Last month, the Cheshire Jets feared they would no longer exist but now they are determined for another successful season under player coach James Hamilton.
The departure of previous owner Peter Hawkins without a successor lined up raised concern as to whether the Jets would play this season.However, after an emergency fans meeting, the issue was resolved and local businessman Haydn Cook stepped in to save the club from extinction.
The Jets newly appointed player-coach Hamilton was a key member of the 2001/02 ‘Jet wash’ side that claimed all four titles in the British Basketball League.He quickly assembled a team of talented young prospects along with experienced league veterans Shawn Myers and Chez Marks.
The men in black grabbed their first win of the season with an 88-64 victory over north west rivals Mersey Tigers on Sunday at the Northgate Arena.Hamilton says he was impressed with the efforts of his team but insists there is still more work to be done.
“All the other teams are six weeks ahead of us so it is going to take time to learn from each other and gel in practice.Due to our situation we can’t make any changes to the squad. We have to work with what we have, work hard every week in practice and do the best we can.”
The Jets’ latest addition Alif Bland arrived in time to feature against the Tigers and made a great first impression netting 17 points as a leading scorer.
“I wanted to start strong, get the first game out the way and let other teams know that I’m here. I’m here to win as many games as possible and achieve nothing less,” said Bland after his impressive debut.
The Jets have recruited a lot of remarkable talent but in particular, Hamilton has been impressed with the relentless effort of Chester University graduate Phil Brandreth.
“Phil plays with a lot of energy, he plays with a lot of heart and he does all the things that the stat sheet doesn’t show. You need that kind of player on your team,” he said
Brandreth has worn the black jersey for a number of years and he has promised to help the youngest members Jamal Tahraoui and Adam Jones adapt to the professional level.
“Jamal and Adam are doing really well. I have been in their position before so I am going to try and help them as much as I can,” he said.
Student Niel Gillard collected 7 points in his 13-minute stint at point guard on Sunday night and he recognised the difference between the junior and amateur ranks.
He said: “It is tough because one of the key differences I have noticed is that a lot of the big players in the league are bigger and faster. I think you’ll find a lot of them can do more than just post up which makes a big difference. “
Hamilton reckons Gillard will be a key player for the Jets this season and will continue to improve with every minute on court.
“Whether he likes it or not niel is going to be getting a lot of minutes. I like Niel out there because he does a good job and makes solid passes. I have a lot of confidence in him”
Gillard is pleased with the progress of the team and thinks the Jets can make a strong run and make the playoffs.
“A lot of things have changed from last year and the future is looking bright. I think that we are definitely going to be a playoff team and surprise a few teams this season.”