Smith hopes to add two to Thunder squad

WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club head coach Gary Smith is hoping his Christmas present this year will see him secure the services of two new players for the New Year.

Smith will be spending the festive break reflecting on their BBL Championship season so far, including their heaviest defeat of the season, a 118-80 hammering at Newcastle Eagles on Friday, and a 82-69 reverse at Leicester Riders on Saturday, but will also be trying to sign two new players.

Thunder sit second from bottom of the BBL with just one win, and Smith believes they are missing three or four players to put them on a par with other clubs.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

He has two players in the pipeline, one of whom may be here for their next game at Mersey Tigers on January 2.

Smith said: “This is a time for us to reflect on things and look where we could have been with a few more players.

“I have one or two players in mind to bring in and they will really strengthen our team, we are about three or four guys away from being with the rest of the BBL teams.

“It would be nice to have them in by the Mersey game, but it will be more likely after, although to have one by then would be an achievement.”

Smith blamed both weekend defeats on his side running out of steam – a problem he hopes new players will solve.

He added: “I wasn’t at either game at the weekend but at Newcastle from what I can understand is the first 20 minutes we stuck to our task, played well, passed it around and took some good shots.

“We were well in the game but basketball is a 40-minute game and not 20. They then sank a couple of long threes and that broke our backs. From there, we were playing catch-up and Newcastle are a deep side, so it was difficult.

“John Nuttley wasn’t there for us either and we are a very depleted team player-wise. We don’t have as many guys as other clubs, although that will change.”

On Saturday’s defeat at Leicester, Smith said: “We were right in it until the third where we just ran out of steam and hit a brick wall. One or two calls didn’t go our way and they again have a deep bench and squad.

“Pepe (Petroslav Zafirov) got injured and he had been tremendous for us. He was knocking down threes and playing well and confidently, the next thing he has pulled a hamstring and is out for the rest of the game. He would have made a big difference.

“When the guys have played the night before, they are still tired and when you are trying to fight and battle it’s tough. It is when you need subs or more experienced players to step in and help out. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do that soon.”

On Friday at Newcastle, Thunder had started the game the stronger and opened up an early 11-9 lead, but a late revival saw Eagles lead 27-16 at the end of the first quarter and they led for the rest of the game.

A 10-3 run in the second put the Eagles in control, but Thunder hit back to trim their opponents lead to just six points at 45-39. Eagles then continued their dominance and were 52-43 ahead at half-time, and 87-56 in front at the end of the third quarter.

Thunder battled hard in the final period but Newcastle proved too strong. Thunder’s Adam Williams hit 20 points and Mansour Mybe and Sherrad Prezzie-Blue made 12 each.

Saturday saw Thunder and Leicester compete in the only BBL Championship game to beat the bad weather, but despite another good start and leading 50-39 at one stage, Zafirov’s injury, after netting 14 points, hit the Thunder offence and Leicester bounced back.

An 11-0 run from Thunder saw them take the first quarter 19-17. After another seven points, they lost Zafirov, and Riders started to hit back. A match-winning performance from Tom Sherlock, where he made 16 consecutive points, took the score from 57-57 to 73-63 to put Riders in control and, although the sides traded baskets in the closing stages, they held on for the win.

Prezzie-Blue and Capers hit 17 and 16 points respectively for Thunder.