Blog - Balling with the Sharks

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November 7 2011 - Should it be a time to worry for Atiba Lyons and the Sharks? writes Richard Fidler.

On the face of it three defeats in a row doesn’t look good. However, only one was proper hammering – the home 67-86 loss against Newcastle Eagles.

It is worth putting this run into perspective.

The Eagles will be challenging for all four trophies again. Fab Flournoy has built a good team with the usual array of returning stars complimented by shrewd new signings.

In the first meeting at the EIS the Eagles did what the Eagles do. They came out like men possessed and blew the Sharks off the court.

At Sport Central seven days later Sheffield performed much better and with a bit more luck, and a few more calls going their way, could have levelled the series at 1-1.

As it is losing the season series is a blow, but not terminal this early in the campaign.

Losing at home to Plymouth Raiders on Friday was disappointing, particularly as it brought the two year BBL Cup run to an end.

Raiders are a good team. Paul Williams is probably the best pure centre in the league. Jeremy Bell is the reigning BBL MVP. James Jones (although quiet at the EIS) is one of the better 2/3 men around.

And then they have Anthony Rowe and Lehmon Colbert who can both score, rebound and play good enough D to keep their opponent honest.

I was surprised they pulled away as far as they did at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, but wasn’t at all shocked to see Williams snatch the loose ball and make the bucket at the buzzer.

That’s basketball, as Atiba told me afterwards.

Sharks will respond from this set of poor results. The team is still a work in progress, but has more than enough to put a good run together in the league and beat the Eagles over two legs in the Trophy semi-final.

Nate Reinking and Jimmy Langhurst look a very good backcourt pair, and when extra help does eventually arrive (Marcus Stout anyone?), the team will have a four deep – don’t forget the exciting but raw Zach Gachette – rotation.

Up front is a bit more worrying. Justin Dobbins, just, came off second best against Williams and Olu Babalola is still in third gear.

Mike Tuck has been a bit up and down and Atiba is still working his way back to health and fitness after niggling injuries.

I think it would be fair to say the Sharks don’t have a traditional dominant big man but in Dobbins they do have a player who can scare opposing defences because of his athleticism.

For my money Dobbins is a better finisher than Williams and is equally good on the boards.

Tuck, Babalola, Lyons and to a lesser extent Colin Sing need to impose themselves early in matches to provide the space that Dobbins needs to go one on one with his defender inside.

It will be interesting to see how the Sharks respond at Glasgow Rocks on Sunday and then at home against Leicester Riders the following Friday.

Glasgow is a tough place to win and the Riders, with Great Britain skipper Andrew Sullivan in their team, will be another difficult home night.

Three defeats is a road bump in the Sharks season. If the run extends to five then it would make it exceedingly tricky to mount a title charge.

* All season Richard Fidler will be following the Sharks. Read his reports and news in The Star every day and his exclusive blog on thestar.co.uk. You can follow Richard on Twitter @richardfidler.

September 29 2011 - The Sharks tip-off their season on Friday night and it’s about time they began to get this BBL Trophy lark sorted, writes Richard Fidler.

Sheffield have been unlucky in recent years to suffer from a geographical disadvantage that has seen them put in a Trophy group with Newcastle Eagles and Glasgow Rocks.

With Durham Wildcats joining the BBL this season the Sharks are now up against Cheshire Jets and Mersey Tigers hoping to reach the semi-finals as winners of their group.

A double-header with the Jets on Friday and in Chester on Sunday will be a tough start to the new year for Atiba Lyons’s team, particularly with summer signing BJ Jenkins still in America due to visa issues.

It had seemed likely that Sheffield and Cheshire would be in a straight head-to-head to make the last four with the Tigers having trouble surviving a change of ownership.

However, I understand that Mersey’s issues are slowly being resolved and the club will be able to defend the three trophies they won last season, albeit with a much weaker squad.

Jimmy Langhurst will share point-guard duties with Zach Gachette and only after the weekend will Lyons consider whether to begin the Jenkins paperwork process again.

Nate Reinking, who picked up a virus while playing for Great Britain in Lithuania in the EuroBasket tournament, is feeling better and is expected to receive a fantastic reception at the English Institute of Sport.

All the signs point to Sharks being a tough, blue collar type team in the best traditions of the club.

Time will tell how quickly Lyons and director Sarah Backovic need to move to resolve the Jenkins situation and also fill the final overseas roster spot.

In the meantime, let the games begin!

* All season Richard Fidler will be following the Sharks. Read his reports and news in The Star every day and his exclusive blog on thestar.co.uk. You can follow Richard on Twitter @richardfidler.

September 27 2011 - Trailing by 19 points late in the second quarter at home to MK Lions it wasn’t looking like the ideal start to the Sharks season, writes Richard Fidler.

Strangely I didn’t feel particularly worried despite the high expectations I have this year for the club.

I’d left Friday’s media call, at shirt sponsors B Braun, full of confidence that the Sharks would be totally dominant.

And there were a number of reasons for that.

The return of Nate Reinking, the acquisition of Justin Dobbins, the retention of Mike Tuck, Olu Babalola, Adrian Anderson, and player-coach Atiba Lyons.

The late recruitment of Tim Lewis as Director of Basketball and the addition of Colin Sing and Zach Gachette.

The imminent arrival of pass first point guard BJ Jenkins and the possibility of one more scorer – maybe Marcus Stout – to the roster.

And the overwhelming positivity shown by the club’s management, sponsors and coaching staff that this is just the beginning. Greater battles are on the horizon, which makes it an exciting time to be following the Sharks.

So that’s why, when Demarius Bolds was blowing by Sheffield’s defence again and again, I felt relaxed.

Fortunately I was right to do so as Sharks moved through the gears to end up with a fairly comfortable 84-72 victory.

Dobbins showed a nice touch and a strong presence in the paint to lead Sharks with 26 points.

And there was enough from the rest of the squad to suggest that it could be a special year.

* All season Richard Fidler will be following the Sharks. Read his reports and news in The Star every day and his exclusive blog on thestar.co.uk