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Basketball: National League top three are called up

THE TOP three clubs from last season's National League, Solent Stars, Plymouth Raiders and Guildford Pumas, are being temporarily elevated to Budweiser League status for the group stages of next season's Uni-ball League Trophy.

The Basketball League called in the top three English clubs from outside the Budweiser League after abandoning plans to invite teams from Ireland and Wales.

The League's chief executive, Mike Smith, said: "We began our negotiations with the Irish too late, but we will pick up the idea again in time for next season. We didn't feel the top Welsh club would be competitive in the competition." Scotland is already represented with Budweiser League club Edinburgh Rocks.

The National League champions Solent bring an impressive Uni-ball League Trophy pedigree into the competition. Their player-coach Alan Cunningham has been on the winning side in the competition four times, the last occasion in 1997 with London Towers. Solent's Colin Irish played alongside Cunningham in the 1992 Uni-ball League Trophy winning Kingston team.

Cunningham said: "Our ambition is to win the trophy. We're not going into it feeling happy just to be there."

UNI-BALL LEAGUE TROPHY: Group A: Derby, Birmingham, Greater London, Solent. Group B: Leicester, London, Edinburgh, Thames Valley. Group C: Manchester, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Guildford. Group D: Sheffield, Chester, Brighton, Plymouth.