Basketball: New faces flood league

Fans will have to play the name game when the first round of Budweiser League fixtures tip off this weekend, trying to match programme notes to scores of unfamiliar faces out on court, writes Richard Taylor.

The League's controversial decision to scrap the "two foreigners'' rule and allow five imports per club, has brought a flood of new Americans to replace English players who have joined continental teams in the wake of the Bosman ruling.

Birmingham Bullets' Fabulous Flournoy, a 6ft 3in power forward, has most to live up to, while Thames Valley Tigers' fans need to be reassured that Casey Arena is not the club's new venue, but their 6ft 1in playmaker from Maine.

But when the novelty of watching 50 Americans wears off, those same fans may miss the England internationals such as Steve Bucknall and Martin Henlan (Greece), Andy Gardiner (Belgium), Trevor Gordon (Italy) who have crossed the channel.

Jeff Jones, the Derby Storm coach, realises that fans will have few local players to relate to. "But it is the end result that will keep him happy," he said.

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