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James pleased with his new-look Wolves
3:00pm Monday 23rd September 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
DIRECTOR of basketball Paul James believes his newly-assembled Worcester Wolves squad has the mental strength to deliver success.
Wolves fell at the first hurdle in the British Basketball League play-offs last season as well as being edged out by Leicester Riders in the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy.
There has since been a large turnaround of players with Sherrad Prezzie-Blue, Stan Ocitti, Carlos Fernandez, Kai Williams, Arturas Masiulis and Arnas Kazlauskas being replaced by Zaire Taylor, Jamal Williams, Ian Salter, Will Creekmore, Stefan Djukic and Caylin Raftopoulos.
Although James admits he had not intended to make wholesale changes, he is confident the new crop, along with the retained Alex Owumi and Kalil Irving, have what it takes to hold it together when the pressure is on.
“We’ve only got two key players back from last year’s team which wasn’t something I envisaged but things happen for a reason,” he said.
“There were three or four players that I really wanted to come back and build a team around but it hasn’t happened and I think we have got some really good players in who are not only tough physically, they are tough mentally.
“I think last year we let ourselves down a little bit when it came to the big games because mentally guys broke down. With this group of players hopefully that’s not going to happen.”
He added: “It’s a younger squad, more athletic and we are going to look to play a different style of basketball this year but still keep the discipline. I am really excited and looking forward to the start of the season.”
Wolves, who start their campaign on the road at Surrey United this Saturday, before their first match at the new University Arena against Leicester the following Friday, have stepped up their preparations with two friendlies.
Both Reading Rockets, the reigning English Basketball League Division One champions, and new BBL franchise Birmingham Knights have visited their Hylton Road home for behind-closed-doors matches.
Wolves emerged victorious on each occasion and James was pleased with how his players fared.
He said: “There were some good things that happened and some things that we certainly need to improve on but that’s what these friendly games are all about. The results don’t really matter, it’s all about the performance and guys getting to know each other.
“For where we are at this stage I am really pleased.”
He continued: “Everybody is feeling good and positive and working hard for each other, we are looking forward to having a good season.”
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