No place like home for the beleaguered English clubs

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The Independent Online
English basketball retreats into the Budweiser League this weekend in the aftermath of all five entrants being dumped out of European club competitions - and the likelihood of the national team finishing the first half of their European Championship campaign in bottom place later this month.

London Towers and Manchester Giants, joint league leaders ahead of champions Sheffield Sharks, meet at the Giants' Nynex arena tonight. The game should attract a large attendance and help justify the hype surrounding the domestic game, which cannot disguise that it is slipping further into the international backwaters.

Sheffield lasted the longest in Europe, by virtue of switching to the European Cup after their elimination from the Clubs' Championship. But their 159-128 aggregate defeat in Ostend this week meant no English club lasted beyond the qualifying rounds, despite their largest-ever representation.

Towers' coach, Kevin Cadle, is the league's most experienced foreign campaigner, from spells with Kingston, Guildford and the national team. His club, making their European debut this season, lost because few of his players could cope with a packed, partisan and intimidating crowd in Turkey. "English players are not used to the crowd and the noise," he said, "and they won't cope in these situations until they have more exposure to this intensity of competition."