Smith- ‘I would love to finish my career in Newcastle’

Smith in action (www.bbl.org.uk)

Smith in action (www.bbl.org.uk)

Charles Smith admitted the decision to re-sign for the Newcastle Eagles was one of the easiest he has ever had to make and would love to end his career with the club.

There were offers from teams in France and Sweden but Smith insisted Newcastle was the only place he wanted to be.

“The club means everything to me I would do anything for the club. I’ve been here since the beginning it is part of my family now.”

Smith has enjoyed an illustrious career in the BBL having made his debut for Newcastle back in 1999. The 37 year-old has won 15 trophies with the Eagles in 11 seasons but for the second time in the last three years, failed to win anything last season.

“It hurts a lot every time we don’t win a trophy! Continue reading

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Riders dominate end of season awards

Riders_Horse_LogoLeicester Riders completed a historic treble this season and their dominance was reflected in the end of season awards.

The Coach of the Year accolade was claimed by Rob Paternostro for the second time while the player equivalent was also won for a second time by Drew Sullivan.

Riders’ head-coach first won the award in 2008-09 – his first season in charge at the club – and then led his side to their best season last year but a first club Championship and treble tops the lot.

Sullivan led the way for Leicester in numerous departments and his defensive intensity set the tone for his side as they became renowned for the defensive strength throughout the season. The 33 year-old, who captained GB at last year’s Olympics, had a stellar campaign, finishing as the club’s leading scorer with 509 points at an average of 14.5 ppg whilst also averaging 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

The Player of the Year was joined in the BBL team of the Year by team-mate Jay Couisnard, who finished as the runner-up in the MVP voting and also earned the Cup Final MVP award in January. The American was a decisive factor in a number of games for the Riders, in particular their overtime victory in Manchester when Couisnard netted two buzzer-beaters to get the win.

Travis Holmes finished the season in sensational form which helped him take third in the MVP race whilst taking a place in the team of the year.  The Surrey Heat guard and twin of Chavis, finished with an impressive 20.6 ppg average helped by an incredible 44 point haul against Cheshire.

The final two spots on the team of the year were taken by Kareem Maddox and Matt Schneck who had a personal battle in the stakes for the best rebounder. It was the BBL rookie who came out on top with an average of 10.7 per game while Schneck complimented a healthy 16.5 points per game with an average of 10.1 rebounds.

The Americans were both ‘walking double-doubles’ for their teams with the Plymouth Raiders’ centre opening the season with 10 straight games with double-figures in points and rebounds while Maddox produced arguably the stat-line of the season with 26p/20r/4a/3st/4bl against Surrey in a run of ten straight double-doubles.

The BBL also announced the British team of the Year and Defensive team of the Year and they were both as follows:

British Team– Orlan Jackman; Drew Sullivan; Sam Cricelli; Anthony Rowe and Mike Tuck
Defensive Team– Chavis Holmes; Jay Couisnard; Zaire Taylor; Drew Sullivan and Kareem Maddox

Here are some of the crucial stats from the season via the BBL and Sporting Pulse.

Most points: Charles Smith– 691; Best average: Chez Marks– 22.8;
Most in a game: Charles Smith– 49 v Durham
Best FG%: Demetrius Jemison– 61*; Best 3PT%: Arnas Kazlauskas– 44.6*;
Best FT%: BJ Holmes– 88.3*
Most FG made: Charles Smith– 261; Most 3PT made: Joe Chapman– 108;
Most FT made: Tayo Ogedengbe– 134
Most rebounds: Kareem Maddox– 376; Best avge: Kareem Maddox– 10.7;
Most in a game: Kareem Maddox– 20 v Surrey
Most assists: Joe Chapman– 201; Best average: Ralph Bucci– 5.5
Most steals: Chavis Holmes– 95; Best average: Travis Holmes– 3.0
Most blocks: Alif Bland– 76; Best average: Alif Bland– 2.4
Most double-doubles: Matt Schneck– 22;
Triple-doubles:  Ralph Bucci v London (10p/11r/12a) & Joe Chapman v Durham (18p/10r/11a)

*minimum 100 attempts

Chapman revelling in new role and now wants Play-offs glory

Joe Chapman has always been the go to man for the Newcastle Eagles, but now the reigning MVP is more than happy to be creating chances for his team-mates after taking on a new role this season.

“I’ve had to be more of a leader and assist and it’s been great making others better. It was challenging learning a new role, but it was fun at the same time!” the 28 year-old admitted.

The adjustment has certainly not restricted Chapman’s scoring prowess. Just ask Newcastle’s play-off opponents, Sheffield. They were on the receiving end of an incredible 41 point display back in January after the Eagle shot 10-16 from 3-point range. Probably the best example of how productive the new role has been, was Chapman’s triple-double – a rare sight in the BBL – after an impressive stat-line of 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Durham.

