Basketball: Phoenix and Kats look too good to lose
City of Edinburgh Kool Kats and Polonia Phoenix should celebrate their first visit to Oriam by winning their opening Scottish Women's League fixtures against new entries Glasgow Fever and Glasgow University tomorrow.
Both Capital clubs will still rely heavily on senior players at BasketballScotland’s new national high performance centre, who hold a mass of senior caps between them including Polonia’s trio of Lynsey Lochhead, Julie Ritchie and Lesley Jackson, who are back for another season under the guidance of coach Toni Szifris.
With or without their new Greek guard, Phoenix are likely to be too strong for the West students whose term has not started yet and this may be a game too soon.
Strathclyde champions Glasgow Fever could have a better chance as Kats coach Ben Gunn is without several from the team who finished third last season behind champions Edinburgh University and Tayside Musketeers.
“It’s a time of change,” says Gunn, who loses Irish cap Shauna O’Connor, who is away to Canada, and Scottish cap Kirstin Simpson, who has been training with the new Women’s BBL team Caledonia Pride, who will be based at Oriam but have still to confirm their signings.
EU, whose players could be involved in teams at three different levels, will be significantly less loaded for their Scottish League fixtures as their US and other scholarship players will play up in the semi-pro WBBL and/or British Universities Northern Premier Division including another Scottish cap Hannah Peacock who has turned down an offer from Northumbria University to return to the fold.
But EU will still have the likes of fresher Hannah Robb, the former Tayside Muskie and Scottish junior captain, who played against her old club in a friendly last weekend.
EU were due to open their defence against South Lanarkshire Colliers but Colliers withdrew from the league yesterday citing a player crisis.
The fourth Capital side, Boroughmuir Blaze, who were rookies only last season, proved their worth by finishing sixth in the 10-team, now 11-team league and could be ready for another step by beating a re-grouped St Mirren at 3pm.
Basketballscotland has been given a major boost with a new £280,000 grant from SportScotland to boost performance both on and off the court in the two years leading up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
This will enable two new full-time national team coaches to be appointed to work with the Scottish Rocks and Caledonia Pride linking professional basketball for the first time to the national men’s and women’s teams.
“The aim is for the majority of national team players to remain in Scotland to train and play full-time,“ said Director of Basketball Barry Lang.