Where and when:
Brentwood Centre, 7.30pm Friday 15 January
Plymouth Raiders will hope to catch Levett Essex Leopards cold when they meet in the BBL Trophy First Round on Friday.
For Leopards, coached by former BBL player Steve Ogunjimi, Friday’s game will be their first sine the Christmas break while Raiders kept up their positive momentum last weekend with a narrow win against Leeds Force.
That victory propelled Plymouth into the Play-Off positions for the first time this season, and will no doubt give them a boost as they seek a third consecutive Quarter-Final appearance in this competition.
The prize for Daryl Corletto’s men, if they can overcome the reigning NBL Division 1 champions, is a last-eight meeting with Sheffield Sharks.
Last time they met:
Plymouth Raiders 68 Greater London Leopards 100 (BBL Cup First Round, Plymouth, 14 January 1998)
• Leopards wrapped up the NBL Division 1 title with a game to spare last season
• Steve Ogunjimi enjoyed two spells as a player with Leopards
• Raiders point guard Josh Wilcher was named as a starter in the latest BBL All-Star Five
What they say:
Leopards coach Steve Ogunjimi: “We have been coming together as a team recently and I feel this will be a good test for our team and allow the players that feel they can compete at the next level the chance to prove that. I always keep an eye on the League results and it has been a rocky season for Plymouth so far.
“They have made a few changes and are trying to turn things around. We have a good chance to scout Raiders and their players and we feel we have a good game plan on paper. Now we have to see if we can generate the energy and enthusiasm to enforce our plan and make a game of it.
“Like I said to the guys, I don’t care if they feel they are the higher level team. We are all men out here and we have guys that can compete physically with anyone in this league or the BBL, it is going to come down to heart, passion and execution and I feel on our day we can compete with anyone. Let’s roll the dice.”
Raiders forward Mike Vigor: “Breaking into the Play-Off places this week was a massive milestone for the Plymouth Raiders, we have been putting in a lot of work on and off the court. The guys have been working extremely hard in practice, the weights room and watching film to help us really cement a spot in the Play-Offs.
“The club itself hasn't been in a Play-Off race for a couple of years now so the fans are ecstatic and really getting behind us. It's a real credit to Daryl and his coaching staff for believing in this team and building a winning culture. It has given us a lot of confidence to work towards such a goal and for it to pay off feels very rewarding.
“Being my first year here, I didn't know really what to expect with the extra silverware such as the BBL Cup and Trophy, however I think it is a big opportunity for us to maintain some momentum and try to bring some silverware to Plymouth.
“I think Essex will be more than up for the challenge and really make it a physical contest on their home court. I'm sure they will have something to prove against a BBL team, especially in front of their fans. For us, we want to string a couple wins together and start to play some really effective team basketball.
“We are learning and building every day, this Trophy game is another opportunity to improve and I'm sure we will be ready to go.”