Game of the Week: Worthing Thunder v Hemel Storm
Our Game of the Week this week is the final game of the weekend, which sees Worthing Thunder host Hemel Storm in the National Trophy on Sunday at 5pm.
Storm have begun their life in Division 1 in impressive fashion, picking up Trophy wins against Brixton Topcats and Leicester Warriors and progressing past Ipswich Tomcats in the opending round of the National Cup.
Thunder also progressed in the Cup last weekend, although they only just defeated Solent Kestrels of Division 3. They began their Trophy campaign with a 81-66 home loss to Medway Park Crusaders after their game against Leicester was abandoned due to a broken rim.
The meteorologically-named pair also have a common thread in their coaching lineage with current Storm head man Dave Titmuss having spent time in charge of Worthing when they were in the BBL.
Titmuss, who is now in his 36th year as a head coach commented: "I had a terrific year coaching Worthing in the BBL a couple of seasons ago; we beat every team in the league except for Everton Tigers and were the only club to defeat Newcastle Eagles twice.
"My best memory was the great run we had to the playoffs, finally getting an overtime win in Plymouth to seal our spot. I really enjoyed the year and made some good friends on the south coast - even the 'back row boys'!"
Whilst Storm and Thunder have never met in Trophy or League play - due to this being Hemel's first season at this level - Titmuss has crossed paths with Thunder on numerous occassions: "My Reading Rockets teams had some big EBL clashes with Thunder in the past when both sides were at the top of Division 1 - I'm sure those days will return before long.
"I understand that Worthing is building again - we're all English at Hemel and are newly promoted from Division 2, so it should be an even match-up for the fans to watch. Like most teams at this stage of the season we're still developing our own way of playing and trying to find ways of maximising the talent we have, so we won't be over-preparing for Thunder, but we'll make in-game adjustments as needed.
"We have some glaring and obvious weaknesses as a team that we're trying to minimise, but I really like my squad mostly because I believe hustle and effort are talents just as much as what a player might be able to do with the ball and we certainly are blessed with a committed bunch of guys who are playing hard, sharing the ball and who genuinely believe in the idea of team. I know we'll probably lose to better talent but I hope we don't lose to better execution or work ethic."
Storm are re-establishing national level basketball in the Hertfordshire town. They won the Patrons Cup in each of the past two seasons and last season finished second in Division 2 to earn promotion to Division 1. Hemel were one of the country's top clubs in the late 80s and early 90s and regularly played to packed crowds at Sportspace. The crowds have returned to support the new iteration of Storm, with regular attendances in excess of 500.
After finishing fourth in Division 1 last season on their return to EBL competition, Thunder will be looking to compete for silverware again, but have admitted that they are a little behind in their preparation this season due to a late coaching change as guard Noel Pollock, who had 17 points against Kestrels, explains:
"We are treating the first four games like friendly games right now so we can get our game right. We want to know what we can do on the floor, but this game will be against a top team so it'll show how far we've progressed," he said.
"Of course our mentality is to win because we're basketball players. Every game we play, we play to win but we are still a work in progress and I hope the fans realise that and keep supporting us because we will play our hardest for them."
Coach Daniel Hildreth has said that there are no fresh injury concerns ahead of Sunday's game and is looking for an improved performance.
He said: "It will be hard, but it's another step for these guys and all I want to see is improved performances from them each week. Even though we lost on Saturday and won Sunday, I was happier with Saturday's performance and I just want them to get better with each game."
You can follow the live stats for this game on Sunday at 5pm.