Basketball: Giants focus on Trophy defence

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The Independent Online
THREE DAYS after his double disappointment at Wembley, the Manchester Giants coach, Nick Nurse, can focus on defending the one title his team did win last season, the Uni-ball League Trophy, writes Richard Taylor.

Giants have been drawn in Group C alongside Budweiser League rivals Newcastle Eagles, Milton Keynes Lions and one of three as yet unnamed teams to be invited into the revamped competition.

The 13 league clubs will be joined by three others, probably drawn from the Welsh and Irish leagues and the National League, which is run by the English Basketball Association.

Teams in each of the four groups will play each other home and away. But, in another innovation, the quarter finals will be played at one venue, probably on a single day, with the aim of filling one of the sport's mid- range venues, which have capacities of up to 3,000.

This provides an added incentive to last season's beaten finalists, Derby Storm, who move into a new purpose-built 2,000-seat arena next season, and Leicester City Riders. The basketball league will also have the option of a neutral venue when the new Coventry arena is completed in the autumn.

Nurse's priority is to re-sign his key players despite the defeats against Thames Valley Tigers and Sheffield Sharks in the Wembley play-offs.

John Wright and Tony Dorsey were the league's top two scorers, jointly averaging 52 points per game, while Makeba Perry and Tony Holley were the third and fourth highest rebounders.

UNI-BALL LEAGUE TROPHY Draw: Group A: Derby, Birmingham, Greater London, invitee; Group B: Leicester, London, Edinburgh, Thames Valley; Group C: Manchester, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, invitee; Group D: Sheffield, Chester, Brighton, invitee. Group matches begin November 1999.

Gheorghe Muresan, the Romanian centre who has not played for two years because of injury, has signed with the New Jersey Nets for the final two games of the NBA season.