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?

BBL Team of the Week

The Team of the Week is calculated by performance valuation based on Sporting Pulse’s statistics for the BBL:

  1. Charles Smith- A sensational display from the Newcastle Eagles veteran with an incredible 49 point haul against the Durham Wildcats. The 37 year-old made 19/35 shots from the field including 8/10 from beyond the arc. Smith continued to fill the stat-sheet with an additional 16 rebounds and has now taken his season points average to 20.1
  2. Joe Chapman- The reigning BBL MVP joins his team-mate in the Team of the Week thanks to an impressive triple-double in the same game. Chapman fired in 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and provided 11 assists in Newcastle‘s emphatic 106-65 victory. The 28 year-old is a regular in the Team of the Week and has now seen his season-high of 41 points (v Sheffield 18/01/13) beaten by Smith.
  3. Michael Ojo- The Plymouth guard has stepped up in recent weeks following a return from injury and the release of the influential Jeremy Bell. Ojo inspired the Raiders to a 100-93 victory on the road at Cheshire with a career best 40 points to average 31.25 points in his last four outings. The 23 year-old has the second best points per game average (22.7) in the league behind Chez Marks whilst shooting 53% from the field.
  4. Donald Robinson- The BBL Rookie earned his place in the TOTW with a 30 point haul against Cheshire Phoenix on Friday in a game that will be televised on Sky Sports tonight. The Rocks guard made an impressive 12/14 FG attempts with a 75% success rate from downtown on his way to a season-high points total. Glasgow were in action again on Sunday to make it two wins out of two for the weekend but this time Robinson could only manage a single basket.
  5. Stanley Ocitti- The Wolves big man completes the line-up after helping his side to a win in Manchester with a 20 point-10 rebound double-double. Ocitti narrowly missed out on the feat in his previous two matches for Worcester but managed to add a seventh for the season in the victory against the Giants. The 6’8″ forward averages 13.6 ppg and just under 10 rebounds in his first season in the BBL.

Bench: Sheffield Sharks duo Micah Williams and Mike Tuck make the bench for their performances in the team’s home win against Durham while Darius Defoe also makes it despite being overshadowed by the efforts of Chapman and Smith. Matt Schneck is on the bench after helping Plymouth to a win against his former side while Chez Marks continues to prove why he’s the league’s top scorer with another 30+ point haul. Also making the bench are Leicester duo Jay Couisnard and Drew Sullivan who helped their side into the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy and keep the pressure on league leaders, Newcastle.

Riders victorious in BBL Cup final classic

Leicester Riders claimed their first piece of silverware in more than a decade after an 85-80 victory over the Newcastle Eagles in a thrilling BBL Cup Final.

Jay Couisnard earned the MVP award with a 19 point haul which included a pivotal spell in the third quarter when the rookie drained a trio of triples.

Leicester led for the majority of the game and withheld a late fightback from the Eagles as Fab Flournoy’s men never gave up on the defence of their title. Joe Chapman led all scorers with 27 points but was unable to inspire his side to a fifth consecutive trophy in the BBL.

Darius Defoe and Anthony Rowe opened the scoring for their respective sides and the first score from beyond the arc came from Drew Sullivan which gave the Riders their first lead at 7-6. Another soon followed from the GB international before five points in quick succession from Jamell Anderson helped Leicester into a 20-17 lead at the end of the first.

Chapman fired the Eagles back in front from downtown but Rob Paternostro’s men battled back and dominated the next few minutes to open up a double-digit advantage. The defending champions could only narrowly cut the deficit whilst keeping their opponents scoreless in the final 1:51 of the half where the score was 45-36 in favour of the Riders.

Newcastle were able to close the gap when play resumed and whittled their arrears to just four points through the combination of Chapman and Damon Huffman. Couisnard responded with eleven of his side’s next thirteen points; finding the net from long range on three occasions as Leicester now led 65-51 with one quarter remaining.

Charles Smith and Chapman stepped up at the start of the fourth but their triples were countered by baskets from Pavol Losonsky, Jorge Calvo and Rowe to keep the Eagles at bay. Anderson replied to another three from Chapman with his second of the night which helped the youngster towards 15 points on a perfect 100% shooting display from the field.

With less than five minutes remaining the Riders’ lead was still in double figures before Newcastle launched their fightback. Flournoy’s basket capped a 10-0 spell to tie the game at 78; setting up a tense finale with 90 seconds still to go.

The player-coach then put his side into the lead with another two points, after Rowe could only make 1 out of 2 from the line, before Zaire Taylor struck a vital blow with a crucial three pointer as the game headed into the final minute.

Sullivan came up with a huge block on Smith and while Chapman and Huffman couldn’t connect from 3-point range, Rowe and Calvo sealed Leicester’s victory from the line for their FIRST trophy since winning the double in 2001.

While the Riders may have struggled from the charity stripe, a 50% success rate from long range is an impressive statistic especially considering their opponents’ struggles as Newcastle only found the net on seven occasions from 35 attempts which contributed to a sub-par 37% field goal percentage.

The rivalry between the two sides looks set to continue in 2013 with both teams level at the top of the Championship standings as well as being in the last eight of the BBL Trophy.

The Cup final was preceeded by an international friendly between England and Ireland which finished 83-80 to the men in green. The BBL Slam Dunk contest was won by Ukranian Dmitry Krivenko.