BBL Game Report: Manchester Giants 101 Birmingham Knights 83

The Manchester Giants registered their first win of the BBL campaign with a resounding victory over the Birmingham Knights. David Aliu led the way with a season-high 34 points and Stefan Gill added 28 as the home-side topped the 100-point mark for the first time this season.

Starting fives:

Manchester Giants: Gill, J. Jones, Williams, Aliu, Marsden

Birmingham Knights – Michael Gayle, Benson, Rolls-Tyson, Hopkins, Izvbigie

The Knights made a decent start to the game taking an 13-10 lead following a made basket by Emile Hopkins before the Giants scored 14 unanswered points over a three minute span. Aliu, Gill and Marsden all converted from long range as the Knights defense looked all at sea and the Giants picked their opponents apart with some crisp ball movement.

The Giants have struggled from 3-point range so far this season but had no problem dialling in from long-distance in this game as they made a blistering 16 of 33 from behind the arc with eight of them coming in the opening ten minutes

Michael Gayle dropped in a long two as part of a 6-0 run by the Knights but the hosts closed out the quarter strongly with a jumper from James Jones and back-to-back buckets from Mike Bernard to give them a 30-21 lead after 10 minutes of action.

The Giants started out sloppily in the second period misfiring on their first four field goal attempts and turned the ball over twice as the Knights clawed their way back into the game and narrowed the gap to just two points on Benson’s layup with 6:44 remaining in the half. The two sides traded buckets before a 7-0 Giants run re-established their position of strength.

Martyn Gayle provided a tremendous spark of the bench for the Knights with 11 of his 14 points coming in the second period. He drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 45-47 with 1:54 to play in the half but Aliu responded for the hosts with his third 3-pointer of the half and Gill added a layup on the break to put his side up 50-37 with just over a minute remaining in the period.

Despite the Giants hot shooting in the 1st half it was the visitors who closed out the half the strongest with a 7-2 run including another 3-pointer by Martin Gayle right as the half-time buzzer sounded to make it 52-44 in favour of the Giants.

After an impressive opening half the home-side continued to take their cue from Aliu and Gill as the pair combined to score 16 of their 20 points in the third period. Aliu remained hot from the outside as he drained his fourth shot from long range as he scored the Giants first seven points of the second half.

He passed the torch to Gill who knocked down two more shots from behind the arc before Jones threw a perfect outlet pass to Marsden who layed the ball up to give the home-side a 67-54 advantage with 5:54 left in the quarter. It looked as if the Giants would pull away but they soon cooled off and went scoreless for the next four minutes as the Knights scored nine unanswered points to pull themselves back into contention.

Michael Gayle drained a jumper which was quickly followed by a runner in the lane from Benson. Martyn Gayle then pulled up for a triple from the right wing and on their next possession Benson stole the ball and ghosted in for a layup to make it 67-63 with 1:56 left in the period. As the lead dwindled away the Giants looked in need of a spark and they got it on their next possession as David Watts followed up a missed shot from Yorrick Williams with a thunderous putback dunk as the Knights defenders looked on helplessly.

Aliu scored from close range on their next trip down court to give the hosts an 8-point lead but once again it was the visitors who went into the interval with the momentum. They went on a 5-1 run in the final 22 seconds as Benson knocked down a pair from the stripe and buried a 3-pointer right before the horn to leave his side trailing 72-68 with just 10 minutes left to play.

After seeing their sizeable lead reduced to just four points the Giant were determined not to let the game slip away and they saved their best for last outscoring the visitors by 29 points to 15 in the final period using an 18-1 run to put the game to bed.

Aliu and Jones combined to score eight straight for the hosts to put them ahead 86-73 with 6:18 left to play in the game. A free-throw by Birmingham’s Josh Rolls-Tyson stopped the run but the Giants didn’t miss a beat scoring 10 unanswered points as they galloped towards the finish line. Watts scored with a splendid spin-move and two-handed slam-dunk which was soon followed by another bucket from Aliu and back-to-back 3-pointers from Gill to put them up 96-74 with just 3:31 left in the contest and put the result beyond doubt.

Brent Benson led the visitors with 29 points but needed 27 shot attempts to get there as the Giants defense forced him to take contested shots all afternoon.

