Surrey Scorchers manager Creon Raftopoulos hailed the club’s supporters as the highlight ahead of what could be a very different looking side next season.
From the start, the Scorchers have struggled with several players missing due to injury, with Raftopoulos having to name 14 five different starters in 16 games as most of his starters have been sidelined.
As a result, the Scorchers look set to finish the British Basketball League season at the bottom of the stack with just two wins from 19 games played and 12 points separating them and second behind last Glasgow Rocks.
But despite a Surrey side that have bravely struggled with so many setbacks facing them, their supporters have continued to pack the Surrey Sports Park venue to full houses throughout the season.
Loyalty, for Creon, means the world.
“The highlight of the season has been the fans,” Raftopoulos said. “They have stayed with us through thick and thin and that is the most positive thing we can get out of the season.
“From the beginning, it has been something that I can honestly say I have never experienced before. But at the end of the day, people will look at the results and yes, they haven’t gone our way, but the Scorchers fans have cheered us on through it all and been very loyal.
“On the court, fitness has been a big issue for us this season, getting to the point where we are now. Yes, we have a squad almost in top form with the exception of one player, but the chemistry is still not there and the other teams are almost a season ahead of us and that is the reality”.
Unable to invent team chemistry due to injuries, he has hurt Raftopoulos, something he personally said he takes responsibility for.
“I’m the guy who picks the players and things haven’t turned out the way we want,” he acknowledges. “I’m on me. I’m the head coach, I keep it real and I don’t freak out.
“The results haven’t been good enough and now that we finally have that 11-12 man rotation, it’s up to the guys to step up and show the fans that they want to be here. And in turn, I can get consistent performances from the guys.”
Ending the season on a bright note is the goal with plans for next season already in place.
Raftopoulos has been chatting with different coaches around the league and has even reached out to his NBA contacts for inspiration.
A different mindset on how the veteran coach operates and leads his team. “Being at the bottom of the BBL and out of playoff contention is not going to happen again,” Raftopoulos states emphatically.
“I have already started work. I am lucky to get along with trainers in the BBL and beyond. I have spoken with Fab Flournoy with the [Toronto] raptors; I have spoken with Rob Paternostro in Leicester [Riders]just to get their opinion on recruiting and how they do it.
“I think I am too good and I want to be aggressive in my search for players. I want Surrey to get back to their playoff aspirations and be a title contender.”
Raftopoulos noted that his goals are to recruit two specific imports, including a point guard and a pass-first center for next season as he looks to hit the ground running.
Current point guard Stanley Davis Jr leads the team in points with an average of 16.2 points per game. The American can also play shooting guard efficiently.
However, the focal point has been the sore spot for Raftopoulos, with legend Robertin out through injury, Saiquan Jamison leaving and Desmond Ringer signing in February. Everything has been a timeless change for proper cohesion and harmony.
Despite the short amount of time, Ringer averaged 13 points and six rebounds in just six games, including a 20-point, 9-rebound stat line in his last win over the Rocks on March 14.
With just eight games remaining in the regular season, Raftopoulos will try to give Scorchers fans some cheer before what will be a very different campaign next summer.
Featured Image Credit: Rob Sambles