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New era for Durham Wildcats as Davie takes over from Elderkin
WITH just over six weeks to go until the start of the new BBL season, Durham Wildcats have appointed a new head coach with Lee Davie taking over from Dave Elderkin. Steph Clark caught up with the new coach and star player Ralph Bucci to find out their ambitions for the coming campaign
WHEN Durham Wildcats get the new BBL season underway against North-East rivals Newcastle Eagles at the end of next month, it will mark the beginning of a new era at the club.
After eight years at the helm, head coach Dave Elderkin has stepped down from his role at the club, paving the way for 32-year-old Lee Davie to take over.
Elderkin, who originally founded the club back in 2001 when Belmont Basketball Club and a group of Under-16s from Belmont School merged together, will spend some time away from the sport before deciding his future involvement at the club he took from EBL Division Three North to the BBL.
For now, though, Davie, who comes in with a wealth of experience having worked with Durham University's women's basketball team and Great Britain's Under-20s, is busy putting his squad together as the Wildcats embark on their third season in the top flight.
After a tough first season battling amongst Britain's elite, the Wildcats progressed during their second term, finishing tenth and just missing out on a play-off place following their final day defeat to Manchester Giants.
Under new management and with a new-look squad, Davie believes it is an exciting time for the club and believes a play-off finish is well within their sights.
"It's a fresh new start for the club. We've talked about play-offs as a realistic expectation for this year and I think that would be a good measuring stick in terms of the direction the club's going in," said Davie, who has also coached England's Under-15 girls team.
"We've also got two knock-out competitions to play in and anything can happen in them. I think with the team we are putting together we've got to have expectations to put a run together in both those cups.
"We've looked at the schedule in terms of practices, strength and fitness and we'll be building on what has happened in the last two years, but adding that little more on top. It's doing that little bit extra to help us reach that next step."
As well as a change in head coach, there will also be a new-look roster on show with several players coming in over the next few weeks. Davie has retained the services of guards Ralph Bucci and Paul Elderkin, who have both been key players since the Wildcats' BBL berth.
New Yorker and captain Bucci, who scooped BBL Player of the Month awards in January and February last season, is keen to continue helping the club move forward.
"It's a good situation here," Bucci said. "I've settled and it has worked out well. Each year we are trying to improve and I like to be in that situation where there's young guys coming in eager to work hard and better themselves.
"We're trying to push the club on to the next level. We don't want to be stuck in the bottom half of the table every season, we want to reach for better goals.
"In the last two seasons we stayed with the top teams throughout games, but we just couldn't finish strong. Some of the new guys we've got have more experience so hopefully we'll be able to turn some of those performances into wins."
With the season opener at Newcastle Eagles just over six weeks away, Wildcats are scheduled to start pre-season at the beginning of September when Davie will the first opportunity to work with his new squad.
The BBL outfit are likely to start announcing new signings from next week as they look to drum up interest ahead of their first home game against London Lions on October 5, and Davie is confident his squad will be stronger than ever before.
He said: "We're looking to sign one more player. I think this year the team will be deeper than it's ever been.
"We'll have a good core starting group but we'll also have some strong guys coming off the bench with BBL experience. We've also got some guys coming out of college, who have been part of successful programmes in America that have knocked off some of the elite teams there, and that mirrors what we're going to have to do this season. We're going to have to beat some of the top teams in the BBL along the way to make the play-offs.
"We've got some guys coming in that are going to bring a little bit of flare so hopefully we can put more bums on seats."
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