Chapman finished the regular season with 489 points at an average of 15.3 points per game, behind Charles Smith (21.2) and Darius Defoe (15.7) in the team scoring charts, while BBL rookies Kareem Maddox (15.1) and Damon Huffman (14.7) both also averaged 10+ ppg. As well as being a reliable and consistent scorer, Chapman dished out 176 assists at an average of 5.5, bettered only by Surrey Heat’s Chavis Holmes.

The American guard was given a well earned rest in Newcastle’s final league game and the Eagles will hope their star man will return ‘fully charged’ ahead of their play-off clash with Sheffield this weekend. The defending BBL Play-Off champions have been plagued with injuries throughout the season, but Chapman has stepped up for his team, competing in over 1,000 minutes on court.

Looking ahead to the battle with the Sharks, Chapman is expecting a tough game and insists his side have to improve on their home form if they are to progress.

“Sheffield are a good team in great form at the moment so it’s important we play with a sense of urgency and play well at home on Friday which is something we haven’t done all year.”

Newcastle had a poor run of games at Sport Central in February and March when Cheshire, Surrey and Plymouth inflicted three straight home defeats on Fab Flournoy’s men. Sheffield lost in their only visit to Tyneside in January but will return full of confidence following a rewarding transformation having began their campaing with just two wins in their opening 10 league games.

Atiba Lyons was awarded the coach of the month award for March after leading his side to the BBL Trophy title and sealing a play-off spot before finishing the season with a 17-16 record. The Sharks claimed an 80-70 victory against the Eagles last week in a play-off dress rehearsal and also bolster two former Eagles, Andrew Bridge and Olu Babalola amongst their ranks, who will know full well what response to expect from the Eagles come crunch time.

“They play with a lot of energy and we have to match that! They also have a few players that have played for our organisation so they know our plays pretty well and it will come down to our energy,” added Chapman.

Since 2005, Newcastle have won 17 titles including the play-offs on five occasions but failed to win anything in 2010-11 and will want to avoid a repeat this season. Chapman feels it is unfair to compare last year’s achievement of the clean sweep with this year and praised his side for their efforts in a tough campaign.

“We have a few new guys who have never been champions before so going 26-8 is great. With injuries and only playing 11 games together as a whole unit, I think we did pretty well.”

Darius Defoe and Anthony Martin were the only two players to feature in every game with Smith, Huffman, Maddox and Flournoy all missing several games due to injury while Chapman was rested against Leicester on Sunday.

Leicester Riders completed the clean sweep over Newcastle with a win on the final day and were also victorious in their battle with the Eagles to win the BBL Cup. Rob Paternostro’s men completed the season with a perfect 17-0 home record whilst winning 30 games in total. Chapman acknowledged their achievements and gave his verdict on who he feels should be given the BBL League MVP award.

“Leicester has had a great season and what I like about them, is they share the ball and play great defence. Their whole team deserves MVP recognition because I believe team success brings individual success but there can only be one so I’d give MVP to either Drew Sullivan or Jay (Couisnard) because they have both played great in big games.”

Chapman also paid tribute to his 37 year-old team-mate Smith, who he described as still being one of the best in the league whilst recognising Alex Owumi’s great season in Worcester.

Do you agree with Joe Chapman’s verdict, who would get your vote for MVP?

And will the Eagles, as Chapman desires, be the last team standing with the Play-Offs trophy aloft at Wembley Arena on April 28th?

London seal final play-off spot as regular season concludes

The quarter-final line-up for the BBL play-offs has been finalised as the regular season came to an end this weekend.

London Lions claimed 8th spot in dramatic style with a last-gasp win in Manchester to reach the play-offs.

The visitors raced out to an early lead and looked in control before the Giants mounted a valiant fightback to draw level late in the fourth before London‘s deadline day signing Rod Brown broke their hearts. The guard, who moved from Plymouth in February, layed the ball in, in the dying seconds to finish with 18 points in the nail-biting 87-85 victory. Tayo Ogedengbe led the way for the Lions with 25 points in a winner takes all battle for the final play-off place.

Manchester were down by as many as 21 points in the second quarter but compiled a 19-3 run in the final quarter to give themselves hope before falling just short. Jeff Jones’ men then finished the season on a high with their third straight win on the road after a 114-92 success in Durham to seal 9th place on their return to the BBL after James Jones top scored with 24 points.

The battle for a top four place had involved four team for several weeks and was finally settled after Glasgow and Surrey picked up the necessary victories to cement their places. Plymouth go into the post-season having lost four games in a row and now face a trip to Scotland in the play-offs for the second straight season.

The Raiders first lost to Worcester, who had a double-win over the weekend to finish their campaign in style, and then fell to a tight defeat against Surrey, who prevailed in overtime. Gavin Love’s men went down 106-69 at home on Saturday before the agonizing 101-99 defeat beyond regulation came 24 hours later as Travis Holmes continued his hot streak for the Heat with 27 points.