The Giants now sit in 10th position in the BBL standings and leaves the Knights alongside the Surrey Heat as the only teams in the division yet to register a victory. The Giants next game sees them take on the Glasgow Rocks who currently have an identical 1-4 record and suffered back-to-back defeats this weekend at the hands of the Leicester Riders and the London Lions. They will hope that this victory can be the start of a winning run as they make their charge up the BBL table.

Top Scorers

Manchester Giants: Aliu 34, Gill 28, J. Jones 14

Birmingham Knights: Benson 29, Martyn Gayle 14, Michael Gayle 11


David Aliu – 34 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 4/5 3-pointers and 8/11 from the free-throw line.
The Giants power forward got his team off to a quick start with two 3-pointers in the opening two minutes and continued his hot shooting throughout the game on his way to a game-high 34 points. He scored 19 points in the second half as he led his side to their first victory of the season.

Play of the game

David Watts had two highlight plays in the second half which had the fans at Wright Robinson off their feet. The first came after the visitors had gone on a 9-0 run late in the third quarter to cut the lead to four. After a missed 3-pointer from the Giants Yorrick Williams; Watts swooped in unnoticed from the left wing and unleashed a thunderous putback slam dunk over the unsuspecting Knights defenders. The second play triggered a 10-0 run for the Giants midway through the 4th period to put the result beyond doubt. He caught the ball on the right-hand side of the court and recognised that he was matched up against the undersized Martyn Gayle. As Gayle called for help Watts spun baseline, took a dribble and powered home a vicious two-handed jam for his second highlight play of the game.

Next up

Manchester Giants away at Glasgow Rocks, Sunday 3rd November, Emirates Arena, 5:00pm tip-off

Birmingham Knights at home to London Lions, Saturday 9th November, North Solihull Sports Centre, 7:30pm tip-off

Mersey Tigers: Has the roar become a faint growl?

Despite the social media furore that emanated after the announcement of Mersey Tigers’ cut from the BBL just a couple of weeks ago, the matter is still bubbling under the surface.

For all intents and purposes, the decision has been made and Liverpool and the rest of Merseyside will not be represented by a professional side in the British Basketball League. The end.

However, there has been a rallying call through the Twitter account “Bring Back The Tigers” (@BBTheTigers), and the issue hasn’t been completely forgotten about.

A number of former Mersey players have been vocal about what has transpired, either through social media or with the occasional offering to sites, such as ourselves, who have been watching the story unfold.

Last year’s captain Gael Hulsen expressed his sadness and disappointment shortly after the news broke to, whilst this week fans’ favourite, Chris Bigley, spoke to TUB about both his frustration with the manner in which the cut from the BBL was delivered, but also gave a huge amount of gratitude to the supporters who stuck by the side during such a difficult season.

David Aliu, the former Tiger who made the decision to move on to last year’s returning Manchester Giants, spoke to about how vital a role having a professional side in his home city has been, and what the implications may mean in the future now it has lost that.

“Being from Liverpool, and seeing over the years the struggle of having nowhere to play basketball – no [local top level] teams to go watch apart from Chester Jets and Manchester Giants – I think the city has lost a huge opportunity for youngsters to develop, and see first hand, the talent from their city and be able to witness top tier games; it’s a really sad thing to see happen,” said Aliu.

He went on to convey his reaction at the news, which was delivered in eleven words from the BBL: “It was a shock to me as [as far as the announcement to remove Mersey Tigers from the BBL], as far as I was aware, they [Mersey Tigers] were going to continue to play this upcoming season.

“I don’t know if they will be able to come back from this situation,” believes the Liverpudlian forward.

“As someone who is from Liverpool, and has previously been a part of it, I hope and pray that they can come back at some point.

“At one time, we had a really good fanbase, it was developing, all going in the right direction, and it’s such a shame to see all that work come undone over these last few months.”

Another insight came from Nathan Schall, who joined Mersey midway through their winless season, after not being able to find a regular starting place with his own hometown team of the Giants, but is clear on the point that a professional team should reside in Merseyside.

“We should be able to have a sustainable team in Liverpool; I think there is a market for it,” said Schall at the recent NBA 3X event in Manchester.

“I, personally, feel that, with the Tigers, maybe something should have been done earlier, an intervention earlier when it was on a downward path, rather than let them have to struggle themselves to get out of a hole. I’d like to see a Liverpool team come back, but I think they need to rejuvenate themselves, start from the bottom and work their way back up.”

That is the hope for Mersey Tigers right now, who are carrying on regardless working on a planned Summer Camp in mid-August, and their planned academy programmes, as well as their recent tie-in with EBL Division Four side, Liverpool Basketball Club.

