You are absolutely spoiled for choice in the BBL
Championship tonight as we have four incredible fixtures taking place across
the country, with derbies in the north-west and south-west, and fierce
rivalries reignited in Sheffield and Newcastle.
The Sky Sports cameras, though, will be at the National Basketball Performance Centre as the Manchester Giants welcome local rivals Cheshire Phoenix to town, in the north-west derby. Both sides have started the season in promising form, with the Giants second in BBL Championship at the moment and Cheshire hot on their heels in fourth.
We caught up with two of their star performers – Manchester’s
William Lee and Cheshire’s Danny Evans – ahead of tonight’s super showdown on
Sky Sports to get their thoughts on the game.
“I’m really, really excited for the opportunity to play live
on Sky Sports, especially against Cheshire and to come up against a good friend
in Jamell Anderson.” Lee said.
“Playing on Sky Sports is a great platform for us, it’s a big-time
opportunity to have a great game shown to so many people across the country.
“It’s a marathon and we’re just enjoying the process of
figuring each other out and what we like or don’t like on the floor. We’ve got
a great group here that all bring different things to the table.
“I’m not satisfied with where we are right now, we’ve got a
long way to go, but we’ve got a great opportunity tonight to showcase what we
can do as a team.”
“It’s a big occasion that we’re all looking forward to.”
The Phoenix have had a strong start to the season, securing
wins against the Newcastle Eagles and Surrey Scorchers thus far, falling just
short against the Plymouth City Patriots after losing their star point guard
Larry Austin Jr. to injury early in the game.
Evans is a new acquisition to the team and one of the most
highly-regarded new British talents in the BBL. Having had a positive start to
life in Cheshire, Evans discussed his excitement for the challenge the Giants
will pose his team this evening.
“We know when it comes to the end of the season the Giants
are going to be one of the teams we’re competing with for play-off positions,
so this is a very big game. Being a north-west derby makes it an even bigger
occasion, and we know how much it would mean to our fans to win this game.
“It’s a big occasion that we’re all looking forward to. This
is our first opportunity to play in front of the Sky Sports cameras this year
so we’re excited for that platform. The Giants have brought in some really exciting
talent, with Rahmon Fletcher being the head of the snake, and some great
scoring talent too.
“They’ve put together a strong team, but we want to compete
against the best and feel we have what it takes to give anybody problems in
“It means a lot to us as players, to our fans, and
everybody at the club.”
The Phoenix fanbase are as vociferous as any in the BBL, and
Evans credits them massively for their support of the new-look team so far in
the campaign, with Cheshire’s performances on the floor showing plenty of
The 25-year-old star also reflected on the team’s progress that
has been made so far by the group, and how much it would mean to secure victory
tonight for the club’s supporters.
“For us our focus is on making consistent progress. We know
we’re not anywhere near our full potential yet and we’re still in the early
stages, but we’ve seen a lot of improvement in a short space of time, so
heading into this weekend with two huge games it is just another chance to continue
“It’s a long, long season and we’re going to see the Giants
a few times before the end of it, so we don’t feel its do-or-die tonight, but
this is a really important game for us. It means a lot to us as players, to our
fans, and everybody at the club.
“Our supporters are amazing, I’d heard a lot about them
before I signed here but to see them and meet them has been great. They travel
all over the country for us and we hope we can get a win for them tonight.”
“You’ve got no choice but to rise to that greatness.”
For the Giants’ Lee, he is one of what many are heralding as
a new ‘Big Three’ in Manchester alongside Rahmon Fletcher and Dirk Williams,
but the reality is that new Head Coach Vince Macaulay has put together a
star-studded roster from top to bottom, capable of giving anybody in the BBL a
very difficult night.
A former BBL Championship winner with the Leicester Riders,
Lee knows a thing or two about what it takes to be successful at this level,
and he discussed how much he has enjoyed the process of developing chemistry
with his new team as they push for glory this season.
“When you surround yourself with greatness and great people,
you’ve got no choice but to rise to that greatness – you pick up their habits
and they pick up yours, and it just makes everybody better in the long run.
“Rahmon Fletcher’s IQ on the floor is amazing. It’s the best
IQ I’ve seen in a point guard on my team for a while, so I really enjoy playing
with him. I played with Dirk (Williams) in college so I know his game and how
to help him be at his best, and I’ve also played with Corey (Johnson) in
Leicester so it has been really enjoyable to grow with these guys and the whole
“Playing under Vince (Macaulay) has been exciting, for sure! He’s a great guy who knows how to put a team together and get guys pulling in the same direction. On top of that he has a brilliant personality, he has everybody laughing every day and it is a pleasure to be playing for him.”