With the start of the new British Basketball League (BBL) season a little over a month away, Cheshire Phoenix captain David Aliu says he’s excited at the what the forthcoming campaign has in store for his side.
Forward Aliu, a 10-year BBL veteran, is back for his second season with the Nix after playing a pivotal role in the club’s run to the play-off final at the end of last season.
And with the club having made the move to their new 1,400-seater home at the Cheshire Oaks Arena in Ellesmere Port after 22 years at Chester’s Northgate Arena, the 34-year-old says he can’t wait to get a new era started for the club in their new surroundings.
“I’m excited, it’s nice to have something like that to look forward to,” said Aliu, who signed for the club from BBL rivals Manchester Giants last summer.
“In terms of a new arena and new facilities, that’s always a good thing. No disrespect to the Northgate, it was fantastic and has got lots of history there, but it wasn’t the ideal conditions to play basketball with the surface.
“I’m looking forward to playing in this new place and attracting a new fanbase too.”
LOOK: David Aliu's Cheshire Phoenix career so far in pictures
Aliu, who played his college basketball in America at Morehead State University in Kentucky, believes that the Nix’s switch to the new arena, where they will also train during the week, will be of huge benefit for them going forward.
For years the club have had to hold training sessions at various venues, including Whitby High School, before playing their home games at the Northgate on a Sunday.
“That’s the way that is should be and it can only be a good thing for us,” said Aliu, who is joined so far on next season’s roster by Martyn Gayle, Sedale Hanson-Young, Sean McGonagill and Jeff Dirkin.
“It’s fantastic. We would have to train at a different venue for the whole week and then we would go and play at the Northgate, which a lot of the players had never seen or been to before. Aside from the crowd, you had no advantage in terms of being familiar with the court and the rings.
“Being able to play and train under one roof now, under one umbrella, I think that will give us a big advantage.”
Liverpudlian Aliu, who scored his scholarship in America after impressing at a showcase in Las Vegas as part of a Toxteth Tigers side as a teenager, expressed his delight at seeing the likes of 18-year-old England international Hanson-Young being given a chance to shine in the professional ranks by the Nix.
“At lot of times you see teams bring in imports from America, which is great, but it’s nice to see young, English talent like Sedale being given a chance,” said Aliu, whose career has also taken in spells in Iceland, Spain and Switzerland.
“It’s hard to get a break. It’s fantastic that the young ones are getting a chance to compete at this level in the pro ranks. Not only is he [Hanson-Young] going to be able to train with us, he’ll also be given the opportunity to play which will pay off down the line for him.”