Solent’s Ian Smith (left) has “taken the league by storm” according to his captain Elliot Dadds
Non-league Solent Kestrels can showcase the National League in Sunday’s BBL Trophy final, says coach Matt Guymon.
Semi-professional Solent, who beat BBL teams London Lions and Bristol on their way to the final, have already won NBL Division One.
“I feel like the NBL is such a great league – there’s a lot of talent and it’s very well coached. We’re flying the flag for the NBL,” said Guymon.
Solent are the first non-BBL team to play in a top flight final.
The Kestrels players have put in extra training sessions this week, in some cases booking time off work.
“We wanted to be able to focus totally on the task in hand,” said Guymon. “We’re very excited for the Trophy opportunity.”
The Kestrels were formed as a junior club by Matt’s mother and father, Bev and Jim Guymon, who wanted somewhere for their son to play competitive basketball. Jim had played in the BBL for the Solent Stars team in the 1980s and coached the BBL’s Thames Valley franchise.
The team’s most famous former player is Great Britain Olympian and NBA player Joel Freeland, who was coached at the club before before leaving to join the development programme at Gran Canaria.
Newcastle’s Trophy wins
- 2005: bt Brighton
- 2006: bt Leicester
- 2009: bt Guildford
- 2010: bt Cheshire
- 2012: bt Plymouth
- 2015: bt Leicester
Opponents Newcastle are the most successful team in the BBL Trophy, reaching 11 finals and winning six of them in the past 20 years under BBL coaching legend Fab Flournoy, now an NBA assistant coach at the Toronto Raptors.
“We just look at it as the first finals for the 2020 team,” said Ian Macleod, an assistant coach on the team that won a clean sweep of all four BBL titles in 2014-15. “It’s not about continuing the success – it’s more about almost re-inventing ourselves.
“I don’t think we’ll be fooled by what league they’re in – they’ve got a BBL budget and they’re a BBL set-up. They’re just not in the BBL.”
Newcastle’s Rahmon Fletcher has twice been named BBL Most Valuable Player
Kestrels added former Leicester forward TrayVonn Wright to their team for their Trophy campaign – two of this three previous finals in the competition were against Newcastle.
Kestrels captain Elliot Dadds said: “He’s been up against a number of their guys before so he knows what their strengths are. He’s been a great pickup for us – he’s got a lot of experience.”
Guymon, who has worked with Newcastle boss Macleod on national team programmes, added: “Newcastle are a historic programme and they’ve been the gold standard for some time. You look at their roster and they’re extremely talented.”