheFin !
Image: Andy Chubb