Blazers set for first meeting with Cavaliers
DERBY Trailblazers take on Thames Valley Cavaliers for the first time tonight.
The Cavaliers visit Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre (7.15pm) tonight in NBL Division One.
Originally based in Portsmouth, Thames Valley Tigers began life as the Southern Pirates, before becoming Bracknell Pirates and competing in NBL D1 from 1982. In 1987, they joined the BBL, winning their first silverware in 1988-89, before changing their name to Thames Valley Tigers.
For many years, they were a dominant force in the BBL, winning the league in 1984, before famously being knocked out of the play-offs by eighth-placed Derby Bucks, as Blazers head coach Matt Shaw recalls.
“Many of our older fans will remember Tim Lascelles’ buzzer beating three-pointer back in 1994, when Derby Bucks beat the BBL league champions Thames Valley Tigers in the first round of the playoffs,” said Shaw.
“To this day, it definitely ranks as one of my fondest basketball memories.
“This Thames Valley team seem to have settled very well into life in Division One.
“They appear to have a good blend of youth and experience and also have a lot of size and athleticism.
“It’s going to be a real challenge. “Having Oli Stanley back in our line-up is a huge bonus. He made an impact last weekend and I think we will see his fitness improve further in the coming weeks.
“The bad news is that Jake Chilvers looks like he’ll be out for the season with an ankle injury that requires surgery.
“Jake, who of course came through the club as a junior, has been battling hard through the pain but at least he finally has a diagnosis now.”
The old Thames Valley side sadly ceased to be in 2005, when owner John Nike pulled the plug on funding.
However, a group of fans got together and appealed to the BBL, taking over the franchise operating out of Guildford Spectrum under the name of Guildford Heat.
The new club has risen rapidly through the NBL divisions, finishing as runners-up to Nottingham in Division Two last season and earning promotion to division one.
They are led in scoring by American Martelle McElmore, who averages just shy of 22 points per game but who netted an extraordinary 44 point haul in their win over Bradford last weekend, off the back of 72% floor shooting.
His team-mate Hakeem Sylla bettered that percentage, with an astonishing 86% success rate.
With shooting like that, Derby will have to be at the best defensively against a side which has nine players standing 6’6” or above.