Matt Lloyd is preparing for one of the most vital games of the Cheshire Phoenix’s season without the glue that holds his team together.
Jerome Gumbs has been bedridden with ‘flu since last Friday and missed both of last weekend’s games – including the first leg of the BBL Trophy semi final where Sheffield Sharks built up a 14-point lead.
And Nix head coach Lloyd is still unsure if Gumbs, who has been studying team plays while he recovers, will be fit enough to take any part in tomorrow’s second leg at the English Institute of Sport (7.30pm).
“Jerome is on a slow recovery process,” said Lloyd.
“He is still ill and we are taking our time as you can’t rush someone back who is so ill.
“At the moment we don’t have him so we prepare without him. But he is a very smart basketball player who is flexible and will fit in with any game plan that we have and execute it to his best ability should he be able to play.”
Despite signing only just before Christmas, Gumbs’ versatility as either a forward or guard has made him a vital part of the team. His absence was keenly felt last weekend as the Phoenix struggled to execute their game plan in their league derby against Manchester Giants and the Trophy game against Sheffield, which the Yorkshire side won 74-60.
“We are going into the second leg down but we’ve had a good look at Sheffield this week and there are many areas that we can exploit so we have been focusing on them in training,” said Lloyd.
“The lack of togetherness last weekend came from not having Jerome. It messed with our balance and that’s to be expected.
“When we’re at full strength we are a tough team to beat but when one person is missing it hurts us a lot as we are running a short rotation.
“It isn’t about the ability of the people we have as they are all talented, it’s psychological.”
Lloyd also dismissed suggestions that as a rookie coach taking over during a turbulent period, reaching the Trophy final would be a personal triumph.
“Making the final would be great but it isn’t about one person,” he said.
“We all would be proud of what the team has been able to achieve after what they have gone through this year.”
On the Sharks’ side, forward Andrew Bridge is not taking their lead for granted.
“It’s not done yet,” he said. “I’ve been in situations where we’ve been up by 23 after the first leg and lost the second by 22.
“We need to stay focused and we’ll see what will happen.
“Whatever was wrong with Jerome Gumbs it must have been pretty serious to miss a semi final, so hopefully he’ll get better and I expect he’ll play on Friday.”