Riders host pre-season Sharks game

Leicester Riders return to action this Friday as they face Sheffield Sharks in a pre-season game at Morningside Arena.

Although the game will be behind closed doors, Riders fans will be able to watch the game via a LIVE stream for just £4.99 – sign-up here: riders.basketball/live .

The club have also announced that Season Ticket holders will be able to watch the game for free through a code that the club will be issuing directly to those supporters ahead of Friday’s game.

It will be a first look for the Riders faithful of new signings Geno Crandall, Zach Jackson, and William Lee. As well as the return of familiar faces Conner Washington, Mo Walker and Raheem May-Thompson.

Darien Nelson-Henry, Jamell Anderson and Corey Johnson complete the line-up for Rob Paternostro’s side who will be looking forward to getting the ball bouncing again on Friday night.

“We’re excited to be back out there and playing competitive basketball,” commented Coach Rob.

“The Riders fans and their support has always been the heartbeat of the club. We really appreciate them buying season tickets and supporting us all the way.”

“We will miss the fans being there on Friday night but hope they can tune in to watch us through the live stream.”

“I’ve enjoyed working with the team the last few weeks. We have some hard-working talented players that our fans will enjoy watching.”

Watch Riders v Sharks LIVE this Friday at 7.30pm on riders.basketball/live for just £4.99.

Riders Consider Season Options

Leicester Riders are looking at all options, after the planned start of the BBL season later this week was put on hold.

Riders along with other BBL clubs met late last week online, to consider the Prime Minister’s announcement that the return of spectators to sporting events was on hold indefinitely, following an increase in Covid-19 cases.

The BBL had planned to announce fixtures for the new season last week, but that announcement has again been delayed.

Riders Chairman Kevin Routledge said the club were particularly frustrated,

“We had been in continuous discussions with DCMS, and were on track to be the first indoor sports pilot in the country last Friday in a pre-season friendly.”

“The Morningside Arena has done a huge amount of work to become Covid Secure, with a major investment in software and physical changes to the arena.”

“We have been advised that the changes have made means the venue is one of the best prepared in the county.”

“So to get this news is devastating, particularly to the people involved in all these works.”

“It is going to have a massive impact on all BBL clubs, because there is a huge dependency for all clubs on gate receipts and local sponsors.”

“We have been advised the Government will consider requests for support, but the challenge will be for Clubs to survive, while negotiations go on.”

“Because we are one of a few Clubs that have control of our own Arena, we also have amongst the highest overheads in the British game.”

“Obviously we want to play games only when it is safe to do so, but all venues are different, and the risks will be very different.”

“We will be working very hard with the BBL to consider all options and hope to let our supporters and sponsors know very soon the outcome.”

“We don’t rule out playing behind closed doors for a period, but that is not a sustainable way of operating, and it is unclear whether all clubs could even start on that basis.”

“Ultimately we are in the hands of Government.”

The BBL’s Chief Operating Officer Andy Web said,

“Following the Government announcement on 22nd September that fans will not be allowed back to sporting events for the foreseeable future, the British Basketball League is currently assessing the impact this will have on professional basketball in the UK.”

“The UK is a great sporting nation and the positive impact that sport has on communities and on physical and mental health can be seen at all levels from grassroots through to elite levels.”

“With all the BBL clubs firmly rooted in their communities, it is no exaggeration to say that the impact of this decision will be deeply felt by all 11 BBL clubs and the many stakeholders the Clubs and their charitable Foundations work with.”

“We recognise that the Government are taking these measures in the interests of the nation’s health and we fully support them in that.”

“However, to remove the possibility of such a vital source of income only a week before we were due to start our season means the BBL has no option but to call on the Government for support at this crucial time.”

“The viability of our league, the only professional men’s basketball league in the UK, is predicated on ticket and sponsorship income, as thousands of fans and local businesses show their support each week.”

