Some say that it’s Fat Bottomed Girls that make the Rocking world go round, but after 16 years of playing professional basketball in the British Basketball League (BBL) what Kind of Magic has kept us Rockin’?
Currently the Glasgow Rocks are Scotland’s only professional basketball team, but unlike their predecessors (Glasgow Rangers and Murray Livingstone) they have proven to have the staying power to remain at the top level of the British game.
Formed back in the summer of ’98, the Edinburgh Rocks began their legacy, as the longest serving club to play exclusively in the country’s premiere basketball league.
Meadowbank Arena, in Edinburgh, was where the Rocks called home for the first four seasons of their BBL campaign. The Rocks made their début under the command of American coach Jim Brandon and finished the season ninth in the 13-team competition, with an encouraging 12-24 record. The following year saw the BBL split into two conferences, with the Edinburgh Rocks finishing 3rd in the Northern Conference, qualifying them for the play-offs. The Rocks were successful in defeating Thames Valley Tigers (68-64) in the play-off quarter-finals before they crumbled at the all-conquering hands of Manchester Magic, 88-84 in the semi-finals.
Brandon moved on to be replaced by Greg Lockeridge the following season, but poor performances saw the Rocks finish bottom of the Northern Conference, with veteran Iain McLean taking over as stand-in player-coach.
The 2002/03 season signaled an all change for the Rocks. American coach Kevin Wall led the re-branded Scottish Rocks at the new Braehead Arena in Glasgow. The Rocks first season at Braehead saw them lift their first piece of silverware, winning the BBL play-off finals with a 83-76 victory over the Brighton Bears. The BBL Cup final was reached the following two seasons, with the Sheffield Sharks and Brighton Bears denying the Rocks any chance of silverware.
The departure of Coach Wall saw the arrival of former Bears assistant coach Steve Swanson, who guided the club to three major finals. The 2005/06 campaign saw the Rocks record their highest finishing position, as they took second place in the league behind the Newcastle Eagles. The play-off final saw the Rocks and Eagles meet, with the Rocks defeated 83-68. The two sides met again in the following seasons final, with Newcastle continuing to deny the Rocks any silverware, winning 95-82. The same year Guildford Heat also denied the Rocks from winning the BBL Cup final, with a narrow 81-78 win.
Swanson’s departure to college basketball brought the arrival of the first German coach to the league. Thorsten Leibenath stayed with the club only a year before moving back to Germany to become head coach of the Giessen 46ers. This paved the way for Rocks current player/coach Sterling Davis. Davis led the club to a fifth place finish in the 2007/08 season, with an 18-15 record and a place in the BBL cup final. The 2008/09 season saw the Rocks on form, leading the league table at the half way point. But a devastating injury to player Blake Shelton sent the Rocks spiraling into a losing season, where they were ousted in the first round of the play-offs. The 2009/10 season saw Sterling take change for the fourth season leading the club to a third place league finish, with a 23-13 record. The Rocks advanced to the Play-off Final, on the back of some outstanding game performances, only to lose to the Everton Tigers 80-72. The start of the 2010-11 season brought big changes to team personnel. Returning from the team that took them into the BBL Play-off Final were Mike Copeland, Sterling Davis and Scott Russell. With the departure of Michael Crowell, Gareth Murray, Mike MacGregor, Steve Parillon, Jessie Sapp, and Rob Yanders, there was a lot of rebuilding to do. This left little time for the much changed team to prepare properly before playing in competition. However this paved the way for American point guard Brice Fantazia fresh out of Culver Stockton, French star Moses Mubarak,league veteran Ej Harrison and power forward Nick Livas. To add to this Michael Kingma from the Australian pro league and Scottish rookies Jack Burgess and Rory Petrie. The team where knocked out in the first round of the playoffs after a tough home loss to the Sharks after a great initial away win.
The 2011/12 season the beginning of a re-building phase within the franchise. The team was able to bring back veteran Ej Harrison, who has gone on to be somewhat of a Rocks legend, . The team brought in American Mychal Green and DeAundre Cranston. To fill the other spots they signed Andy Wedemire from Canada, Danny Huffor, Jonny Bunyan and obtained the services of Gareth Murray once more. The team ended the season in 6th place losing to the Raiders in the first round of the Playoffs.
The 2012/13 season saw a transformation of sorts for the franchise, as they made the move to the brand new Emirates Arena, situated in the East End of Glasgow. Games were/are played in both the Main Arena and the smaller Sports Hall. Season 2012/13 was a successful season with the team finishing 3rd in the league, but then losing out in the 1st round of the Playoffs to Plymouth after enduring some ill timed injuries during the post-season. The Rocks were hoping to build on the success of the 2012/13 season, however, what followed was quite the opposite.
Season 2013/14 was a horrible season for The Rocks. Former Cheshire guard Chez Marks was among several high profile signings made before the season started along with Daniel Northern and Fran Urli. Marks left midway through the season to be replaced by former GB under 20 player Alex Marcotullio. Antonio Di Maria also left before the season ended to be replaced by Canadian swingman Chris Johnson. The highlight of the season was reaching the BBL Trophy Final, played at the Emirates Arena, where the Rocks eventually lost out to the Worcester Wolves 83-76. The Rocks finished 10th in the league, above only Birmingham and Surrey. At the end of the season it was announced that EJ Harrison was to retire and the hunt for a new point guard began.
The Rocks vowed to never have a season like the 2013/14 season again. The biggest signing the Rocks made over the summer was that of GB Captain and Scottish born player, Kieron Achara. The Rocks also brought in ex NBA guard Jajuan Smith, ex Rock Danny Huffor, England star Tayo Ogedengbe, US players Tommy Freeman and Paul Egwuonwu as well as signing local talents Fraser Glass Jonny Bunyan and Dale Grieve. The Rocks also managed to obtain the services of Ali Fraser that season, however, a consistent knee injury prevented Fraser from playing during the 2014/15 season. Jajuan Smith was sent home mid-way through the season due to disciplinary reasons, and the Rocks brought in Reggie Middleton to take over the point guard reigns, The Rocks improved to a 5th place finish, only to fall short in the first round of the playoffs to the Cheshire Phoenix. The Rocks made it to the BBL Cup Final which was played in Birmingham in January, however, old time rivals Newcastle Eagles were too good on the night taking the honors.
The 2015/16 season saw the Rocks overhaul the squad once again, this time going for youth and a hope to be able to bring a core of players back for the 2016/17 season. Achara signed a 2 year deal with the team with Jonny Bunyan coming back for his 5th season. Sterling Davis officially retired from playing and signed on as Head Coach for the 2015/16 season. The Rocks picked up 3 US players including Marcus Ware, Riley Grabau and Warren Gillis. The squad is rounded off with BBL up and comer Will Hall, Croatian sensation Armin Mazic, Austrian Adam Hammerschmidt, rookie Jordan Clarke and Bantu Burroughs.
It’s hard to predict what will happen this season, but no matter what happens, I’m sure that We Will Rock You.