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'Experiences This Season Can Help Build Stronger Future'

Now the dust has settled on the BBL season, ex-Flyers forward Tom Hutchinson gives his take on a tough year for his former club.

‘Success is a project that’s always under construction’, - Pat Summitt.

Flyers as a team and club have got used to winning. In the early days we progressed through the then National League divisions. Reaching the play-offs was an assumed given as we aimed our goal at the next promotion or play-off final.

The 2014-2015 inaugural BBL season saw a continuation of this winning tradition. Flyers reached the play-offs only to end their season losing to the eventual BBL champions, Newcastle Eagles, coach Kapoulas winning the Molten BBL Coach of the Year award in the process.

So has 2015-2016, a season that saw Flyers not win a game on the road for over three months and fail to reach the play-off places, been a disaster? 

Personally I don’t think it has. Flyers are still newcomers to the league and losing, especially in close games is part of the learning process for the players and coaching staff alike. Failing to win in the short term isn’t as important as how the club and team pick up the pieces and move forward, continuing to build towards long-term success.

I’m going to try to answer a couple of important questions and suggest possible solutions in preparation for the 2016-2017 season. Firstly, why were the Flyers so inconsistent this season? Secondly, why were they only able to win nine games?

Injury

Flyers were not a deep team and multiple injuries to three of the starting five throughout the season proved to have a huge effect to on-court team consistency. Mathias Seilund suffered from both injury and sickness which kept Flyers' most consistent player sidelined for several BBL championship games. Tyrone Lee and Cardell McFarland both missed a number of games due to injury, making it rare to see both on the court at the same time.

Flyers relied heavily on the American duo to score the basketball and their absence probably goes some way to answering why Flyers scored fewer points than any other team in the BBL this season.

I think that coaches Kapoulas and Burns should be looking at ways to bolster the depth of the squad, trying to distribute the scoring load and provide some more height and muscle from the bench.

Offensive Execution

Offensive Struggles

Flyers scored 2,323 points in 2015/16 - the lowest total in the BBL and more than 200 less than they achieved in the 2014/15 season.

Flyers attempted to play the modern European style offence; a lot of high ball screen actions, often with screen the screener or horns variations. I understand the rationale for this. Greg Streete and McFarland are both more than capable of attacking off the screen action. Dan Edozie and Lee are mobile big men who suit the pick & roll and three-point shooters Seilund and Doug McLaughlin Williams are ready to shoot from the corners or as a beneficiary of screen the screener in a pop situation.

Despite possessing the tools for the job, Flyers were rarely successful due to poor timing and spacing in the half-court. The BBL is not a typical finesse European league but rather a very physical up and down game. Stronger teams tended to pile on a lot of defensive pressure in the half-court, taking Flyers out of execution leading to bad or rushed shots.

There’s no reason why this offensive approach can’t be successful and Coach Kapoulas will be looking at how to limit unforced turnovers and bring more consistency to the offence by improving ball-handling, timing and on-court communication.

Defence

Improved Record

Flyers' defence recorded a significantly improved performance in 2015/16, limiting their opponents to 2,582 points, almost 300 points less than they conceded last season.

Flyers have always been a team proud to win games with defence. This year was no exception, Flyers protecting the basket statistically as well as a top five BBL team, quite an achievement for a relatively small team without a lot of rebounding depth.

Leicester Riders have shown that you don’t need to be a high-scoring team to win and Flyers could be playing play-off basketball if a handful of close games had gone their way. One area of improvement is reducing points scored from turnovers. We saw too many mistakes, often from forced or panicked offence which led to break away layups.

If you’re a team who struggles to score and prides themselves on defence then you can’t afford to give away easy transition baskets. Improved ball-handling, decision making and composure under pressure are all key to limiting turnovers.

Despite inconsistency on the court, the fans supported the team through thick and thin right up until the last home outing v London Lions which saw the SGS WISE Arena packed to the rafters. There were some great moments; not least the thrilling overtime win against South West rivals Plymouth Raiders.

I have the utmost confidence in coaches Kapoulas and Burns to rebuild and come back stronger from all the hardships endured made this season, refreshed and ready to continue to grow the fantastic success story that is Flyers basketball into 2016-2017!

Written by Tom Hutchinson - Tom played for Bristol Flyers from its inception in National League division three and was part of the roster that won promotions to divisions two and one before injury forced his early retirement.

Do you agree with Tom? Leave him a comment or ask him a question below.

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