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Suns and Riders Win Play-off Finals At The O2

Monday, 20 May 2019 12:19:07 Europe/London

The BBL and WBBL’s show-stopping marquee event at London’s O2 Arena took place over the weekend, with the very best male and female basketball players fighting it out to take home the BBL Play-offs title.

In the BBL final, the perennial favourites Leicester Riders took on the reigning BBL Trophy winners, the London City Royals. It was familiar territory for the defending-champion Riders who reached their sixth final in eight years.

BBL Play-off FinalThe Riders came flying out of the gates to take an early eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter but the Royals fought hard in the second quarter to keep the gap the same, with both sides picking up 21 points in the quarter.

The second half, however, was a completely different story as Leicester’s strong defensive display restricted the Royals to just 25 points for the remainder of the match, their strength illustrated by the Riders 14 points from turnovers. The defending champions, meanwhile, romped home with 27 points in the third quarter and 22 in the fourth to win 93-61 and retain their Play-off title for the third year running.

Tim Williams was instrumental in the victory with an impressive return of 10 rebounds to go with his 20 points, earning MVP honours in the process. JR Holder also contributed an impressive 17 points and his teammate Jamell Anderson fired home a further 14 points.

In the WBBL Play-off final, the Leicester Riders were again in action as they took on the defending champions Sevenoaks Suns.

In a much closer affair, the Suns raced to an early six-point lead at the end of the first quarter before relinquishing the lead as the Riders scored 12 unanswered points, to fall behind by four points going into the break.  

However, despite being down by 10 points in the third quarter, the Suns quickly regained control to go on a 13-0 run to finish a point ahead at the end of the quarter, somehow managing to keep the Riders at bay for over four minutes.WBBL Play-off final

After a back and forth final quarter, the Suns found themselves behind 50-46 before making yet another decisive run – scoring seven straight points – with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock to retain the Play-off title for third successive year.

Brea Elmore scored 17 points for the Riders, however with little bench support she was unable to bring the title home for her side. Meanwhile, Sevenoaks’ Janice Monakana secured the MVP award thanks to her 23 points off the bench, including the shot that broke the deadlock late in the fourth quarter, a lead her side didn’t relinquish again as they secured the victory 60-55.

0 Comments | Posted By Jack Dinning

Anderson aims for Ally Pally hat-trick

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 16:00:00 Europe/London

He is already one of the most successful players in the history of the sport, but Gary Anderson is hungry for more.

The Team Unicorn superstar is bidding for third World Championship crown at the Alexandra Palace.

And after the disappointment of missing out on the Grand Slam and Players Championship, the Scot is determined to prove a point in London.

“To win the World Championship twice in this era of the sport takes some doing and I am very proud of that. I feel I am playing well to give it a real go again and go for a hat-trick. That’s the aim but it is the hardest tournament to win. The competition is fierce but that’s the way I like it!” Gary said.

Anderson starts his bid on Friday against the winner of Paul Nicholson or Kevin Burness. He is the second favourite with the sponsors behind Michael van Gerwen who is also aiming for a third world title.

But is is Team Unicorn’s Jeffrey de Zwaan who will take centre stage on the opening night. He should beat Nitin Kumar in round one to set up a showdown with World Champion Rob Cross and the real belief he can cause a big upset.

De Zwaan of course has already beaten Van Gerwen twice at the UK Open and World Matchplay this year and the Ally Pally stage will hold no fears. All the pressure will be on Cross as defending champion.

Michael Smith has a great opportunity this year. He is in the bottom half of the year and there is a real belief that he will be a big threat to the title.

Smith kicks off against either Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp or Brazil’s Diogo Portela on Wednesday night.

There will be regular news updates, features, opinion pieces and video blogs on the Unicorn website over the duration of the World Championship. We will keep you right up-to-date with the progress of all the Team Unicorn stars on view at the greatest darts show on earth! 

