CHESHIRE PHOENIX make a belated start to the 2017/18 BBL Championship season when they host Surrey Scorchers on Sunday.
A fixture-free opening weekend meant the Nix players and coaching staff could only watch as their league rivals contested double-headers over a high-scoring weekend.
Head coach Ben Thomas kept a keen eye on the weekend’s action, with specific interest in the Scorchers’ initial clashes.
And, having analysed Sunday’s opponents, Thomas believes the Nix can make a winning start to the campaign.
He said: “We’ve looked at all of the videos and match data to assess Surrey’s strengths on the court.
“They started with an impressive 81-78 win at Sheffield, before losing to a strong London side two days later.
“Obviously with us not playing last weekend we may not be as match sharp as other league teams, which could be a bit of a disadvantage to us on Sunday.
“But on the flip side, this being our first game can be a positive thing because Surrey have no idea what to expect from us as a team.
“We’ve seen them in action but they haven’t seen us and that could work in our favour.
“I was impressed with Surrey’s attacking qualities and we’ll set up against them with a game plan which we believe can win us the match.”
After a tumultuous 2016/17 campaign, which saw Colin O’Reilly and then Robbie Peers vacate the Nix coach’s role, Thomas was appointed in May.
After finishing 10th last term, Thomas has since assembled a strong squad, which includes Raheem May-Thompson, that, he believes, is capable of pushing for the play-offs this term.
He added: “The top eight has to be the target this year. The championship is so unpredictable and every team is capable of taking points from every game of the season.
“The likes of Surrey and ourselves will be pushing for those play-off places and it’s up to us to show that we can get there.
“I think that will only improve with the more games we play and that togetherness will pay dividends.
“We’re strong right now and at full-strength for our first home game of the season, which hopefully can give us an early win.”
Absent from both of the pre-season defeats to Plymouth Raiders, fit-again Nix guard Robert Sandoval is in contention to start against Surrey this weekend.
BBL Championship action gets back underway tonight as Leicester Riders host Bristol Flyers, Manchester Giants visit London Lions, Newcastle Eagles host Glasgow Rocks, while Leeds Force go to Sheffield Sharks.
On Sunday Plymouth host Leeds and Newcastle go to Manchester.
See full story in the Chester Leader