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Thumbs up for Rocks first year

Mark Woods

A capacity crowd of over 2,100 people crammed into Edinburgh's Meadowbank Arena on Thursday evening to say a farewell, at least for the summer, to Scotland's only professional basketball team. Following their progress from drawing board to reality and from pre-season hardships to respectability, the fact that Edinburgh Rocks' largest crowd to date came in a victorious final fixture against play-off bound Birmingham Bullets bodes particularly well for the club's future. In a city which can be a fickle friend of teams who fail to deliver consistent victory, the Budweiser League side appear in rude health at the end of their inaugural campaign.

Rocks' owners have already given a vote of confidence to their coach Jim Brandon to carry on his work into the Millennium season. That the New York native began the season with 11 straight losses soon ended any allusion of immediate grandeur but according to Brandon, his newly awarded contract extension will bring much needed continuity.

"We always talked about two years from now, even though there was always the option for me to leave. The atmosphere here to build up things from humble beginnings is special and if we can build on that and get a winning team out there, in my opinion it could be one of the best situations available in British basketball. That's saying something in such a short space of time."

The brightest spark in the Rocks campaign has undoubtedly been the diminutive Ted Berry, a man with shorts so long that they cold easily tuck into his sneakers. The American guard has won the hearts of the Meadowbank crowd with his consistency, his dazzling shot play and above all, his willingness to engage the crowd in mutual appreciation. Averaging just over 20 points per game - a top ten ranking in the country - Berry also picked up the Most Valuable Player at the All-Star Game. 

Having made himself the cornerstone of the fledgling franchise, will the wee hoop star return to fight another day ?

"I'd love to come back and get some sort of success here because the organisation deserves it. Right now, it's 80-20 that I'll return. The main thing however is for me to know that there is going to be a team that has a chance to challenge for silverware. I wouldn't like to come back and start with eleven losses again. Getting the nucleus from this year to return would be a start.

"It is disappointing that with the talent in this team, we should have been in the play offs. It has been difficult knowing that there have been a lot of games that we should have won that we didn't, which has left us in this position. "

Despite their range of successes over top teams like Manchester Giants and Thames Valley Tigers, the fact is that the Rocks mid-season burst from worst to worthy fell far short of the top eight finish required to extend their season past April Fool's Day. Brandon concedes that his own mistakes played their part but believes that the best is yet to come.

"Certainly, the start of the season was poor and I could have made changes to the team sooner than I did. But there were a lot of positives to take overall. We've put a decent product that people who have come along have enjoyed. Now we just want to look to the future and build both a good product and a winning one. "

Nonetheless, with four longer established teams left in their wake, it is hard to begrudge Brandon's men  anything other than a pat on the back for their first season efforts. Come September, the noisiest fans in the country will be hoping that the Rocks can take the next step and roll their way to major honours.  

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