By STUART PYKE

Comments | Posted By Matthew Rankin

Get Smart

Monday, 4 December 2017 14:12:56 Europe/London

SmartboardThese days many sports organisations require those involved in coaching attend a range of courses designed to ensure that teaching performance (as well as personal behaviour) is of an appropriate standard. Although this may not yet be the case in darts, I reckon it’s still worth a UniBlog to take a look at just one of the general principles discussed in such courses.

The principle in question, which had its origins in the world of US business management, goes by the acronym SMART. You’ll find some variability in definitions of what this actually stands for, but let’s opt for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.          

 As an example of how this principle might be applied to darts, I’m going to use the pathetic attempts of an anonymous Mr X to elevate the accuracy of my, sorry, his, throw from “Appalling” to merely “Bad” in just one month – and, by defining that relatively unambitious goal and limited timescale, we can already tick the “Realistic” and “Timely” boxes!

 Next comes “Specific”, which we’ll apply to the simple practice routine of round the board in trebles. This routine specifically tests basic accuracy rather than the more general skill of proficiency at 501, where the main focus is on preferred trebles and doubles and there’s none at all on trebles below 7. That’s fine because Mr X’s overall objective is to be a more accurate (OK, less inaccurate) thrower rather than a stronger competitive player. Why, you ask? Well, for example, maybe he’s supposed to be some sort of darts technical expert which would make incompetence at the practical reality all the more embarrassing!

 “Measurable” can be covered by Mr X using a smart phone, iPad, or maybe, as he’s a bit of a grumpy old luddite about such things, just a pencil and paper, to record how many darts it takes to hit each treble before moving on to the next. At this point it could even be suggested that a smart phone app could, at least in theory, be written for the Smartboard (gratuitous product placement piccy above!) to do this part of our SMART process automatically, but grumpy luddites might well think that’s just too many smarts for one’s own good!

 Anyway, let’s say, at the start of the “Timely” month, it takes me, sorry again, Mr X, around 180 darts to go round the board, ie an average of about 9 per treble; a hopefully “Achievable” and certainly “Specific” goal might be getting down to an average of 8 by the month’s end.

 Of course, to keep track of this overall statistic, it’s not actually necessary for Mr X to record the number of darts taken to hit each individual treble, just the total number used at the end of the circuit would be sufficient. But he could well find recording each treble individually more motivating and also useful in identifying weak and strong areas of the board – potentially valuable data when self-coaching.

 Another benefit of taking the time to record the results for each treble is that it can slow down the pace of individual practice a little, which can help maintain concentration, prevent over-casual “chucking”, and also slightly better represent the tempo of playing an opponent.

 So, if you want to “get smart” about your darts, you could try applying the above type of process to your own practice routines. Good luck – Mr X reports it worked for him (nearly!).

 

If you have any comments or questions for UniBoffin, please use the website link below.

Comments | Posted By Alex James

The Parable of the Talents

Monday, 23 October 2017 12:37:50 Europe/London

Hi again! It’s been a while, but now seems like a good time for a new UniBlog to go with the new, sparkly, Unicorn Group website whose “PlayWithTheBest” title doubly resonates with me. Not only is helping players do just that my aim when designing a dart or recommending a set-up, but also, in my long-gone competitive racquet sport days, I was lucky to have had the chance to play with some of the best and most prodigiously talented individuals of the era.

I thus had the perfect opportunity to observe at first hand how “best” and “most prodigiously talented” were not necessarily coincident. Prodigious talent is obviously a gift, but I wonder if sometimes it can also be a hurdle to overcome. If playing a sport comes all too easily at first, is it more difficult later to knuckle down to the hours of potentially tedious practice (and, in many events, arduous physical training) required for even the very gifted to fulfil their ultimate potential?

Reaching the top in sport generally requires not only innate talent, but also a willingness to graft combined with a winning mindset. The latter two may not tend to be regarded as “talents”, but all are qualities the true greats must possess. However, very few amongst even this elite have them all to a prodigious extent. Perhaps Roger Federer in tennis and Pele in football are two examples who do - you may come up with more in sports you particularly follow (personally, I’d add Lin Dan in badminton and perhaps Jahangir Khan in squash).

