Reading Rockets, Essex Leopards and Falkirk Fury all enter the first round of this year’s competition, which tipped off on Wednesday as London Lions advanced at the expense of Bristol Flyers, behind 30 points from Zaire Taylor.

Taylor lifted the Trophy last season as part of Paul James’ Worcester Wolves side, beating Glasgow Rocks on home soil in the final.


Rocks begin this season’s campaign with a tricky tie at Falkirk Fury, as they seek to overcome the disappointment of Sunday’s BBL Cup Final defeat against Newcastle Eagles.

These sides know each other well, facing off several times in recent pre-seasons, with Rocks guard Jonny Bunyan also starring for the Scottish champions, who are coached by his father, John, and include his brother, and ex-Rock, Keith.

But none of that will bother Bunyan Senior come game-time.

“The fact he is playing against us will not change our perspective of the game,” said John Bunyan.

“The Rocks have a talented group of players that includes one of our former players – Kieron Achara, so a number of players on both sides will be familiar with each other’s games.

“For us it’s about going out and enjoying the game, giving the fans an enjoyable match and we will be giving it our best shot, we will not just be turning up”

Cup Winners Eagles will certainly get Reading’s best shot on Sunday.

Rashad Hassan

Manuel Peña Garcés’ side are currently third in Basketball England Division One, with a 7-3 record, and no shortage of confidence, despite the size of the task in front of them.

“We have been working hard and the results are just a consequence of that,” said Garcés.

“We are facing the best roster in the BBL so far, and our work as a team is giving us confidence and hope for this game. It’s going to be difficult, but we will try to challenge Newcastle.

“However, everything is based as well in the defensive rebound, if we give them second chances we are dead, and the mission will be impossible.”

BBL legend Robert Youngblood believes his Essex Leopards have every chance of shocking Surrey United, sitting above Rockets in the table having lost just once this term, and unbeaten at home.

Youngblood has warned United to expect, “a team that’s going to come out and give maximum effort, and leave it on the floor every night, playing hard-nosed, get your hands dirty defence”.

Elsewhere in the Trophy, Leicester Riders host Leeds Force on Saturday looking for a repeat of their 74-54 success earlier this month.

The holders Worcester Wolves travel to Durham Wildcats and could include new signing, Serbian big man Dejan Radojevic in their line-up.

Cheshire Phoenix can extend their incredible winning streak to 11, if they are able to contain Plymouth Raiders and Brent Benson, who is coming off his league-best 38-point performance last week.

And Manchester Giants meet Sheffield Sharks on Sunday, with Atiba Lyons’ men searching for fresh impetus following back-to-back defeats, and having brought in former favourite Mike Cook.

Before that however, Sharks host Leicester Riders tonight in one of four BBL Championship clashes.

Riders go into the weekend in fine form, having won five of their last six games, but are aware of the impact Cook could make for Sheffield, as he begins to settle in after re-joining the club last week.

“He certainly can put the ball in the basket but he does a little more than that,” said Riders coach Rob Paternostro.

“He can be a playmaker, the points-per-game maybe don’t jump off the page, but when you watch him play, you know he has the ability to score and to make plays for others as well.”

Rocks also face a tough league encounter ahead of their weekend Trophy tussle, taking on Lions at home, who they beat in a Cup thriller earlier in the campaign.

Flyers will be out to recover from Wednesday’s Trophy exit when they welcome Worcester to WISE Basketball Arena on Saturday, also aiming to replicate a Cup triumph, while Force and Giants do battle for the first time in the Championship, with precious points and the potentially pivotal head-to-head up for grabs.

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