OPENING fixtures do not come much tougher as Bradford Dragons prepare to host defending National Basketball League champions Reading Rockets.

The Dragons have no injury worries for tonight's Division One game, although head coach Chris Mellor is still a couple of players short of having a full squad at his disposal.

Bradford have already qualified for the quarter-final stages of both the National Trophy and the National Cup, which Mellor considers to be a "great effort" considering they are still growing as a team.

Reading were undoubtedly the strongest side in the league last season, having not only won the Division One title but also both the National Cup and National Trophy to complete a treble – and only just missed out to Leeds Carnegie in the final of the end-of-season play-offs.

Mellor said: "Reading have been one of the major forces in Division One over the past number of years, having won countless pieces of silverware.

"We've had some great games against each other, the semi-final heartbreaker in last season's play-offs being the most recent.

"They are coached and owned by two people that I have a lot of respect for, in Manuel Garces and Gary Johnson, who always conduct themselves, win or lose, in the right way and never make excuses.

"For us, we are glad to have progressed in both cup competitions but the serious business starts now as we look forward to the league campaign.

"It's a long road ahead between now and April and there will undoubtedly be many ups and downs.

"We will, as always, just try to play hard, play together, have fun, stay healthy and see where it takes us."

Having lost the services of last season's star player Josh Wilcher, the Australian having now stepped up to the British Basketball League with Plymouth Raiders, the Reading squad has undergone significant transformation for this term.

They bowed out of the National Trophy last weekend, having recorded just two wins and four losses in the round-robin stages.

Reading coach Garces said: "I am disappointed not to have made the quarter-finals of the Trophy but my team gave everything (against Hemel Storm) on Saturday and it was a great effort.

"We had chances to win and this has been the theme of our season – we have been close in nearly every game.

"This weekend is another difficult one for us and it will depend on who we have fit as to how we approach the game.

"Bradford are a very good, well-coached team and will provide a stern first test for us as we look to defend our league title."

Tonight's game at Bradford College Sports Hall, on Trinity Road, tips off at 6.15.