Tonight sees the first ever BBL Championship game to be played in Wales as Cheshire Phoenix take on Glasgow Rocks at Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry, Flintshire.
The fixture, rescheduled from the 9th March after Cheshire and Glasgow met in the BBL Trophy semi-final first leg, is being played just over the England-Wales border after limited availability at Phoenix’s usual home of the Northgate Arena.
One would need to go back to the 1996/97 National Cup first round to find a BBL side in competition in Wales – London Towers away at Cardiff Phoenix, which saw the Towers leave victorious 95-55.
A new Phoenix will now play, but in the north of Wales, and the Welsh connection goes further with Wales internationals Alan Duppa and Chris Pearce on the Cheshire roster.
Both players are excited ahead of the clash, not just having the chance to avenge the suckerpunch of being knocked out by Glasgow Rocks in the Trophy, but to showcase top tier basketball in Wales.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring the game over to Wales, and although there’s never been a Welsh team in the BBL, we used to always talk when we were training in Cardiff with the national team about how good it would be to have a side playing here,” said Cheshire guard Pearce.
At the moment Cardiff Met Archers and Cardiff City fly the flag in the EBL in South Wales, whilst the North Wales Basketball Association leagues allow juniors and seniors to get involved in the game.
Flintshire-born Duppa feels that by bringing the game over to Deeside, basketball may reach out to locals who had never previously thought of getting involved before: “Hopefully this will give the local Deeside community a chance to see the game, and open more opportunities up for those to play it too.”