On the road again… Weekend 9 Preview

Rashawn Rembert

The weekend double-headers are coming thick and fast for the DBL Sharks Sheffield and the approaching road trip presents another challenging pair of games. The Sharks hit the A1 for Newcastle this Friday against Fab Flournoy’s second-place 9-1 Eagles. Sunday sees a journey out west to free-scoring Cheshire Phoenix, currently only 2-5 but with the potential to shoot the lights out on any given night.

There has been a bit of a shake-up from the familiar Newcastle Eagles roster but Fab Flournoy’s team appear to have lost none of their potency. They have suffered just a solitary defeat, against fellow early front runners London, but have also gleaned as many wins as current leaders Leicester. Familiar faces continue to take to the Sport Central court in the form of Drew Lasker, Darius Defoe, Rahmon Fletcher, Scott Martin and Flournoy himself. Christian Behrens, Deandre Parks, Joe Hart and Orlan Jackman are the newcomers. One notable absentee is Charles Smith, who bowed out of a stellar career in British basketball just prior to the season start. The Eagles last outing saw a comfortable 81-62 win over Bristol Flyers. Scott Martin led the Newcastle scoring with 19 points and 7 rebounds, Darius Defoe weighing in with 14 points and 8 rebounds in support. Prior to that, the Eagles made progress into the BBL Cup semi-finals by beating Cheshire 95-84. Orlan Jackman was the destroyer that night with 26 points and 7 rebounds, again backed by Defoe who had an 18/10 double double. So, while some of the names may have changed, the Newcastle philosophy on the game clearly hasn’t. Their ‘one for all, all for one’ approach is still producing the same effective style that it ever was. Sport Central hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Sharks in recent years and another tough one awaits.

Points haven’t been a problem for Cheshire Phoenix but closing out wins has. As mentioned earlier, their last outing was a 95-84 Cup defeat at Newcastle but prior to that they went down by 84-93 at home to Plymouth. Newly-installed Coach Colin O’Reilly is well aware of his side’s need to tighten up on defence and has already been active on making roster changes. One acquisition in Raheem May-Thompson is already paying dividends, with 19 points and 5 rebounds in that Plymouth defeat. The former Leicester Rider joined his old team-mate Jamell Anderson at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village, and both appear to be enjoying the increase in minutes that they didn’t achieve in their time in the Midlands. O’Reilly has the highly creative Josh Wilcher at point (15.3 ppg 6.4 apg) while overseas star Earl Brown Jr has impressed with 21 ppg and 8 rpg. There is speculation that O’Reilly might make further changes to hit upon that winning formula but it clear that Cheshire’s highly productive offence could blow the opposition away and this is obviously a threat to be aware of.

A mixed weekend for the Sharks last time out but with the very bright spark of debutant Shooting Guard Rashawn Rembert. The BBL Cup defeat to Glasgow was a defensive battle that saw the Sharks go down by 57-69. Much brighter was the 83-80 win over Surrey the following night, where the team toughed it out to come from behind and take the win. Rembert was a great spur on offence both nights. He shot some tough three’s in his 17 point MVP display on Friday and produced the Sharks first 10 points in Saturday’s win on his way to 21 overall. He also racked up over an hour on court despite only having been in the UK for a week and a half and the hope must be that with more time to gel, he will be a major asset to the roster. It has been an injury-hit start to the Sharks campaign and no small amount of credit must be given to the way they have battled on despite never having been at full strength. A couple of ‘upset’ wins such as the one over London a few weeks ago would be most welcome as the side look to cement themselves in the upper half of the table. Coach Lyons and his lead-from-the-front skipper Mike Tuck know that the tools are there and will motivate the hard work to achieve this.

Tip off in Newcastle is at 7.30pm on Friday and at 5.30pm in Cheshire on Sunday. All travelling support welcome as usual!

Image: Sharks Team Photographers