“Without their support, there is a risk of the loss of clubs who work in the heart of their communities, as well as the current and future generations of talented sportspeople, many from our most deprived communities.”

“In the meantime, the BBL is reassessing its options with regards to the new season and will be making further announcements shortly.”

Jozef Bielak Returns to the Riders in Loughborough

Jozef Bielak is set to return to the UK next season following a stint at Sheridan College, after graduating Charnwood College in 2019 as an EABL Champion with the Riders programme.

Bielak featured in the 2019 edition of the Deng Top 50 and the Hoopsfix All-Star Classic before earning a scholarship to Sheridan College to play and study in the US last season.

Back in on home soil, the Liverpool native is looking forward to the upcoming season studying within the Elite Player Pathway at Loughborough University, despite the uncertainty around the sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m really looking forward to being around great people and other athletes who have competed at the highest level.” commented Bielak.

“I chose Loughborough because of the winning environment and high standards of education. It’s one of the few places in the U.K. that can provide a similar experience to a number of places in the states.”

Loughborough Head Coach Mark Jarram is pleased with the roster addition of Bielak ahead of the upcoming NBL and BUCS seasons with a 3-4 year journey ahead for the talented shooting guard.

A graduate of Charnwood College and someone very familiar with our programme, Joe will come in to our group and add shooting and great determination to win. We are really intrigued to see how his game can translate and grow over his time here.

Be sure to follow @lborobasketball for further roster updates coming soon ahead of the NBL season in October.

Joe Bielak drives the lane
Riders sign Geno Crandall

Leicester Riders today announced the signing of American guard Geno Crandall.

Crandall, who spent last season in the Czech Republic with Turi Svitavy averaging 13.9 points per game and 3.7 assists, played for both North Dakota and Gonzaga in college.

Crandall averaged 14.3 points and 4 assists over three seasons at North Dakota, leading the side to the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore. Geno left North Dakota after his third year, transferring to American basketball powerhouse Gonzaga.

Described as a leader and high-level communicator in his one season with the Zags, Geno will give Coach Paternostro great options at the guard spot in the Riders roster.

Crandall spoke to Riders.Basketball: “I’m very excited to get to Leicester and help the Riders compete for a championship.”

“I’m looking forward to working with the staff and the players in Leicester.”

“I can’t wait to get on court and show what I can do.”

Coach Rob Paternostro commented on the signing:

“We are very happy to sign a player like Geno, he is a very talented player with pro experience who can play either guard position. Geno is a guy that has shown that he can fit into any team or situation thrown his way.”

“After a great career at North Dakota it was very impressive to see how he fit in with Gonzaga, one of the best teams in college basketball. It’s never easy to go to a new team with a different style of play but Geno was able to adapt very quickly.”

“He has good size , is very athletic, and has great quickness. He has a high basketball IQ and good feel for the game which is evident when you watch him play.”

“He can score , we have seen that at the collegiate level and the pro level but he also impacts the game in many other ways which makes him a very well rounded player.”

In other Riders news, guard Jonah Mathews has returned to America following the announcement of the NBA draft.

A number of NBA teams have made contact with the former USC captain. and he has made the decision to head back to California. Riders would like to wish Jonah all the best for his future career.

Loughborough Riders core set to Return

Loughborough Riders will boast a large returning core ahead of the NBL and BUCS Premier seasons, with key faces making a return to the line up ahead of a unusual season set to begin.

Jonas Dieterich, Kyle Jimenez, Liam Johnson, Carl Ntifo, Harrison Gamble, David Oputa return to the Loughborough side as a positive returning core for Coach Jarram’s roster with Loughborough second team players Conor O’Reilly and Mayowa Oloke stepping up to group in training camp.

Head Coach Mark Jarram will continue to build a combination roster built around student athlete players eligibly for BUCS Premier competition and a weekend roster including a number of alumni and Charnwood College students.

“We’re extremely fortunate to return a lot of our core group from last season,” commented Coach Jarram.

