Sheffield Sharks to 're-examine' roster depth after BBL Cup quarter-final exit to Caledonia Gladiators

Sheffield Sharks’ resolve to operate with a streamlined roster is set to be tested after an under-strength team crashed out of the BBL Cup to Caledonia Gladiators on Sunday.

Sharks, who only had eight players getting minutes due to the absence of two key scorers, fell 77-68 to Caledonia Gladiators at Ponds Forge.

The quarter-final exit means their run without appearing in one of British basketball’s three major finals will stretch into the depths of a seventh season, provided they can battle their way to a showpiece occasion in either the BBL Trophy or the end-of-season play-offs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With a level record of six wins and six defeats in the Championship they are at least on course to extend their sequence of qualifying for the play-offs in each of the last 27 seasons.

Javion Ogunyemi scores two of his 20 points for Sheffield Sharks against Caledonia Gladiators. (Picture: Adam Bates)Javion Ogunyemi scores two of his 20 points for Sheffield Sharks against Caledonia Gladiators. (Picture: Adam Bates)
Javion Ogunyemi scores two of his 20 points for Sheffield Sharks against Caledonia Gladiators. (Picture: Adam Bates)

But how far they can go will depend on the strength and depth of their roster.

Atiba Lyons told The Yorkshire Post two weeks ago he signed only 10 players for the season with 12 permitted on a roster, because they wanted to prioritise bringing players back, which traditionally costs more money.

Sharks re-signed six players and added four new recruits.

But such a threadbare operation leaves a squad vulnerable to situations like the one they found themselves in on Sunday, with Kipper Nichols sidelined through illness, Sa’eed Nelson out with a calf strain and Nate Montgomery unavailable for selection.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Rodney Glasgow led the fightback. (Picture: Adam Bates)Rodney Glasgow led the fightback. (Picture: Adam Bates)
Rodney Glasgow led the fightback. (Picture: Adam Bates)

It meant only eight players took to the court. The Gladiators, by contrast, have spent more money on their roster this season, with new owners coming in, rebranding the former Glasgow Rocks, and assembling a deeper squad of impact players.

It is the new reality of a British league that has fresh money coming into it from American investors 777 Partners and the trickle down effect of big-spending London Lions attracting better players into the league to help them compete in European competition.

Were Sheffield to go into the player market, the pool is restricted by the fact they have already reached the five-import maximum, meaning they would be shopping for British players.

“We don’t just want to add numbers for the sake of it,” said owner Yuri Matischen.

Channel Banks takes a shot for Sharks against Caledonia (Picture: Adam Bates)Channel Banks takes a shot for Sharks against Caledonia (Picture: Adam Bates)
Channel Banks takes a shot for Sharks against Caledonia (Picture: Adam Bates)

“They have to add quality for the long term.”

Their thriving junior programme could provide an answer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Jamie Bernard, a 16-year-old from Sheffield who has come through the Sharks system, was named as the ninth man on the bench on Sunday. Even though he didn’t take to the court, it will have been an invaluable experience for him being around the first-team squad on a game day.

There were some bright spots to a game that Caledonia took control of midway through the first quarter.

Jordan Ratinho was 100 per cent from three-point land in the first half and played all 40 minutes while Javion Ogunyemi had a Sharks-best 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Channel Banks Jnr added 15 points.

But without two of their primary scorers in Nichols and Nelson it was always going to be a tough ask to slow a Gladiators team on the rise.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Nevertheless Sharks hung in, captain Rodney Glasgow Jnr leading the fight back from 29 points down at one stage to within nine at the end on the back of a 20-0 run.

"We showed a lot of fight and made it a game at the end but it’s a little bit disappointing the way we started,” said Lyons. “That was down to preparation, with Kipper being out it threw us off a little bit.”

Asked if the lack of players will change his plans on the depth of his roster, Lyons replied: "Absolutely, you never want to get caught out missing two starters in a key game like this, so we have to re-examine that.”