It’s an interesting exercise to think of a sporting great and then estimate the proportions in which these three qualities are present. Let me throw some names at you to get you started. I’ve already mentioned Roger Federer, so how about Jimmy Connors, winner of even more pro-era singles titles? How would Ronaldo score compared with Pele? Sugar Ray Robinson with Muhammad Ali? Ronnie O’Sullivan with Stephen Hendry? Tiger Woods with Jack Nicklaus? And, finally, in our own sport, MvG with Phil Taylor?

I’m going to leave you pondering on that while I move on by resurrecting, after a long absence, the occasional “Technique Spotlight” feature in which I take a look at the throwing style of a player with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working (albeit, in this case, only briefly). And there is a non-coincidental link with the topic above because the subject this time is indeed prodigiously talented; so much so, in fact, that he can throw not only in his own style, but also in that of many other top pros (check out YouTube to see what I mean!).

Since my last blog this player won a long-overdue maiden PDC title in April (and was hence subject of a subsequent nice little piece on ITV4’s “The Darts Show”) and then followed it up with a second title in July (coincidentally also at Barnsley Metrodome). I’m talking about that inimitable mimic, The Rockstar himself, Mr Joe Cullen.

TECHNIQUE SPOTLIGHT – Joe Cullen

One notable characteristic of Joe’s throw is that his stance is slightly less side-on than is classically advised, with his right foot facing more forward into the oche rather than at a sharp angle or even parallel to it. His right throwing shoulder and elbow are thus to the right of his eyeline, which doesn’t seem to bother him at all as he doesn’t really attempt to throw down it. Not only does his backswing go well outside his right cheek, almost towards his ear, at release his head can tend to sway fractionally left, yet further off the line of the trajectory.

Joe’s exceptional level of hand-eye co-ordination seems to mean none of this is a problem for him. Rather than worry about throwing down his line of sight, he simply looks at the target and the dart tends to go there! Part of the reason this works may be that his technique enables him to exploit, again rather against classic coaching advice, the potential advantage of a small forward motion of his shoulder adding a “pushing” element of linearity into his throw.

Other aspects of Joe’s technique are rather more conventional. His has a standard index finger/thumb mid barrel grip with his second finger resting just in front of the point junction. At release his 21gm, fairly coarse-gripped, 50.55mm long, “pencil” darts are nicely flighted moderately point-up and land in standard point-down fashion. Elbow extension after release is good without being exaggerated. 

I believe that Joe’s innate talent and that “look at it and then hit it” style has the potential to make him a truly great finisher. To hit the very heights of the game will require combining this with even more consistency in scoring power than he has sometimes shown in the past. Looking at the mechanics of his particular style with its extra number of “moving parts”, I also reckon that achieving such consistency will require just as much dedication to practice as is required by those of less inherent ability. Which sort of brings us back to where this blog started.

Fortunately, it appears that Joe himself appreciates all this, so let’s hope that The Rockstar can, as a result, make yet further progress toward storming that list of true greats!

If you have any comments or questions for UniBoffin, please do so through the link below.

0 Comments | Posted By Edward Lowy

180 - plus 3!

Friday, 1 September 2017 14:49:40 Europe/London

How fantastic to have The One, The Only – “The Voice”, Mr Russ Bray come into Unicorn Global HQ today to seal the deal on a new 3 year Ambassador agreement. This will take Unicorn’s association with Russ to an amazing 15 years.

It’s not so easy to catch up with Russ these days as the demand for his Pro Referee’ing services sees him chasing the sun around the World. “3 days at home in the last 8 weeks” rumbled Russ, “Loved every moment of it”.

Russ’s infectious enthusiasm for all things darts lights the room up, as of course does his trade mark “180” growl roared out to international audiences from Ally Pally to Auckland.

It is a great pleasure to work with Russ at tournaments and at bespoke Unicorn events around the World. We are delighted to continue our association with such a unique character.

Pictured above are Russ with Richard & Edward Lowy, owners of Unicorn.

 

 

Comments | Posted By Edward Lowy
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