There are no fewer than three debutantes in the BBL line-up this week as the north of the UK completes a clean sweep.
Joe Chapman (Newcastle Eagles)
The influential Joe Chapman is in a rich vein of form and this is highlighted by him claiming successive appearances in our starting five. The guard also led the league in field goal percentage during January which is further proof of his hot-streak. The guard racks up what counts as his fourth appearance of the season and he looks to be sneaking up on the rails in terms of challenging those who are currently in the lead with the most BBL Team Of The Week appearances. With title rivals Worcester Wolves and Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders both dropping games, it was an excellent weekend for the league leaders – even if they were not at their best against a resilient Mersey Tigers last Friday. While team-mate Charles Smith hogged the headlines, Chapman was also instrumental in the win with a highly efficient 20 points in addition to seven assists, six rebounds and some good defence.
Chris Pearce (Durham Wildcats)
It’s been a long wait but the basement dwellers finally chalked up their second league win of the season with a hard fought home victory against play-off rivals Cheshire Jets. Chris Pearce was central in attaining a result which keeps their hopes of a top eight finish alive. He was a big contributor for Wildcats at both ends of the floor with a typically aggressive and energetic performance helping him grab a super and hugely valuable five steals and five rebounds. Meanwhile offensively, Pearce rattled off 24 points and also came up with two assists to ensure a memorable night in Newton Ayclife and secure what is his first BBL Team Of The Week appearance.
Charles Smith (Newcastle Eagles)
It’s been an incredible month for Eagles forward Charles Smith who fresh from recently being crowned MVP at the BBL Cup Final, has continued his momentum into the BBL Championship. Despite an unusually quiet first half, he caught fire on his return to the floor after the interval and posted a magnificent second half double-double to put Tigers and former Eagles play-caller Tony Garbelotto to the sword. Smith came alive to finish with 22 points and 11 rebounds including four triples underlining the danger he poses both inside and out. He also managed to provide four assists which helped his team consolidate top spot.
Gareth Murray (Glasgow Rocks)
After their capitulation at the hands of Mersey Tigers on their home floor, Rocks went into last weekend needing to respond in positive fashion but on paper at least, it looked a tough assignment against title chasing Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders. Despite this, and thanks mainly to the efforts of Murray, Rocks claimed an outstanding road win to seriously dent Riders’ title ambitions. The forward was in the thick of things with an all-action performance. He poured in 26 points, crashed the glass to harvest seven rebounds, conjured up four assists and grabbed three steals to help claim a morale boosting win for the Scottish club.
Mike Capocci (Durham Wildcats)
Our final debutante, Mike Capocci has enjoyed some super displays during an impressive rookie season with Durham Wildcats and he was terrific in securing a precious home success over fellow strugglers Cheshire Jets. The forward produced the second best performance of the weekend in the BBL as he corralled 25 points. Capocci once again displayed his ability to score from all over the floor by sinking three of four attempts from beyond the arc as well as doing the hard work for his team with six rebounds and four steals. Capocci joins team-mate Chris Pearce in our line-up in what has been a great week for Durham, with Ralph Bucci the only previous Wildcats player to make the BBL Team Of The Week this season.
Off The Bench – Anthony Rowe (UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders), Lehmon Colbert (UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders), Demarius Bolds (Prestige Homes MK Lions), Colin O’Reilly (Cheshire Jets), Matt Schneck (Cheshire Jets), Ayron Hardy (Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders)