National Trophy preview: Northumbria and Leopards face double-header weekend
As well as our Game of the Week
, there are six National Trophy contests this week.
Essex Leopards v Brixton Topcats
Friday 28 September, 8pm, Brentwood Centre
Essex Leopards v Medway Park Crusaders
Sunday 30 September, 4pm, Basildon Sporting Village
Essex Leopards face a weekend Trophy double as they host Brixton Topcats on Friday evening and Medway Park Crusaders on Sunday afternoon.
Leopards will give a debut to new American guard Simon Cummings this weekend, the 6'1" point guard arrived last week and hit 16 points in Leopards' 68-66 friendly loss at NASSA on Sunday.
Essex GM Dave Ryan commented: "Leopards fought off interest from three BBL clubs to sign the Florida Tech star, with coach Youngblood's persistence paying off as he made a personal visit to the 23-year-old to clinch his signature.
"Cummings was coached by Billy Mims - who led the original Leopards to back-to-back BBL titles with Youngblood as his captain - and he gained national prominence in the States in December when he tied a 23-year-old NCAA Division II record by hitting 10 consecutive three-pointers in a victory against Trinity College."
Topcats were one of four sides to defeat Leopards last year in their Division 1 title winning season. Although the champions did gain revenge with a 78-66 win in the return at Basildon. Brixton have started slowly this term with heavy losses against Hemel Storm and Tees Valley Mohawks in the National Trophy, though they made short-work of Division 4 side Ealing Phoenicians in the National Cup.
Crusaders on the other hand have won their opening Trophy game against Worthing and were also a team that defeated Leopards in 2011/12, although their last meeting was in the playoff quarter finals at the same venue as Sunday's game and Leopards came out on top 93-75.
Leicester Warriors v Tees Valley Mohawks
Saturday 29 September, 3pm, Braunstone Leisure Centre
Tees Valley Mohawks will put their unbeaten season on the line on Saturday when they travel to Leicester Warriors.
Mohawks will be strengthened by the addition of DJ Glavan to the squad. Glavan started last season with Mohawks before being snapped up to play in the BBL by Durham Wildcats and is excited to get started this season: "I'm really looking forward to putting on a Mohawks jersey. Coach has told me how he wants the team to play and the guys have had a great start to the season, I just want to come in and help the team improve so we can pick up some more W's."
Tees Valley Coach Steve Butler knows that Leicester will pose a tough challenge to his team: "Coach Brown is a great coach and he always has his teams well organised and drilled. They had a great season last year getting to the final fours and I'm sure they will be up there again this year. We have got to be focussed on our game plan on the defensive end of the court and controlling our boards. The last two games we've created over 15 steals per game and that intensity has to be there on away games as well if we want to win games on the road this season."
Warriors started their Trophy campaign with a loss at Hemel Storm last weekend after their original opening clash with Worthing was abandoned due to a broken rim. They struggled to get the ball in the basket against Storm, going down 75-58 with only Elliot Sentance scoring more than 10 points.
Westminster Warriors v Bradford Dragons
Saturday 29 September, 5pm, Moberly Sports Centre
Bradford Dragons will travel south on Saturday to face Westminster Warriors in the National Trophy. After a perfect start to the season, Dragons will be determined to return home with their unbeaten record intact.
Their win in a local derby against Leeds Carnegie last weekend has spurred Dragons on and guard Bobby Edmunds sees it as a big step forward: "It was very important to win that game, we established that we are the better team. Going forward we are going to play them a lot in the season, so its good to establish some confidence early on."
Westminster haven't had such a good start to their season, going down to Derby Trailblazers by seven points in their first Trophy contest.
Last season Dragons won both encounters with Warriors by 37 points at home and 24 points away, however Dragons head coach Chris Mellor will not be taking Westminster lightly: "Westminster is always a tough place to go and get a win, they are athletic and crash the boards hard. As always rebounding will be a major focus for us this week in practice."
Team Northumbria v Derby Trailblazers
Saturday 29 September, 6pm, Sport Central
Team Northumbria v Reading Rockets
Sunday 30 September, 4pm, Sport Central
After starting their debut top Division campaign with a loss to Bristol, Team Northumbria host a Trophy double header this weekend as they face Derby Trailblazers and Reading Rockets at Sport Central.
Trailblazers began their season with a win against Westminster Warriors and coach Jamie Maudsley was encouraged by his team's performance: "We looked like a team that hadn’t been together too long. There were spells when we struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively, but I thought we played pretty well defensively. I'm pleased with the guys we've recruited to the team and I'm pleased with the performance of the guys we've managed to retain. There were clear glimpses of what we'll be capable of later in the season."
He is conscious of the threat posed by Northumbria this weekend: "I haven't seen Northumbria in person, but I know they're really well coached and I have a lot of respect for Marc Steutel and what he's doing up there. It's their first time in Division 1, but I think they'll be real contenders. They're tough defensively and they ran Bristol really close at their place and I think any team that does that is going to be a threat to us."
Reading Rockets face a weekend double header of their own as they host Oxford Hoops in the first round of the National Cup on Friday evening before travelling to Newcastle. Head coach Samit Nuruzade is bullish about his team's chances this season: "This season I feel we have assembled a really good unit and brought in some much needed experience to our team as well as keeping the core of last year's group. The early signs look good but only once we have played some competitive games will we be able to see where we stand and what hurdles we will need to overcome to not only be competitive but also a difficult team to beat."
Rockets' chief scout Ben Fisher was also complementary about the Northumbria team and coach Steutel: "I went to see them play Bristol last weekend and despite coming away with a narrow loss they will certainly be a difficult opponent. They did great last year in Division 2 and coach Steutel has really had them playing well up to this point so we can expect an up tempo and tactical game. Jason Washington did a really good job from the point guard position and that is something we will have to be prepared for as he looks as though he can hurt any team in terms of scoring as well."