It is becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures in the BBL calendar. We are only in week two of the season but the first of the Yorkshire derbies takes place this Friday when Leeds Force are the visitors to the EIS to take on the DBL Sharks Sheffield. It was an unhappy opening weekend for the Force as they went down to a record-breaking 148-60 defeat at home to Newcastle Eagles. There were mitigating circumstances however and it is likely to be a more productive Force side that arrives at the Tank this Friday.
It has been an interesting pre-season for Leeds. Initially, Mika Turunen was installed as Coach and began the recruitment process that saw former Sharks Olu Babalola, Sam Toluwase and George Brownell sign up in West Yorkshire. To add to the cross-club interest, forward Rob Marsden made the move south to the Sharks. Babalola left before a competitive game was played and only weeks before the season proper, Turunen departed to be replaced by Danny Nelson. Clearly Nelson hasn’t had the time to stamp his authority on his new charges, who came up against a fancied Newcastle side at the wrong time, hence the eventual outcome. Added to this, Brownell is currently injured, hampering the Leeds effort even further. The Sharks took the White Rose series last season by 2-1 and there is plenty of BBL experience in the Leeds roster to suggest that they will be competitive, especially in the derby environment. Former Shark Sam Toluwase put up 14.54 points per game for Manchester Giants last season and weighed in with 17 against the Eagles so is clearly a man to be feared. His fellow former Manchester Giant, Ingus Bankevics is also a consistent scorer, coming up with 15.39 points per game in his BBL career. Add in the likes of Dean Wanliss and Allie Fullah and there is a core of experience there. Leeds also boast the talents of forward Tavarion Nix out of Midwestern State and ball-handler Eric Childress from UC Santa Barbara. Coach Nelson saw out last season as Coach of Giants Nordlingen in the German Pro B and will undoubtedly be better prepared for having another week with his side. Leeds relished the derby atmosphere last season and it will be a spur to a better performance this coming Friday.
A split weekend for the Sharks in week one but with signs that there is more to come. The Sharks went toe to toe with Surrey Scorchers at the EIS on Friday until a third quarter spurt saw the southerners take a lead that the Sharks found unassailable. Coach Lyons was unhappy with the defensive efforts of his side and it resulted in a much more effective performance in Glasgow on the Sunday. Mackey McKnight made the BBL All Star Five for his 18 points and 6 assists in the 86-76 win but it was a vast improvement all-round. Mike Tuck moved back into his starting position in Scotland and it was possibly no surprise that defensive solidity followed. The Rocks saw GB’s Kieron Achara play limited minutes but they do boast one of the best rosters in the league, marshalled by newly-installed GB playcaller Tony Garbelotto, so the Sharks could be rightly proud of their work north of the border.
The Sharks can’t afford to let complacency creep in following Leeds’ sizeable defeat last week. The Yorkshire derby series is gathering momentum year by year and the Sharks have a proud record of being Kings of the White Rose County since Leeds admission to the BBL. The Force were passionate in the ’16-’17 season derbies and much the same can be expected of them this time around.
It’s week two of the BBL season and the second week of a six week spell at home. The Owls were successful over their West Yorkshire rivals last week on the soccer field so it’s time to see if the Sharks can get one over on the Force this week. For tickets go to:
Tip-off is 7.30pm at the EIS this coming Friday 6th October.
Once again, it’s time to #FearTheFin !!
Photo: Andy Chubb