Sharks seal title

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Sharks' triumph in lifting the championship in their first season in the Budweiser League heralds the most upbeat summer the sport has enjoyed for years. Rarely has next season seemed such an attractive prospect.

Next month England hosts a European Championship first-round tournament at Birmingham's NEC, from which they ought to qualify for next season's semi-final round. That would comprise a dozen games over the next two seasons against some of Europe's leading nations.

In September, Sheffield will make their debut in the European Clubs' Championship, and the following month will represent England in the McDonald's Open at London Arena against the champions of America's NBA, the Australian champions and three more top European clubs. With Michael Jordan's recent return having sealed Chicago's place in the play-offs, he could yet be appearing in London in six months' time and lining up for the Bulls against the Sharks, coached by Jim Brandon.

Sheffield's youthful line-up has been the most refreshing aspect of their success in taking not just the championship, but also the National Cup, which they won last month. "It was time to sweep out the old guard," said Brandon, whose team beat Doncaster 81-70 on Sunday to finally outpace Thames Valley Tigers in the last game of the regular season.

Brandon, an American who returned to England last summer from the Middle East, was a spectator at last season's Wembley play-offs. "Nothing seemed to have changed," he said. "The time had to be right to bring on the young men."

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