Sport

Year in review 2012: Manchester Giants – Rollercoaster start for Britain’s newest basketball franchise

By Phil Jones

As the year comes to an end, British basketball’s newest franchise have enjoyed a rollercoaster start to life in the BBL. 

January

A consortium – headed up by former Giants player and coach, Jeff Jones – submitted their application to join the country’s top basketball division, the British Basketball League.

After folding in 2001, the city’s basketball representation had come in the form of the Manchester Magic, also led by Jones, in the English Basketball League.

There was no official word from the club other than tweeting: “BBL application submitted! Fingers crossed for good outcome.”

Original plans were set out to use a temporary sports hall type facility in their first season, before moving into a small arena in the re-development around the Etihad Stadium.

February – May

Those fingers were remaining crossed for months on end as the BBL deliberated on the club’s application to join the league.

June

The BBL announced the club’s application had been successful, and the resurrected club would return to top flight basketball in the 2012-13 season.

Officials from the BBL were clearly happy to see the return of one of the league’s most iconic franchises.

They released a statement saying: “The move marks a rebirth of a team with a successful and long history in Manchester.

“People behind the club hope that success on the court will be reflected in a successful, sustainable, community-based organisation off the court.”

And coach Jones could not contain his joy at the announcement: “I am absolutely delighted to be back coaching the Manchester Giants.

“It has been a long-term ambition of mine to bring a professional basketball franchise back to Manchester and we’re aiming to hit the ground running.”

The club confirmed they would play their home games at the 900-capacity Wright Robinson Sports Village in East Gorton, and the team would be built around the city’s home-grown talent.

July

Jones began the hard work of assembling a team capable of challenging in the BBL with just under three months to work with.

August

The club launched their website with the mission statement:

Our goal, through commitment, passion and growth, is to become the most successful professional British Basketball club in Europe. By being responsible and sustainable in everything we do we will develop and protect the brand of THE MANCHESTER GIANTS and ensure financial stability and therefore continued success on the court.

The Manchester Giants will be a socially responsible partner to the communities of Greater Manchester.

And a vision:

GGrow – become the best in all endeavours

I Innovate – Be a leader in everything we do

AAccessible – be open to everyone to participate

N Non-stop – be relentless and tireless in our efforts

T Team – working together with all stakeholders

SSuccess – on and off the court

Along with the website, the Manchester Giants Community Foundation was announced, aiming to help the club and its players work with young people and schools across Manchester.

Forward, David ‘Tintin’ Watts (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/12106019-manchester-giants-star-david-tintin-watts-making-mark-community-school-basketball-c), was also announced as the Giants’ first signing, leaving Worcester Wolves and returning to the city where he learned his basketball.

September

Coach Jones was busy in the transfer market, building a roster fitting of the iconic Manchester Giants franchise.

Guards Stefan Gill (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/17116785-meeting-manchesters-giants-stefan-gill-chats-family-mans-life-jazz-music-and-rejoin), Jack Minister, Adam Slater and his sons James and Callum were brought in, alongside forwards David Aliu and Nathan Schall.

Added later in the month were centres Mike Bernard and Morakinyo Williams, promising young guard Devan Bailey.

Jones’ hard work paid off, the Giants making a triumphant return to BBL action (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/21095552-theyre-back-manchester-giants-face-london-lions-british-basketball-league-after-11-) with two home wins in their first two games.

James Jones starred in both victories, dropping a game-high 29 points in the nail-biting 85-84 win over London Lions, and a further 27 in beating Sheffield Sharks 99-87.

The side’s first loss came on the road, going down 92-80 at Worcester Wolves, as former Wolf Watts led the team with 20 points.

P 3 W 2 L 1

October

The reality of life back with the big boys started to take hold in October, winning just one game from four.

September’s loss to Worcester was followed by a tense 82-91 home defeat to defending BBL champions Newcastle Eagles (http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/06105877-manchester-giants-star-david-watts-urges-consistency-after-gutsy-display-defeat-new).

The Giants trailed by 15 points at half time before getting back to within a point of the visitors in the final period, but could not close out the win.

Things got worse with a 105-74 blow-out on the road to Plymouth raiders before Glasgow Rocks dumped them out of the BBL Cup, winning 88-85 in Scotland.

But an emphatic 102-51 home win over the struggling Mersey Tigers (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/21106192-just-another-game-no-sentiment-david-aliu-manchester-giants-destroy-mersey-tigers) finished the month in style.

P 4 W 1 L 3

November

The month began with new signing Ben Eaves making his debut in the agonising 83-86 to Plymouth Raiders at home (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/03116516-lots-positives-plymouth-raiders-defeat-says-manchester-giants-david-watts).

Away form continued to prove a problem, with a 64-69 loss at Durham Wildcats followed by a 76-96 demolition by Newcastle Eagles (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/10116668-job-alert-manchester-giants-coach-jeff-jones-desperate-strengthen-squad-after-heavy).

A tough run of games continued at home against Leicester Riders, with Rob Paternostro’s men returning to the midlands with a 71-82 win under their belts (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/17116814-manchester-giants-close-new-signing-after-bbl-loss-hands-leicester-riders-despite-f).

Confidence was low after eight losses in nine games, and a buzzer-beating three pointer from Chez Marks condemned the team to a 83-81 defeat at Cheshire Phoenix (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/19116827-heartbreaking-loss-cheshire-jets-snatch-buzzer-beater-win-and-punish-struggling-man).

A miserable month was completed with another defeat, going down 77-83 to the Glasgow Rocks in front of their home fans.

P 6 W 0 L 6

December

Coach Jones had spoken of his desire to end the year with an even win-loss record in the BBL.

But a further defeat, 83-71 at Surrey Heat (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/03127130-get-monkey-our-back-manchester-giants-guard-stefan-gill-insists-teams-fortunes-need), put pay to those hopes as the Giants losing run stretched to seven games.

Fortunes turned around in the run up to Christmas though with two consecutive home wins.

Devan Bailey continued his impressive run of form against Durham Wildcats, starring with 20 points as the home side nearly conspired to lose the game, but eventually ran out 82-79 winners (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/08127254-half-time-blast-coach-jeff-jones-drives-manchester-giants-bbl-victory-over-durham-w).

And Eaves’ best night in a Giants shirt, scoring 20 and snaffling 15 rebounds, led the side to an 85-83 win over North West rivals Cheshire Phoenix (link: http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/15127412-manchester-giants-coach-jeff-jones-wants-ben-eaves-consistency-after-starring-chesh).

The Giants still have three games to play in 2012 and will go in search of their first road win against Newcastle Eagles, Mersey Tigers and Sheffield Sharks on December 21, 28 and 30 respectively.

Jones hopes to have the signing of former Great Britain international Nick George wrapped up and get him on the floor by the New Year.

While Stuart Thomson has been brought in give David Watts more chance of a break after the forward played a key role in the first half of the season.

P 3 W 2 L 1

Current league position: 10th

Image courtesy of Jack Hinds Photography, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles