Writes Sam Chadwick, BallinEurope’s man in the U.K.: After my British Basketball League (BBL) wrap-up on Tuesday and with the start of the season well underway, I’m finally going to make my season predictions.
BBL Trophy – The first round of the BBL Trophy is made up of four groups of three teams, with the winner of each qualifying for the second round. Last year’s trophy winners do not look like they will pull off a repeat, so the BiE Fearless Prediction™ for this season is for the Sheffield Sharks to come out victorious behind the solid play of Team Britain point guard Nate Rainking, who scored 35 points in a win over Guildford Heat on the weekend and Justin Dobbins, who is currently averaging a double-double of 15.8 points and 10.4 rebounds through five games; Dobbins has also been included in every www.bbl.org.uk team of the week to date. The solid play of these two combined with the other talent on this Sharks squad should guide them to the Trophy victory in what could be an entertaining match-up between the Sharks and the Riders in the Trophy Final.
BBL Championship – Leicester Riders in my eyes are currently the strongest team in the country with the perfect blend of talent, veteran leadership and youth. With a lineup of Andrew Sullivan averaging 23 points and 9.5 rebounds in the first two games, Team Britain guard Flinder Boyd, Cameron Rundles and Ayron Hardy, this team should look to collect as much silverware as possible at the end of the season. Leicester are strong enough to complete the triple crown this season; however only time will tell, but with a view to the Trophy, Cup and Championship, they could make a splash.
BBL Cup – With quarterfinals taking place in November, certain teams are already looking at collecting the Cup, which finishes in January at the National Indoor Arena (NIA) Birmingham. Four teams have already booked their place in the quarterfinal round: One Health Sheffield Sharks, Cheshire Jets, Mersey Tigers and Newcastle Eagles. Again, this early in the season, it’s hard to predict cup games, but I’m looking for Leicester (who still needs to beat MK Lions to qualify for the tournament) and the Sharks to continue their dominant play. With the single-game elimination in effect, though, don’t be surprised if one of the big guns gets upset and you see the likes of the Newcastle Eagles, Worcester Wolves or Mersey Tigers in this spot.
Player of the Year – Based on current play, I can’t quite make this decision yet, but three players have really impressed me so far:
• Justin Dobbins, the 6’8” forward who graduated from Eastern Michigan University and played last season for the Worcester Wolves and is now at Leicester Riders. Dobbins is currently averaging 15.8 points and 10.4 rebounds over five games, including a 21-point, 21-rebound game in a win over the Jets and a season-high 28 points over the Mersey Tigers.
• Andrew Sullivan is used to receiving silverware at season’s end and this year should be no different, with the Riders looking like they are the team to beat in all competitions. Sullivan’s individual play across two games is up to his usual stellar self in scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in his Riders debut and now averaging 23 points and 9.5 rebounds.
• Ayron Hardy, another Leicester Rider on this list, looks to be the leader on this strong team. Under the veteran guidance of Flinder Boyd and now Andrew Sullivan, Ayron will continue to develop at a phenomenal pace this season, in his Championship debut, he grabbed 12 rebounds and 15 points on an amazing 78% from the field.
Sam Chadwick is the co-head coach of the Solent Kestrels U14 basketball team, along with dividing the remainder of his time among an assistant quantity surveyor job, university studies and sportswriting. You can follow him on Twitter at @chadwick9.