London City Royals are tonight heading into the home leg of the BBL Trophy semi-finals, riding high on a 6-game home winning streak.
That’s quite an achievement – this time last year The Royals didn’t exist.
In June 2018 the 12 team British Basketball League (BBL) was down to 11. Seemingly out of nowhere, but not unplanned, the London City Royals took the 12th spot, becoming the second London-based franchise along with the London Lions.
Their new home was the London Lion’s old one at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
The team was the brain child of marketing guru Jon Sawyer, and Nhamo Shire, a basketball promoter who founded the London School of Basketball.
They hired head Coach Jay Williams, himself a veteran of the UK Basketball scene and a former England and Great Britain player.
Williams has helped shape The Royals roster of home-grown and international players from Great Britain, USA and Angola into a force to be reckoned with in the league. Coach Williams told EastLondonLines: “We’ve got some of the best London born and bred players.”
Starting a team from scratch is never easy and after three wins in their first three games of the season they slumped to four straight defeats, three of which were on the road.
But 2019 has seen the Royals win 6 games out of 7 with The Crystal Palace Sports Centre proving to be a fortress for them.
“We’re starting to find our feet again and feel a lot more comfortable right now so we’re in a good place,” says Coach Williams.
A good place for sure, the run of form has moved them to 4thin the league table, only 6 points behind leaders London Lions.
Tonight’s game could see them go 7 for 7 in home game wins and 7 back to back wins. With it being a BBL Trophy bracket competition running alongside the league fixtures the outcome will not affect the League standings.
Tonight they play The Glasgow Rocks, who they beat 84-70 in December. They’re hoping to emulate that performance this evening.
But Coach Williams knows the task will not be easy: “They’ve got some good veteran players in Kieron Achara and Gareth Murray, who are two international players who play for GB and Scotland so they’re going to be a tough team.” Williams added: “Their league record doesn’t quite reflect how good a team they are.”
Williams wants to make sure that London City Royals are on form and Matthew Bryan-Amaning continues to shine and add to his 18 points a game average. “He’s an absolute phenomenal player but we’ve got many other players just like him ready to play.”
Other notable names such as Ashley Hamilton, Will Neighbour and Deyshonee Much, the latter the winner of the recent BBL cup Slam Dunk contest, will bring flair and steady scoring to the team.
But like any team game it’s not about the individuals. Tonight’s game will be decided by how the squad can perform together. “It’s important for us to gel, play hard and play together, play smart and we’ll be fine” said Williams.
It’s inspiring, but not unsurprising given the talent both on the court and off, that The Royals are heading into tonight’s game with a real sense of purpose, excitement and expectation.