The 2015-16 BBL Season is almost here, so let’s preview the weekend’s opening action.
Leeds Force v Cheshire Phoenix
Carnegie Sports Centre, 7.30pm Friday 18 September
Former coach John Lavery is back in charge of Cheshire Phoenix for the new season and has already had to deal with some disruption as American Will Faiivae went back on his decision to join the club, who move to the brand new Cheshire Oaks Arena this term.
Leeds Force enjoyed a solid debut campaign in 2014-15 and will be looking to build on that behind their developing domestic talent, led by powerful post players, Zak Wells and Rob Marsden.
Worcester Wolves v Glasgow Rocks
University of Worcester Arena, 7.30pm Friday 18 September
The BBL will get a first look at the revamped Worcester Wolves on Friday when they host Glasgow Rocks.
Coach Paul James opted to start from scratch after an early exit from the BBL Play-offs last term with only Disraeli Lufadeji returning for 2015-16.
He has brought in BBL experience with the likes of Jay Couisnard and Ben Eaves arriving in Worcester while Rocks made shrewd moves in retaining Kieron Acahara and Jonny Bunyan as well as adding up-and-comers such as Will Hall.
Sheffield Sharks v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle
EIS Sheffield, 7.30pm Friday 18 September
The new season starts where the old one ended for Sheffield Sharks, against familiar foes Esh Group Eagles Newcastle.
Eagles beat Sharks over two legs to reach last term’s BBL Play-off Final on their way to completing a clean sweep of top-flight silverware.
An established roster will attempt to defend those titles with all the key pieces returning for another run while Sharks have brought back some of their important players as well as adding new American names such as Reggis Onwukamuche and Jerrold Brooks.
Bristol Flyers v Surrey Scorchers
WISE Basketball Arena, 7.30pm Saturday 19 September
It is all change for Surrey this season while more of the same will be on the agenda for Bristol Flyers.
New ownership has brought a new name, identity and coach for Scorchers as they aim to return to the success they previously achieved under the guise of ‘Heat’ with coach Creon Raftopoulos coming back in.
For Flyers, last season’s Molten BBL Coach of the Year Andreas Kapoulas has brought back the core that produced an eighth-place finish in their first top-flight campaign with a view to continuing their impressive development.
Plymouth University Raiders v London Lions
Plymouth Pavilions, 7.30pm Saturday 19 September
Plymouth Raiders head into the new season aiming to reach the BBL Play-offs for the first time in three attempts.
Coach Jay Marriott has sought to bolster his squad with several additions from Oceania, having seen Australian Josh Wilcher become a star last term.
London Lions may have reached the BBL Play-off Final in 2014-15 but have opted for a change of direction with BBL legend Nigel Lloyd coming in as coach and the departure of last season’s leaders in Drew Sullivan and Zaire Taylor.
Cheshire Phoenix v Manchester Giants
Cheshire Oaks Arena, 5.30pm Sunday 20 September
Cheshire Phoenix enter a new era on Sunday when they host Manchester Giants in their first game at their new home at Cheshire Oaks Arena, after 21 years at Northgate.
They do so with a new coach too, John Lavery returning to the role after serving as an assistant to John Coffino, who departed at the end of last season.
Giants have a fresh, but familiar face in charge, with fan-favourite Yorick Williams taking over from Jeff Jones as the Manchester club aim to return to the Play-offs following a ninth-place finish last term.