2014-15 EABL Season Preview: South Conference

As the 2014-15 EABL season is upon us, we take a moment to preview the teams competing in the EABL this season with our season preview – starting with the South Conference.

Southwest Division

BHASVIC
Coming off a 4-9 season, BHASVIC will be hoping to bounce back to their 2012-13 form, when they last made the playoffs after steamrolling through the season with a 14-4 record.

This season the side will have more experienced players, with six returners, including Lucien Christofis, one of their key performers last season. Head Coach Dave Goss will look to be a solid, smart defence-focused side, while remaining organised and disciplined on offence.

Henley College
It’s a fresh start for Henley, having seen 8 players departing, including four of their starting five. Liam Carpenter is their biggest loss, as they will be looking to Matt Davis to fill the void.

After finishing 1-11 last season, the squad will be looking to make significant progress. Ben Fisher has taken over the helm of the programme, being assisted by Reading Rockets’ Division 1 Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces.

“We have a lot of new but unpolished players joining us this year so the challenge will be to raise the level of play as well as work hard on the fundamental skills of the game,” said Fisher.

“Having Manuel on the coaching staff will really help us with the technical and tactical elements of the game as well as the specific detail needed to reach the next level. We will really be looking to develop a way of playing this year and identify the key components that are needed to be successful on the elite level.”

Itchen College
Itchen will be looking to build upon their successful inaugural season in the EABL, where they qualified for the playoffs and made the Elite 8.

Itchen has brought in Harry Cox & Irish international Charlie Coombes to join forces with last season’s top scorer Elliot James which should make for an exciting backcourt. Itchen will be looking to use this backcourt to play at a fast pace whilst George Ivens and Dan Hemingway will be a solid presence at the 4 & 5 positions.

Itchen will be slightly smaller than last year, but will have a lot more depth especially at the guard positions.

Itchen lose 3 starters from last year in Elliot Dadds, Bjarni Gunnarson, and Dan Kingswell.

City College Academy Plymouth
City College Academy is a new venture between Ivybridge Academy and Discovery Academy (last year the team competed as Ivybridge, going 7-7 without making the playoffs).

Players have joined City from last year’s Ivybridge Academy (Ben Riddle and Jay Simms-Lymn) and Discovery Academy (Nathan Marsh, Ricardo Rocha, Diogo Oiveria and Jack Benson) and Head coach Matt Hatchell has said he “is looking forward to a challenging season and working with the team”.

South Gloucestershire & Stroud College
Last year’s runners up, SGS College, will be intent on going all the the way this year, with a squad that features 13 returners, including GB U20s Tamas Okros and England U18s players Deane Williams and Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye.

With talented first years coming in from the Bristol Flyers club structure as well as recruits from across the country, 2014-15 season is promising to be an exciting one for the South West based programme based at the SGS WISE campus, who last year were the only undefeated team throughout the regular season.

SGS Basketball Academy Head coach Andreas Kapoulas is looking forward to the season ahead:

“It’s always exciting working with a new group of players and to have the opportunity to see so many of our students returning for their final year, I think will be great as their experiences will prove very valuable,” he said.

“Our focus and ethos is always based on our player development. We want to help players achieve their full potential and that really is always theconcept that drives our programme forward. I am certain its going to be a great season ahead.”

London Division

Barking Abbey School
Barking Abbey won their first EABL championship in 2013-14, and will be looking to defend their title with a squad that features all but two of the championship winning side.

The losses of GB U20s Joe Lockwood and Joe Junior Mvuezolo, who have both gone to the US on scholarships, will no doubt hurt, but with EABL Finals MVP Josh Steel back for his final year, along with a mix of returners and new acquisitions, the GB Regional Institute remains confident of their changes.

Looking to play an uptempo style, while taking care of the basketball and playing within their offensive system, Head Coach Frank Holloway says they are up to the challenge.

“Our team has been working diligently during the preseason in preparation for defending our EABL National Title,” he said.

“I try to look at every new season as a new and exciting challenge, not just for myself as a coach, but for our players as well. Each season offers a new team to work with and develop, new personalities, new friendships are made, new obstacles to overcome, new opponents, and often new ideas and theories to test, and develop along the way. It’s an exciting time of year!”

Ealing Hammersmith & West London College The loss of leading scorer and one of the top players in the EABL last season, Tyrell Isaacs, was a blow, but a late pick up in the form of Jules Dang Akodo, generally considered the best player in the 1996 born generation is a more than capable replacement.

David Cavaca, Maurice Gilbert and Charles Yassi-Pepin are the three most notable returners, but the team will feature a number of fresh faces including Mekie Ifekandu and Vaughan Brown who will be looked to for contributions in their first year.

“Excited for this season,” said Head Coach Tarryn Algar. “Jules landed in our lap, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the squad. We’ll be looking to improve upon last year’s performance, and hopefully make some noise in the South.”

Hackney Community College
After finishing last season at .500 (8-8) and just missing out on the playoffs due to points difference, Hackney will be satisfied with nothing less than a return to the post season.

Looking to be a run-press-run squad, with full court man to man defence, the team will be led by returning athletic guard Arif Sempala and big man Jonathon Lashley, along with Rossano Dias and Kwaku Tandoh.

