Smith set to return for Thunder

Gary Smith.
Gary Smith.

WORTHING Thunder will be out for revenge on Saturday when they host London Leopards at Worthing Leisure Centre, as coach Gary Smith is set to return from illness.

Smith is thrilled to return this weekend and said: “It will almost feel weird in a way, but I’ve missed being on the bench, and I’m really looking forward to continuing on with the season.

“James Brame has done a fantastic job while I’ve been out, and the team has responded well to him, so I am very happy.”

Keen to move on, Smith is aware of the danger that Leopards face. They dumped an injury-hit Thunder side out of the National Trophy last Sunday. Thunder were without Vinnie Darpino and Liam Mitchell for that encounter. While the latter is still day-to-day, Darpino will definitely miss Saturday’s game due to a pulled hamstring.

Thunder’s returning coach has singled out two players that his side must stop in order to maintain a solid position near the top of the EBL Division 1 table. He said: “Ousman Krubally and Vernon Teel are excellent basketball players, who can easily play in the BBL, so we have to keep them as quiet as we can, but Leopards are more than a two-man team. They also have a great three-point threat in John Lister and everyone on the team contributes.

“We need to limit our turnovers and be smarter with the basketball. We can beat any team in the league if we play to our strengths and stay focused.”

Thunder captain and assistant coach James Brame now returns to his usual post of assisting Smith, while contributing valuable minutes off the bench. Brame was glad to gain some coaching experience, but feels Smith’s return could not have come at a better time.

He said: “It was great coaching and leading the training sessions, but I think I am needed more on the court now, due to the injuries we have, so Gary’s return couldn’t come at a better time in honesty, so I’m definitely happy to be the player/assistant again.”

With Darpino and Mitchell out last week, one player who gained precious court time was ex-Thunder junior Jack Sunderland. The youngster saw extra minutes last weekend and feels that he is growing in confidence to bring more to the team.

He said: “I definitely feel good getting extra minutes.

“It makes me feel more of a member of the team and shows that you can achieve something from working hard in practice, and of course the more you play, the more confidence you are going to gain, and makes me feel that I can bring something to the team in future games.”

Worthing’s game against London Leopards will tip-off at 7.30pm