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BASKETBALL: BULLETS NEED TROPHY BOOST.

Byline: RICHARD TAYLOR

INJURY-HIT Pertemps Bullets hope to see John O'Connell walking through the doors of the Aston Villa Leisure Centre this afternoon, after trying to persuade the Irish national team to release him from their European Championship programme.

Bullets, who have lost to Milton Keynes Lions in the BBL Trophy and London Leopards in the Championship since returning from their American tour, face Newcastle Eagles this afternoon (4pm) looking for their first Trophy group win.

They came back from the States - after winning four out of eight games - with injuries to Danny Craven, Rashod Johnson and Antonio Garcia, who broke his nose in ``horseplay'' according to owner Craig Bown after their penultimate game.

Craven survived only two minutes of the defeat against Lions and O'Connell played for Ireland in their defeat in Germany on Wednesday night, after missing Bullets' defeat at Leopards.

Bown said: ``That was an awful lot of our rebounding strength gone and we really missed John in the game.''

O'Connell was playing in Dublin against Croatia last night but, said Bown: ``He is very keen to join up with the team for today's game.''

Ireland made little use of him in the defeat against Germany, when he scored one point from a free throw and took only one rebound.

Bullets drafted in their former player, Stephen Barnes, a 6ft 8in forward who has played on the continent for several years, for the game at Leopards.

``Signing Barnes is only a short-term move,'' said Bown, ``until we are clear of the injuries,'' even though Garcia is still registered only for North European Basketball League games. Johnson, who has been disappointing since the team's return from America, Brant Bailey and Ben Walker fill the three work permit slots allowed for domestic games.

Bullets have won all three of their NEBL games so far, all at home,andBown hopes Garcia will be fit for the next fixture, against Magic Great Danes at Aston Villa on December 8.

After the game against Great Danes, Bullets then face four away NEBL games, against Stockholm (Swe), Siaulai (Lith), Ventspils (Lat) and finally against Pepinters (Bel), who include former Bullet Chris Haslam in their lineup.

CAPTION(S):

MISSED... John O'Connell
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2001
Words:367
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