Rory Clark analyses the progress of the Scotland’s only professional basketball team
The British Basketball League (BBL) has just embarked upon its 31st consecutive season. At present, the only Scottish contingent in the tournament comes in the shape of the Glasgow Rocks. The Glaswegian side is fresh from yet another run into the postseason play-offs.
The Rocks parted company with long-term head coach Sterling Davis during the 2017 offseason, a decision that would have been undoubtedly difficult to make as the Texan had previously led the Rocks to four major finals over the course of his tenure. However, new man in charge Tony Garbelotto has been no slouch in picking up from Davis.
Currently, the Rocks sit well-placed in third in the league rankings and look to be walking their way into the postseason for what would be their fourth successive appearance at this stage of the tournament. Garbelotto has to be seen as a real coup for the Glasgow outfit. In 2011, he led the Everton Tigers to their most recent league title. Moreover, he has doubled up on his coaching duties, simultaneously taking charge of the Great British national setup during his time in Glasgow, having previously coached the Vietnam national team.
There is good reason to be optimistic about the fortunes of the Rocks squad. As has already been mentioned, they are a near-perennial playoff contender and they currently play their home games at the Emirates Arena, second only in capacity to the home of the London Lions, the Copper Box Arena which was purpose-built for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Emirates Arena was built in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but the Rocks enjoy some of the most populous and vocal support across the entirety of the BBL. This season has been no exception to the form that supporters have become accustomed to. The squad regularly oversee double-digit victories; their latest home game saw the Leeds Force fall to Glasgow by a margin of 34 points. This year’s success has been built upon a wealth of experience coming in the form of Gareth Murray and Kieron Achara, the two combining for a cumulative 15 years with the Rocks. They have been helped by new arrival, and native, Alasdair Fraser who according to BBL Media “is highly regarded as the future of Scottish basketball.” He has just spent a year in the second tier of the professional setup in Germany and before that, competed in the collegiate leagues in the USA with the University of Maine, an increasingly popular choice for young, British sporting talent. Fraser’s start to life in Glasgow has been auspicious to say the least, frequently racking up double figures in the points column while also chipping in with multiple rebounds on the defensive effort.
The Rocks will be eager to better last season’s showing of a quarter-final round playoff defeat. The team has wavered between the quarters and the semis, roughly speaking, for nigh on a decade and one gets the sense that they will want to avoid a similar exit this time around. The previous incarnation of the Glasgow Rocks, the Scottish Rocks, were able to capture their solitary league championship in 2003, but should Garbelotto keep his core together, there is a sense that this squad won’t take long to repeat the successes of their predecessors. Take into account that the sport seems to be on the up in Scotland, in Glasgow particularly, and the trophy could very soon be heading north of the border.