HOOP dreams will finally be realised in Southend this weekend when the Essex Pirates begin their British Basketball League season.

After 18 months of planning, Tim Lewis’ team host London Capital at Garon Park on Saturday, tip off 7.30pm.

And Lewis cannot wait for the action to get underway.

“We’ve been working towards this for quite a while now so we’re all quite excited about the first game,” said Lewis.

“London Capital finished last and won just two games last season and they haven’t greatly improved since then, so we expect to start with a win and we want to go on and surprise a few other people this year.”

Lewis, who also works with the Great Britain mens’ team, has assembled a young and hungry squad which consists of virtually just British players with plenty to prove.

“I want to give British guys the chance to show how talented they are,” said Lewis.

“We have one Spanish guy here but the rest are all British, aged between 20 and 26 and I know what they can do.”

Included in that squad is Southend-based Simon Emmerson and Lewis has been pleased with the way his team have prepared for their first ever campaign.

“We had three games and they’ve gone well,” he said.

“We’ve won two and the lost the other one in overtime, so we’re in good shape and we will play a different style of basketball to most of the other teams.”

Lewis is therefore confident that his team can carry on the good form and believes they could even clinch the title.

“We want to go out and win it,” he said.

“There is no point in aiming to finish eighth. We want to get as high up as we can and to make the play-offs would be brilliant in our first season.”

Lewis also has other plans for the Pirates and wants them to become an integral part of the local community.

“In time we want to get crowds of around 1,000,” he said.

“We won’t get that to start of with but that’s the target and we will go out into local schools.

“We’ve had plenty of backing from Southend Borough Council, Creating Leisure, David Lloyd, Audi and South East Essex College and we’re very thankful for that.

“We’re really looking to build things up and we would love to hear from anyone with an interest in basketball who would like to help out.”

Lewis can be contacted on 07970 258939 or by e-mail on tim@essexpirates.com l We have five tickets to give away for Saturday’s big game.

For your chance of winning answer the following question.

Q. How many players are there in the starting line-up for a basketball team?

Send in your entries, before 5pm today, including a contact telephone number, to sports.echo@nqe.com.

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