Bell and Ojo are fired by burning desire for a title
JEREMY BELL and Michael Ojo have returned to Marjon Plymouth Raiders this season to finish what they started last year.
Under coach Gavin Love, Raiders are seriously bidding to become a perennial powerhouse in British basketball's top-flight.
They have made great strides in the last 24 months, but still await a second BBL title to add to the BBL Trophy they lifted five years ago when Love was Raiders' point-guard in 2007.
Last season, Raiders finished runners-up to quadruple-winners Newcastle Eagles in both the BBL Cup and Trophy. It was the closest they have come to ending that wait since.
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"It's great to be back. I'm ready to get it started," said American point-guard Bell, 28, who led Raiders in scoring in 2011/12. "We came up short last year. I'm just trying to get us a championship."
British-American wing-man Ojo, 23, said: "I'm feeling pretty confident. I wanted to come back because I felt like I didn't have anything to show for my time here last year.
"Everyone knows we got to two finals but didn't end up winning and no-one likes finishing second. As a team and as an individual, I definitely feel there's unfinished business."
Raiders' 2011/12 season really revolved around the series of six games they played against Eagles.
Raiders lost the first three, two in the league and the BBL Cup final in January, before winning the next two and taking a nine-point lead into March's BBL Trophy final second leg on Tyneside.
Raiders could have tied the series at three apiece that Friday night in Newcastle, but they fatally lost track of Eagles' deadly three-point shooters late in the first half, the referees didn't give them anything down the stretch and we were all left wondering bitterly, 'What if?' on the long way home.
Bell brilliantly took the bull by the horns at Sport Central that evening and finished with 29 points on 10/14 shooting inside the arc, but he couldn't do it alone. Hopefully, he will have more support in 2012/13 if and when defining moments come.
"We have a lot of experience this year," Bell said. "Hopefully it will take us a long way and make the game easier for us."
Bell was a late arrival early last season after Love decided Ben Smith was not the floor general Raiders were looking for.
"It's good to get the deal done here earlier this year," said Bell. "I wasn't here at the start of last season.
"Hopefully we can build better chemistry in pre-season this year and not have to do it once the games have started."
Bell, forward Colin O'Reilly and centre Matt Schneck were all members of Cheshire Jets' starting-five, who eliminated Raiders in the first round of the BBL play-offs in 2010/11.
They now all find themselves in Plymouth.
"I know a lot of these guys, so I already feel we have a veteran understanding of how each other plays," said Bell, who averaged 19.3 points and 3.2 assists per game last season. "It's all about putting that together. Hopefully we can make each other better."
Bell added: "I'm going to try and be more of a leader this year and be more aggressive. I want to win and every time I'm on the court I'm trying as hard as I can to do that.
"Whatever needs doing – scoring, finding guys open, getting it to guys inside or playing defence – is what I'll do."
Schneck, entering his third year in the BBL, said: "I know which are the tough games in this league and who we have to gun for. It's a long season and you have to take care of yourself mentally and physically. But I'm ready to go."
Love said: "I like to see players, not just for three or four games but 30 or 40 games. That's why guys like Colin and like Matt are here. We've seen them play. We know what they can do."