The National Elite Basketball League (NEBL) will be tipping off its sixth season this Friday with a huge game slated at the Belize City Centre. Defending champions, Belize Hurricanes, will be hosting their southern rivals, Griga Dream Ballers, with a lot of bad blood that needs to be settled on the court. Last year’s semi-finals matchup between these two teams went to a decisive game 3, forcing a monstrous season opener. Mirage Smart Belize Hurricanes will be show-casing their two big men, Belizean American Tyrie Orosco and American big man Jordan Daniels as they join forces with Devin Daly, Brian White, Akeem Watters and Glency “Coope” Lopez in a quest to get back to the big dance this season. The home fans have pledged to pack the Civic Centre on Friday to witness the unveiling of their championship banner and to root for their home team. The hype is built around the high flyers who have committed to give the fans a huge treat, where dunks and dishes will be in abundance. Griga Dream Ballers will be entering the Civic with a bad taste in their mouths, having loss both of their semi-final games at the Civic last season, as they seek to redeem themselves from the ghost of their past. American big man Delvon Henderson and guard sensation and new comer, Jamal Kelly, will be making their debut with the Griga team, while Quinton Bowen Edgar Mitchell, Daniel Conorquie, Trevaughn Usher and Macario Augustine will have one thing on their minds – revenge. This year Griga will be without the services of Daniel “Buddy” Nolberto and Brandon Flowers, so will have to wait and see who will fill those huge offensive gaps this season. The season opener surely serves up a great league rivalry as the appetizer, as basketball fans are savoring with anticipation for tip-off at 9 p.m.
Verdes hosts Defenders out West
On Saturday, January 19, the NEBL will dish out the main course as Belize City Defenders will travel out west to take on Verdes at the Sacred Heart College Auditorium in San Ignacio Town. Belize City Defenders enter the season with a “championship or bust” mentality after being bridesmaid at the big dance last season, falling to their city rivals. Defenders had a huge roster shake-up, keeping only 5 of its 15 players from last season as they rebuild to return to the finals again. Key additions to their team include Farron Louriano, Gregory “Chippy” Rudon and Elvis Olivera. These guys will go to battle alongside defending regular season MVP, American Nigel Jones and 2 time Finals MVP, Darwin “Puppy” Leslie. This game will be a clash of teams with new pieces and new identities, as both teams had huge roster shake-ups in the off-season. Out West the Verdes squad is also in rebuild mode, bringing back only 4 players from last year, which are Richard Troyer, Elvis Usher, Justin Ford and Elsworth Itza. They are beefing up their squad with Belizean American Tyrone Hall and American big man, Kris Frazier, while adding sharp shooter, Kyron “Tut” Molina to work beside guards Lisani Lambey and Raheem Crawford and big man, Andrew “Bynum” Ortiz. Both teams need to establish themselves early in the season and this game will serve as that litmus test. Legend Darwin “Puppy” Leslie will be returning to Cayo where he had a one-year stint with that team two years ago.
Tiger Sharks heads north to take on Running Rebels
To cap off the weekend, the dessert surely promises to be a dandy, as powerhouse San Pedro Tiger Sharks will travel up north to take on the the rejuvenated Orange Walk Running Rebels at the Orange Walk Sporting Complex. The Tiger Sharks are surely hungry for blood after failing to make the playoffs last season for the first time in their franchise history. Last season was surely a disappointment for the Tiger Sharks given that it was the first time that they were not in the finals. They added veteran Kurt “Chengo” Burgess, Francis Arana, Gene Myvett and Brandon Rogers to team up with Douglas Valley, Ashton Edwards, Martaveous Adams and Jihad Wright. Orange Walk Running Rebels will see the return of their local star, Roger Reneau, while adding 2 Americans, Devin Wyatt and Ja’Keem Yates and a Belizean American, Marquies Williams, as their goal is to make the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. Saturday will surely give us a taste of these two teams to see if Running Rebels will make the playoffs and if San Pedro has regained its dominance.
Games on Thursday and Saturday nights tip-off at 8:30 p.m. while all Friday games tip off at 9:00 p.m. Player statistic, team standings, schedule, news and all things NEBL can be found on our website at neblbelize.com and on our Facebook page at NEBL.