“With a large number of incoming freshmen it’s important to have some continuity and corporate knowledge. Harrison, Jonas and Kyle are all respected voices in the locker room whilst also leading by example.

We’re also intrigued to see how the other returners can grow and develop as second year players.”

The Loughborough Riders will continue pre-season as league details and schedules are finalized for October. Be sure to follow @lborobasketball on social media for news and updated throughout the season as basketball returns.

Katie Januszewska joins the Leicester Riders

Katie Januszewska has joined Charnwood College and will play in the WBBL and WEABL this upcoming season. 

The 5’11 guard previously played for the Derby Trailblazers division 2 and helped the U16s make an appearance at the junior final fours. Last season, the scoring machine averaged 30 points per game with a monster triple-double against Sheffield Hatters – 50 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.

 “I am excited to join the Riders this season,” commented Katie. “This is a great opportunity for me to learn and work alongside such talented players.”

“The team has been hugely welcoming and supportive and are always happy to share their knowledge with me which I appreciate.”

Januszewska has also represented both England at the u15’s Copenhagen invitational tournament and Great Britain at the 2019 FIBA European Championship.

WBBL Head Coach Jesper Sundberg commented: “it’s been a pleasure working with KJ these first weeks of preseason. She has already shown a desire to compete with our more experienced players.”

“I’m extremely excited to see how she can develop and improve in a senior environment.”

Katie is now the 12th and the youngest player announced by the Riders for the WBBL 2020-21 season. 

Coach Paternostro praises Captain Thomson

Riders Head Coach Rob Paternostro spoke to Riders.Basketball on the retirement of Andrew Thomson…

“Andy is a legend of the BBL, there is no doubt about that, when you look at what he is done in his career, one thing is consistent and that’s winning.”

“He has won wherever he has played and has been a guy that any coach would love to have on their team.”

“He was a huge signing for us, one of the most important signings in Leicester Riders history.”

“I feel fortunate that he spent the 4 years with us. He was always all about winning and being a team player which made my job easier.”

“Andy was a big man that could do everything – he was an excellent shooter, who put so much pressure on the defence by being able to stretch the floor and make defender pay.”

“But if you took that away, Andy could beat you in many other ways, passing , interior scoring and rebounding.”

“Defensively he was very versatile and physical, but most importantly to me was his IQ. He studied the opponents and understood the game plan and what his team needed to do to win.”

“When I think of Andy I will always think of a player that would play his best basketball in the big games and the big moments. There are so many times that he came up with the big play late in the game to put is in the win column “

“It was always great to be sitting in the locker room before a final and to know he was on your team, you knew he would be ready and you know you had a great chance to win with him on your team.”

Leicester Riders Captain Andy Thomson Calls Time

Leicester Riders England international Andy Thomson has decided to call time on his career, as Riders restart full scale training for the new season.

36 years old Thomson has been Riders captain for the last two seasons and is one of the most successful players ever to grace the BBL.

Manchester born Thomson has accumulated 20 BBL trophies in a storied career, that included stops with Newcastle Eagles and Mersey Tigers, as well as in France and Spain.

The 6 foot 9 inch forward led Riders into Europe in the 2018/19 season for the first time in nearly two decades, and played his best basketball in European competitions, averaging nearly 11 points and over 3 rebounds a game, while shooting an excellent 53% from the floor and 39% from the three point line.

Thomson missed a big chunk of that season with injury, and with the England team at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, where he picked up another injury, but still had some big moments for the Riders, including in the decisive last moments in the BBL Trophy Final.

That season he missed 16 Championship games, but still averaged over 7.5 points and nearly 4.3 rebounds a game, while shooting 44% from the floor.

Last season he averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 43% from the floor, and 35% from the three point line, in a season truncated early by the Covid-19 pandemic

Thomson said it was a difficult but inevitable decision,

“To step away from such a long career, in anything, is a tough, life changing decision, however with sport you’re fully aware it’s got to come to an end.”

