Exclusive By Geoff Sweet
Star signing Ashley Hamilton is finally ready to make his long and eagerly-awaited debut for the London City Royals.
Hamilton’s decision to join the Royals after playing all of his post-college basketball in mainland Europe was heralded as a “historic” moment in British Basketball League history.
Along with top scorer Matt Bryan-Abanying, the dazzling 30-year-old forward was the standout name on the newly-formed British Basketball League club’s roster.
But the man who last season helped Spanish side Manresa achieve promotion to the Spanish Liga ACB could only cut a frustrating figure on the sidelines as he recovered from a troublesome wrist injury.
Hamilton missed the Royals first seven league games but will be unveiled against the Glasgow Rocks at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre a week on Sunday.
Confirmed the Royals head of basketball operations Nhamo Shire after last weekend’s fourth league triumph, a terrific 98-81 victory over the Newcastle Eagles:
“Ashley has been practising for the past two weeks and we are looking forward to him being back for the next game.
“Needless to say he has an itchy finger after being out for so long.
“But what we saw against Newcastle was a by-product of having him with us. For Ashley has increased the level of intensity and level of professionalism, and made practise sessions so much better – so much more competitive.
“The truth is he’s a lot more challenging. He does things in practise that most of these guys won’t see in a BBL game. As a result they are sharper, a bit better – he has improved the whole thing.
“We didn’t want to rush him back and face the prospect of him being maybe injured for even longer. Now we know he’s fully fit, he’s been given the green light times ten and I think he’ll be the best version of Ashley Hamilton that we’ve seen.
“Believe me, we are really excited to see what his combination of agility, skill, experience and size will do when we finally unleash him in this league.”
The rampant Royals victory over Newcastle was a 67-point turnaround, following their 50-point drubbing on Tyneside last month.
Hamilton took to the court before the tip-off, giving the surprised Eagles the idea that he might actually appear.
“That’s Ashley,” said Shire. “He was warming up with the boys. It was a little piece of gamesmanship – we wanted Newcastle to think he was possibly playing, to prepare for him.
“Obviously he will be ready to go for the next game. Look, we knew he was injured when we signed him but are looking at a three-year commitment with Ashley
“A lot of the teams in the BBL are signing players on one-year deals. We’ve got our man for three and are very excited about his introduction to the team.”
In the meantime Shire is also purring about the sizzling performances of skipper Orlan Jackman, MVP with 26 points against the Eagles, and another recent signing in point guard Jules Dang Akodo from Fraport in Germany.
“They were both outstanding,” he said. “A great team performance meant an incredible turnaround from the result at Newcastle.
“It also pays testament to the fact that we are who we thought we were at the beginning of the campaign.
“We brought in some quality players who can turn heads and everyone was making a big thing about how these guys [the Royals] were trying to change the game.
“But we were suffered from injuries and it was pretty difficult to put that out on the floor. Now we have everyone back this is the first of more to come and I believe that by the New Year we really will be flying.
“The great thing is that after the Newcastle game so many people were forcing their way to get five minutes with us to tell us it was their first experience of basketball.
“They told us how much they loved it and that next time they are going to bring someone back with them.”
Matt Bryan-Amaning’s 17 points means he is second in the BBL’s average points table with 20.71 behind Deshawn Freeman of the Worcester Wolves (22).
He added: “Now the team is healthy we are really beginning to show what we can do. We are one of the ‘deepest’ teams in the league – we just like to keep going and wear the opposition down.
“We get a winning margin and sustain it. Now we just want to keep the ball rolling.”
The Royals take on the Glasgow Rocks on Sunday, December 9 at 4.00pm at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
Image credit: Imageplotter