By Jamie Thomas
It is the Glen Luss Glasgow Rocks’ final chance at securing some silverware this season, after coming very close on two other occasions, and one of their American stars Jaycee Hillsman is excited for the opportunity the Rocks have to show what they can do in the upcoming BBL Play-offs.
Going against the second-seeded B. Braun Sheffield Sharks in the quarter-finals, the Rocks and their electric offensive talents are going to be met by one of the league’s best defensive units, so it will be a fascinating battle of wits and play- calling between Head Coaches Atiba Lyons and Gareth Murray, and we caught up with Hillsman to preview what lays ahead.
“The Playoffs are the biggest stage so it gives us the best opportunity to showcase what we can really do as a team, and we’re ready and excited for that. We’ve had an up-and-down season, for sure, with injuries to key players meaning there have been difficult times for us.
“We’ve done really well to deal with that adversity though and finding our balance and strengths as a team despite those issues, having some good performances down the stretch to secure our playoff place, and we’re playing good basketball so we can’ t be too unhappy.
“Getting to two semi-finals this year and not winning them definitely hurt, but we’ve learned a lot from those experiences and at the end of the day we’ve done well to even get to those positions with the injuries we’ve suffered, and being in the playoffs now is a great opportunity.”
“We’ve got a lot of good things to build on.”
Such has been the nature of the BBL Championship campaign this season, everyone has had their moments of looking unstoppable on the floor, with the Rocks themselves in a relatively rich run of form at the moment that has included some significant wins at home and on the road.
The Glasgow star leads the league in three-point percentage and Hillsman reflects on the qualities of the team that he feels will stand them in good stead for success in the post-season.
“We’re definitely a team that nobody wants to play against in these playoff situations, because we’re such a tough team to play at home and we’ve shown throughout the season that we can compete with anybody and beat most teams whether we ‘re home or on the road.
“Losing Ali Fraser was a big blow for us as he was such a key player for us and somebody we could go to when we were struggling to get a bucket, but Boban (Jacdonmi) has done a great job down there, Jordan Johnson has been great, Jordan Harris has had a terrific, consistent year – everybody has stepped up when they’ve needed to.
“Whether we’re up or we’re down, we’ve shown that we are always dangerous and capable of putting in consistent performances over 40 minutes. If we play the game at our pace, move the ball effectively, we’re such a tough team to stop, and we can lock it down on the defensive end too, so we’ve got a lot of good things to build on. ”
“He’s done a great job of keeping us level-headed.”
Player-Coach Gareth Murray has had some great moments in his second year combining playing with his coaching duties, coming close to securing places in two major finals, and Hillsman admits he is full of admiration for the job his teammate and coach has done.
“I couldn’t even comprehend before I got here what the role of Player-Coach meant, but now that I’ve seen it for what it is I appreciate just how difficult a role it is and how good a job he has done at fulfilling that, really.
“Having been a player only for most of his career, even the little things that we take for granted like being able to sit in the back of the bus and things like that are things he’s had to draw the line under and step away from, because he has to be different to us even though he is a player like us.
“He’s done a great job of keeping us level-headed, being consistent with his energy and passion, and it has been a pleasure to work with him. He has even stepped in and put in big performances when he has been required to, showing us the heart, passion and determination he has to be the best he can be even at 37 years old, and it is things like that which has helped us make a strong playoff run.”
Get your tickets for the BBL Playoff Finals and join us for the showpiece finale to an epic season at London’s 02 Arena on May 15th here!