“Going in to the 2019/2020 season, as my 14th year in professional basketball, I had the mindset that this season was likely to be my last one.”

“I may not have been able to complete this final season and finish on that high due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I still reflect on my career with pride.”

“I’ve achieved 20 trophies across my 9 seasons in the BBL, having represented 3 different clubs and captaining my final 2 seasons.”

“This decision did not come easy to me.”

“I’d put these thoughts off for years as I could never bring myself to visualise hanging up my shoes, however over the last few I’d put my efforts into training and launching my business, Solvere Therapies, specialising in holistic, complementary treatments as my transition.”

“This gave me the confidence to see that there was another path out there for me.”

“Having also recently explored other opportunities which may still come in to fruition, I will always pursue this as a side line to satisfy my passion for helping people.”

“When I look back to starting out my career, I can see how much basketball, as a sport has grown.”

“The league is definitely trending in the right direction; its more competitive, there are more supporters, teams now have their own arenas and clubs are venturing into European Competitions.”

“Whilst Covid-19 has us hanging in suspense, I’m positive it won’t be long before the growth continues.”

“I would like to say a huge thanks to the Leicester Riders club and fans for welcoming myself and my wife to their community.”

“The support and loyalty from the fans during the highs and lows have made it an honour to represent them and their city.”

“I hope you enjoyed this part of my journey as much as I did.”

“A great thing about basketball is that it has its own network, you play with and against players who over the years of playing in the BBL, many have turned in to life-long friends.”

“You also get the privilege to meet with fans and sponsors, and through this I’ve made some great friendships.”

“I’d like to say a further thanks to coach Rob Paternostro for signing me up to his ball club.”

“He and Russell Levenston put together some very talented teams which I was lucky to be a part of, culminating in 7 trophies throughout my time here.”

“Whilst Rob’s a very emotive and animated coach on the side lines, he’s very supportive and understanding in the needs of his players on and off the court which I appreciated greatly.”

“The arena and the club are in good hands with Kevin Routledge at the helm and I wish them the best of luck in their future and I’m sure there will be plenty more trophies to line those cabinets.”

“I’m still residing in Leicestershire so will ensure I get down to the games to continue my support.”

Riders sign Jonah Mathews

Leicester Riders can today announce the signature of guard Jonah Mathews.

Hailing from Santa Monica, California, 6’3″ Mathews spent four years at USC averaging 13.4 pts in PAC-12 in the 2019-20 season

Although the season finished abruptly due to Covid-19, his last appearance for USC on Senior Day was a memorable one. The USC captain hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 6:52 left to become USC’s all-time leader in threes. In the same game Mathews took a game-winning three with 2 seconds remaining for a 54-52 victory over UCLA, the result is the first regular-season sweep over their rivals since the 2015-16 season, and made the Trojans’ NCAA Tournament berth all but confirmed.

After four years playing for the Trojans, Jonah can’t wait to get his professional career underway.

“I’m so excited to get out there and play for this program with a great coach and talented group of guys,” commented Mathews. “I’m very excited to play in a different country along with an amazing fan base that the Riders bring to every game.”

“I just wanna get out there and work. I want to win another championship with this program.”

Jonah was named to the All PAC-12 tournament first team in 2018, All PAC-12 second team and all-defensive team last season. Mathews becomes the ninth signing for Head Coach Rob Paternostro who is delighted to bring the American to Leicestershire:

“We are excited to have Jonah this season. His career at USC speaks for itself, individually he did great things, but what really stood out for me was that he had more wins than any other player in USC history. That’s a statistic to be proud of!”

“He is a talented guard with quickness, good size , and the versatility to play with the ball or without it. He has an excellent all around game. He led his team in minutes played which shows you his value to the team.”

“He was very effective in late game situations, you can see on video that he was confident in his ability to make plays in the important moments of the game.”

“Defensively he had a very good season, making the All defensive team in the PAC-12 shows how highly he was thought of on that end of the floor.”