“I am looking forward to this season,” said Head Coach Andrea Boreland.

“The team has to improve on last year’s results and I am very optimistic that the team has matured and will be challenging for the play off positions. The majority of last year’s players are returning and I expect the team to play well together with teamwork being one of our big strengths.”

Look for Micheal Da Silva and Ethan Garcia as stand-out first year contributors.

Harefield Academy
Harefield Academy are another team going through a transition period, losing a number of key players including Reuben Tatham-Nunn, Sebastian Ferenc and Stephen Robinson.

Going from being a relatively tall team to being undersized, their focus will be on being quick and aggressive, relying on a lot of transition game and pressure defence.

Key contributors this season will likely be Chinedu Bowens, Sam Pleszak, Elijah Lawson and Marcus Anderson.

Oaklands College
A large recruitment class will bring lots of internal competition for roster spots as Oaklands College brings back all but three of their squad from last season’s playoff team.

The team were a perimeter threat last season and this looks to continue as they have added the likes of Dominic Scott-Robinson and Evan Walshe to returning sharp shooter Aidan Gastaldi-Davies. Another England squad member George Pool will be competing with experienced third years Bernardas Sileika and Jordan Daniels in the forward positions.

“We have had an unprecedented number of recruits this year so it will take time for us to find our best combinations,” said Head Coach Lee Ryan.

“What we do know is we have become more athletic and have great depth in the perimeter positions, it will be a fun year watching these guys going up and down the floor.”

Southeast Division

Canterbury High School
Canterbury High School will be looking to break their playoff drought after bringing back all key contributors from last season, plus some enticing new additions.

Dave Couchman returns to the squad after a year out from heart surgery, while Head Coach Jesse Sazant has also unearthed 7’1″ big man Oliver Dykes, along with South East regional player Oliver Waymark.

“We are really looking forward to the upcoming season,” said Sazant.

“Our guys have worked really hard in the off season and we are excited to start pre-season. We are excited about the potential in our recruiting class and expect some of them to contribute immediately.

“We are going to be bigger than we have ever have been so I’m sure that will play a part in our style of play.”

Copleston High School
Copleston will be looking to bounce back this season, after last year saw the end of their two consecutive Final Four appearance streak.

EABL leading scorer Luke Mascall-Wright returns, along with point guard Sam Newman who proved himself to be one of the better floor generals in the league last season.

“The coming season is an exciting one here at Copleston,” said Head Coach Nick Drane.

“New additions Mark James and Rory Winter bring a lot of the same types of skills to the team that we have lost due to Dylan Costelloe and Dapo Costa finishing Sixth Form. The major area that we are a lacking is inside. Traditionally Ipswich teams are big but we have struggled to replace Lawrence Watsham (6’11) who has again finished Sixth Form.

“However, with a deep roster packed with quality and two players that performed so well last season in Luke and Sam we are confident of another excellent season”.

Harris Academy Beckenham
After losing key duo Myles Laurent-Smart and Kavell Bigby-Williams to the US on scholarships, Harris Academy will be in rebuilding mode.

Just three players return from last year’s team, and despite no big name recruits coming in, Head Coach Steve Bucknall is confident his guys can develop.

“We’re in a transition period cycle of 2 years and it will take time to bed in these new cohorts of players into our system and philosophy,” Bucknall said.

“Only returning 3 players from last years team will make things difficult but we are looking forward to working with the new group of players. Our style will be up-tempo and aggressive defensive systems as always.

“As the Head Coach I am looking to develop individuals who can go onto the next level and fit in. We have no outstanding key new recruits, ie England Players , coming in but what we do have is a lot of potentials. If they follow the programme then I am sure everyone will know their names over the next 2 years.”

Northfleet Technology College
Northfleet Academy Tigers are excited and expectant coming into the 2014/15 season with several returning players and new recruits.

Newly appointed Associate Head Coach Rob Newson said:

“There’s a huge buzz around the school about this year’s class – we have a mix of experience and youth and, beginning this year, we fully expect to challenging for top honours on a regular basis.”

Northfleet will play an up tempo style and will look to put defensive pressure on their opponents in all areas. Key contributors this year will be Dwight London, Sam Bignell, Stuart Havinden and James McCartney.

SEEVIC College
Following a difficult season in the EABL, going winless on the season, SEEVIC College are hopeful of a much better showing in the coming season.

The new recruits bring greater experience at national league level and with all players returning from last season, the team should have much better balance.

England international Brad Wood will remain a focal point, but the vastly improved Tomi Oye-Bamgbose and Matt Buckley will be expected to share the scoring load. New recruits Declan Gould and Josh Powell bring good basketball IQs and this will help the team in playing a more uptempo game.

“You would not need to be a basketball scholar to know that we disappointed last season,” Head coach Steve Pearl said.

“For this year we will be much more balanced without having to rely on Brad Wood scoring such a high proportion of our points. We will look to be much more dynamic at both ends of the court and I will be frustrated if we are not challenging at least for the play-offs”.

The 2014-15 EABL season starts on Wednesday 17 September – stay tuned to http://www.eabl.org for all the info!

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