Finally, one key part of all the debate that surrounds what has gone on is the idea of where basketball stands nationally and how the sport is developing on a number of levels. Sam Neter at Hoospfix highlighted the matter earlier this week looking at the Olympic legacy one year on, but Aliu also pointed out separately that although steps are being taken (which perhaps could have helped this situation be avoided had they been taken a number of years ago), the end-of-year school report seems to say something along the lines of “Not yet working to maximum potential”.

“First and foremost for me, a lot of arenas need to be on a certain level in regards to playing facilities, at the same time, they are going in the right direction as getting teams involved. The more teams there are involved, in different places of the country, it is only going to grow as a sport and increase the fanbase.”

“It is going in the right direction with new sides coming in, but there are still things that need to be changed.”

  • Let us know what your thoughts are regarding Mersey Tigers’ removal from the BBL. Is it time to turn our backs and look to the future? Or would you like to see Mersey return at some point in the future? Comment below or tweet us at @uk_sportsfans

Giants Aliu feeling the frustration during seven game losing streak

Two wins in their opening two games gave the Manchester Giants a perfect start to life back in the BBL. But one win out of their next 12, has left the Giants second from bottom on just six points and sidelined forward, David Aliu, feeling discouraged about his sides current plight.

“We can’t string together a solid 40 minutes. We have mental lapses of three minutes and that can be the difference and 10 points and we end up losing the game,” said Aliu in his assessment of his new club.

“It’s frustrating because it’s not nice to sit there and watch a game that you know you could have an impact on whether you win or lose. It’s frustrating for me but it’s frustrating for everybody else because we’ll have a few weeks of good practice as a team, everyone’s together and we look forward to playing the next game and then one person goes down or another person goes down and it’s a bit of a setback.”

Former Mersey Tiger, Aliu, has been unable to help his team since sustaining an ankle injury against Cheshire in mid-November but is hopeful of a return to action this Friday when the Giants host the Durham Wildcats.

“I’m going to start practising again on Monday and I’ll be able to play again on Friday.

“It’s a bit of a bad sprain, nothing too much. I’ve been out two weeks now and on Monday it’ll be coming up to three weeks. I’ll be fine on Monday I think.”

Giants Head Coach, Jeff Jones, openly stated after the 83-71 Surrey Heat defeat on Saturday that he will be looking to recruit former Manchester Magic forward, Nick George, to give his side some experience and an added spark following Georges release from Swiss side, Lugano Tigers, due to injury.

Aliu believes that 30 year old George could be just the piece to help the Giants reach their season goal of the play-offs

“With this being the first year back in the league, it’s a building process (and) we’re taking gradual steps. The plan hasn’t changed: compete night in and night out and compete for a play-off place.

“Nick (George) will bring a lot of experience (and) athleticism. Nick’s a very aggressive player and an athletic player, so he’ll bring us a completely different dynamic to what we have now. Now, we have a lot of great three point shooters and a few inside players. Nick will breach the difference between inside and out hopefully.”

The Manchester Giants have a chance to get their season back on track when they face the Durham Wildcats at the Wright Robinson College on Friday 7th December.

Manchester Giants keep it in the family as they announce six signings

The Manchester Giants, the BBL’s newest addition to the top tier of British basketball, have tonight released news of a number of new signings ahead of their season opener on Friday 21st September.

The news was revealed on the Giants official Twitter feed (@ManchesterGiant) on the eve of their pre-season match-up with the Rossendale Raptors.

Forward, David Aliu, headlines the Giants new recruits which also include a contingent of former Manchester Magic players.

Aliu, 31, won a domestic treble with the Mersey Tigers in 2010 but was one of the few who stayed at the club during last years difficult campaign that saw the team finish second from bottom.
Aliu averaged 13.8ppg and 6.5rpg in 27 games.

Also on the Manchester books are former Giants player and now Head Coach, Jeff Jones’ sons – Callum and James, former Worcester Wolves big man David Watts, forward Nathan Schall and ex-MK Lion, Stefan Gill, all former players for the Manchester Magic, previously coached by the Giants Jeff Jones.

The Giants have made strong signings for the 2012/13 season, with almost every player having experience in both the BBL and a Jeff Jones system. The club are still believed to be working on deals to keep Mike Bernard and Nick George in Manchester for the new season.

Stats courtesy of