Storm face Birmingham test in last home game of the year!

07/12/2023

GAME PREVIEW
Saturday 9th December - 7.00pm tip off
Hemel Storm vs City of Birmingham Rockets, NBL Division One

PRECEDED BY 
Hemel Storm Women vs Cobham Cobras - 4.00pm tip off, NBL Division Two Women

Festivities commence at the StormDome this week, as City of Birmingham Rockets are the visitors. The newly promoted side will be the final travelling side to embark on the StormDome this calendar year, which has played host to a number of thrilling ties and seen history be made in 2023, as Storm completed an unbeaten campaign and claimed 4 major honours - with an overall record of 33 wins and only 5 losses; and just 1 defeat in front of their own fans. 

Birmingham, meanwhile, will be keen to spoil Storm’s fun, as they look to take them down in their first ever league meeting. They achieved promotion from Division 2 North last year, losing only 1 league game to secure their spot in Division 1 and also claiming the playoff title with a win in Manchester over St Helen Saints. They have already made an impression in their first term in the big time, playing an exciting brand of basketball that has led them to 4 early victories, including a memorable triple-overtime triumph over Bradford Dragons, scoring 131 points in the process.

Their roster provides a strong mixture of experience and energetic youth, led by Portuguese coach Nuno Rodrigues and their summer saw them retain a solid core of players that got them their promotion, while making smart additions to enhance their side and ensure they will play a part in moulding the trajectory of this eye-catching Division 1 season. Last year's Division 2 MVP Martyn Gayle will be a threat, after an impressive 22/23 campaign which also saw him pick up the Division 2 Coach of the Year award, as he took on the consuming role of Player-Coach, linchpinning their impressive domination of Division 2 North. The Rockets success so far this season has often revolved around the availability of a number of key men; none more so than ex-BBL veteran Sam Toluwase. The Brit sits third in the leading league scorers and has posted some staggering numbers already this year, hitting 45 points and 15 rebounds in another overtime win at the hands of Nottingham Hoods and is currently shooting an impressive 48% from beyond the arc. He will be a crucial man for the Rockets who will hope to be able to call upon him if fully fit, after missing their clash with Essex Rebels and only playing 25 minutes in last week’s loss to Elite, presumably due to injury.

Another key man troubled by injuries is familiar face Orlan Jackman, who was last seen at Worthing Thunder last season, and has featured intermittently for Birmingham this year, most notably with 34 points in that dramatic victory over Bradford. If available, perhaps the 35 year-old will look to be the Scrooge to Storm’s Christmas party, using his experience and wily competitive abilities to haunt the Storm once more with his capability to stretch the floor and bullish inside presence. For all of their brains and BBL experience, the Rockets also have the energy to match, with Ronald ‘Air’ Iberia providing athleticism and speed along with guard Kayne King who is also more than capable of flustering the Storm with his on-court fire and intensity. The Rockets will provide a well-rounded test for the Storm, and will be determined to send a statement that they belong in the NBL’s top league by taking down a household name in the Storm. 

Storm require a bounceback performance to warm their Christmassy crowd, after a fifth loss of the season at the hands of Reading Rockets last Saturday. On that occasion, it was a sluggish start and a poor shooting performance which cost them, with a number of key faces failing to show up when needed to take down an impressive Reading side. Hakeem Sylla will be vital in Storm’s efforts this week, as they look to take their first win in the month of December, and his physicality will be key in suppressing the inside threat of a strong Birmingham side. Sylla has been Storm’s main man this year, leading the league in efficiency and his 22.1 points per game ranks just 5th in the league; but he will need some help from fellow big man Brayden Inger, with the Kiwi keen to provide a game-changing performance after his strong start to the season has fizzled out with some weaker showings in recent weeks.

American Seth Swalve has also had an indifferent start to the campaign, with some dazzling shooting performances, interjected with some more frustrating displays where he has struggled to affect the game and show his true quality. Storm will also need guard Sam Newman to regain his best form with a set of displays more akin to what we became used to seeing last year, if Storm are to end the year on a high and carry some momentum into the second half of the season, with just 1 game to go before the Christmas break after this weekend. If the home side can find some offensive flow to pair with their improving high-intensity defence, they should go into this tie as favourites, with Birmingham also reeling after a loss to 11th placed London Elite at the weekend; but they can’t afford to underestimate their opponents and must start to consistently find some wins, as the season is now in full flow and they don’t want to leave themselves too much work to do next year, as time is sure to soon run away with them.

Get yourself down to the StormDome for some festive fun this Saturday to support the boys. The atmosphere of the home crowd has been crucial to Storm’s success this year so let’s finish it off louder than ever! Tickets available on our website at www.stormbasketball.net, and make sure you bring your favourite Christmas jumper as we will be hosting a Christmas jumper competition to really get you in the Christmas spirit!

If you can get down earlier on Saturday you can also witness a piece of Storm history being made when our women's team take to the StormDome floor for the first time. A huge game for them as they take on top of the league Cobham Cobras. This game tips off at 4pm. Entry to this women's game is free, so it won't cost you any more christmas coins to come and support them!

Written by Callum Humphrey

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