After a weekend of BBL Trophy quarter-final action, the BBL All-Star 5 is led by a pair of Derby Trailblazers as the NBL Division 1 contenders caused an upset on the road at Plymouth City Patriots, while Marcus Evans represents the defending champions as Cheshire Phoenix kept their defence on track.
Ryan Bruggeman – Derby Trailblazers
Derby Trailblazers – currently third in NBL Division 1 – reached the BBL Trophy semi-finals with a big road win at Plymouth City Patriots on Sunday, led by Minnesota native point guard Ryan Bruggeman. Playing 39 minutes, Derby’s captain nearly completed a double-double with 22 points and nine assists, along with four steals and three rebounds as he shot a perfect 7-7 at the free-throw line. Bruggeman came up big in all the key moments, with eight points and four assists as Trailblazers scored 31 in the first quarter to race into a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish, before adding 10 in the fourth to hold off a fightback as Patriots got back to within one shot late on.
Malcolm Smith – Derby Trailblazers
It is the second season in a row that Derby have upset a BBL team in the Trophy, and hence not the first time that star forward Malcolm Smith features in the All-Star 5 as he also gained this accolade in January 2022 after their victory over Surrey Scorchers. At Plymouth on Sunday he poured in 36 of his team’s 99 points in just 32 minutes, proving a handful all game as he shot 13-23 (56%) from the floor and a perfect 9-9 at the free-throw line, also grabbing five rebounds. Like his teammate, he was influential in pivotal moments with eight points in the first six minutes as Derby trailed for less than 20 seconds overall, and then he hit the dagger three-pointer among 11 fourth quarter points when the hosts got back to within one shot.
Josh Sharma – London Lions
In the only BBL Championship game of the weekend, league leaders London Lions produced a big late-game surge to complete a season sweep of Cheshire Phoenix, with a double-double from British seven-footer Josh Sharma leading to his second All-Star 5 appearance of the season, but first for ten weeks. He finished with 17 points on 5-6 (83%) shooting from the field – including numerous huge dunks – and 7-9 (77%) from the charity stripe, while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots. Lions trailed by as many as six points with 13 minutes to play, and then produced the biggest run of any team all season, recording 27 straight points over the third quarter break, with Sharma scoring 13 along with six rebounds and both of his blocks in that spell.
Aljami Durham – Caledonia Gladiators
On Friday night Caledonia Gladiators prevailed through a gritty game to beat London Lions at the Emirates Arena in the BBL Trophy quarter-finals, as Aljami Durham was their only player to score in double-figures among their total of 52 points which was the lowest figure to ever win a BBL game. Making his first All-Star 5 appearance, the mid-season pick-up scored 24 points on 9-15 (60%) shooting from the field and 6-7 (85%) at the line, along with six rebounds and two steals, including five points in the last six minutes and a key bucket with 20 seconds to play as Gladiators overturned a narrow deficit late on.
Marcus Evans – Cheshire Phoenix
The defending BBL Trophy champions, Cheshire Phoenix, are successfully back through to the semi-finals after a road win at Surrey Scorchers on Saturday, led by tenacious point guard Marcus Evans as he makes his first All-Star 5 appearance of the season. He scored 25 points on a highly efficient 10-16 (62%) shooting, with six assists, four rebounds and three steals, including eight points in the decisive 11-0 opening to the fourth quarter, along with the assist for the only basket that he didn’t score in that run.
Off the bench: Elvisi Dusha (Plymouth City Patriots), Rashad Hassan (Plymouth City Patriots), Larry Austin Jr. (Cheshire Phoenix), Bennett Koch (B. Braun Sheffield Sharks), Luke Nelson (London Lions), Zach Jackson (Leicester Riders), Kipper Nichols (B. Braun Sheffield Sharks).