Despite having the lowest budget in the BBL, despite a raft of niggling injuries and despite numerous early-season frustrations, the Giants’ season looks to be back on track.
After lapses in concentration cost them games against mediocre opposition – including a first-round BBL Cup loss against Leeds Force – head coach Jeff Jones has managed to transform his team into a tighter, altogether more efficient unit.
On a three-game winning streak the Giants now face back-to-back away games, against Worcester Wolves on Friday and Durham Wildcats on Sunday. Just don’t put it to coach Jones his team might be underdogs.
“Sure we have the lowest budget in the league, and yeah Worcester are in the top two teams in the country,” Jones told MM.
“But make no mistake about it, we go into each and every game thinking we’ll win.
“I know Worcester are going to be up for it and ready to go, but so will we. We have to make sure we try and play the way we’re capable of playing to be in with a chance in the fourth quarter.
“It would be a massive win for us on the road, that’s for sure, but we’re going to go for it.”
The Giants’ biggest result of the season so far came against the Wolves at home but rather than give them a boost, they followed the upset with a devastating three-game losing streak from which they’ve only just recovered.
Part of the problem was they lacked on-court leadership after captain James Jones departed for Canada, but brother Callum has assumed the role and grown into it in recent weeks, says their father, also the team’s coach.
“From a leadership perspective Callum in particular has really stepped up and taken on that role.
“It’s really helped us to have two on-court leaders, the other one being Stefan Gill, who play a lot of minutes.
“And not just that, but Callum’s really leading by example, too. He’s become a facilitator for how we want to play. He’s distributing the ball really well and opens up the court for us, allowing others to shine.”
Although the Giants’ ability to maintain a winning record despite having the league’s smallest payroll makes for a great Cinderella story, it does nothing for coach Jones’ blood pressure.
But a tremendous amount of credit has to go the veteran play-caller, whose tactical nous has allowed the team to circumvent a loss of physicality when Mike Bernard went down with a hip knock.
“Ultimately it’s my responsibility to come up with some schemes that work for us, and maximise our strengths for these players,” said Jones.
“It’s my job is to make this as tough to score against us as possible. It’s all about fitting the style of play around the personnel you’ve got to take advantage of what you do have.”
With Bernard now back, a plethora of game-plan options have now opened up for Jones, who admits his side’s versatility is one of their major strengths.
Although by no means guaranteed victory, wins against two sides they’ve already beaten this year would see the Giants post a 7-3 record, almost unthinkable a month ago.
But for now coach Jones is happy for his team to focus on the basics. All season his mantra’s been ‘be tough to beat at home, nick some away, progress each week’.
If his team continue to do so this year could be a vintage one for the Giants.
Main image courtesy of Jack Hinds, with thanks.