Surrey sealed fourth place with their overtime win and now face Worcester in the play-offs. Paul James’ men enjoyed a comprehensive win against Plymouth to end their campaign on a high having ended the unbeaten streak of Leicester the previous day. The Wolves had six players in double figures against Plymouth while Arturas Masiulis had a 19 point haul in their last home game of the season.

With the Championship title already wrapped up, Rob Paternostro rested several key stars in the 86-58 defeat against Worcester with several members of the uni team fielded. However, the big stars returned on Sunday for their final league game and Leicester completed a perfect season at home with their 17th win in front of their home fans after beating Newcastle 86-75. The Eagles took the opportunity to rest some of their big names with Damon Huffman, Charles Smith and Joe Chapman all absent as Darius Defoe stepped up with 32 points.

Newcastle completed their home campaign with a 93-80 win over Glasgow to delay their third place finish as Huffman exploded for 36 points on 6-9 shooting from 3-PT range. The Eagles had suffered a defeat in Sheffield earlier in the week as the Sharks were victorious 80-70 in a play-off dress rehearsal. The BBL Trophy winners then finished their season with an 85-72 win in Cheshire to move a game over the .500 mark after double-doubles from Demetrius Jemison (20-10) and Mike Tuck (18-15).

Mersey Tigers became the first BBL team to go a whole season without a win after being beaten by Durham and Glasgow over the week-end. The Tigers lost 87-100 to the Wildcats in their final home game before suffering their 33rd league defeat in Scotland as the Rocks secured third spot with a 90-57 win on Sunday.

Play-Off Quarter-Finals:

Leicester Riders (1) v London Lions (8)
Newcastle Eagles (2) v Sheffield Sharks (7)
Glasgow Rocks (3) v Plymouth Raiders (6)
Surrey Heat (4) v Worcester Wolves (5)

Semi-Finals– Highest remaining seed v Lowest remaining seed while the other two teams play each other.

All ties played over two legs until the Final at Wembley Arena on 28th April.

Leicester Riders claim BBL Championship

RIDERS SEAL TITLE; TOP FOUR BATTLE INTENSIFIES & GIANTS GAIN INITIATIVE IN PLAY-OFF RACE

Leicester Riders clinched the BBL title for the first time in the club’s history after extending their winning streak in the league. Rob Paternostro’s men sealed their second trophy of the season in front of their home fans with a 93-70 win against Durham on Saturday before a 95-65 win in Mersey the following day. The champions had six players in double-figures against the Wildcats, led by Anthony Rowe’s 15 points whie Yorrick Williams top scored against the Tigers with several uni players featuring.

Newcastle did their part in delaying the inevitable with an impressive win in Worcester which also secured second spot as Charles Smith exploded for 40 points in the 102-87 success. The Eagles then won again on the road on Sunday after beating Sheffield 88-80 in a close fought encounter. Atiba Lyons’ men came into that match on a high after wins over Glasgow (62-52) and Plymouth (72-78) during the week to make it six in a row. Sheffield and Newcastle meet again tonight (Tuesday) in the league and will also clash in the play-offs.

Despite another loss against Sheffield, Glasgow are still favourites for a top four finish after two home wins against Surrey and Worcester. EJ Harrison had a 24 point haul in the 98-70 win over his former-side Heat before Sterling Davis led from the front in the 88-69 win over the Wolves despite a 28 point haul from Alex Owumi.

Worcester dented Plymouth’s hopes after a big 89-69 home win on Friday night which preceeded the Raiders‘ defeat at home to Sheffield. Surrey moved back into the top four on Sunday with a close fought 98-92 win over London after 30 points from Travis Holmes and can seal a top four spot with a win against Plymouth which is likely to be a play-off encounter too with their positions.

Manchester Giants have their play-off fate in their own hands now after London‘s loss having recorded a convincing win against Mersey at the weekend. Jeff Jones’ men host London Lions in a pivotal clash before travelling to Durham knowing two wins will set up a last eight clash with the league champions in the play-offs.

Results:

TUE 26th- Sheffield Sharks 62-52 Glasgow Rocks; Worcester Wolves 87-102 Newcastle Eagles; FRI 29th- Worcester Wolves 89-69 Plymouth Raiders; Glasgow Rocks 98-70 Surrey Heat; Mersey Tigers 67-93 Manchester Giants; SAT 30th- Plymouth Raiders 72-78 Sheffield Sharks; Leicester Riders 93-70 Durham Wildcats; SUN 31st- Sheffield Sharks 80-88 Newcastle Eagles; Surrey Heat 98-92 London Lions; Mersey Tigers 65-95 Leicester Riders; Glasgow Rocks 88-69 Worcester Wolves