Riders beat Lions to advance to BBL Cup Final

The Riders emerged victors of a clash between the BBL’s titans, beating the London Lions 178-170 on aggregate in the BBL Cup semi-final. The Riders entered the tie with a 99-96 advantage, and won the second leg 79-74 to advance to their first Cup final since 2016. 

Led by 15 points and six rebounds from Zach Jackson, the Riders saw the game out after a dominant first half. The Riders romped the Lions 25-14  in the second quarter to build their lead, setting a foundation to win the tie against a spirited Lions comeback. 

The highly anticipated game lived up to its billing, thrilling a packed Morningside Arena. The raucous crowd saw their team progress to the Cup final in an emphatic fashion, as they acted as a vital sixth man for all four quarters. 

Coach Rob Paternostro put out a call to Riders fans before the game to come out in full force. Postgame, he thanked them for their support.

“I thought the crowd was fantastic. These types of games call for that type of crowd. That’s why you like to have the second leg at home. The players fed off that energy, and this group deserves to be in a final.”

In the end, the Riders defence got the job done, as they held the BBL Cup’s highest-scoring offence to their lowest tally in the competition. Former G-League guard Isaiah Resse led London with 20 points and seven assists, his third-quarter effort kick-started his team’s fightback. 

The Riders bolted out the game for a big lead. Patrick Whelan got the game going with a bang, throwing down a breakaway jam for the first bucket of the game. 

The dunk kick-started a wave of Riders drives to the hoop, resulting in Lions’ star shot-blocker Kylor Kelly ending up in early foul trouble. 

Kelly’s absence from the early stages opened up the lane to the hoop further, allowing the Riders to jump up to a 13-6 lead. The Riders run was capped off by Marc Loving’s strong drive, finished by a two-handed slam. 

In response to the hot Riders start, the BBL Cup’s leading scorer Dirk Williams scored five straight to get the Lions back close. Williams’ play got the visitors rolling, as they cut the lead to a point with back to back threes. 

The back and forth first period was concluded with a highlight from the reigning MVP. London looked to have stopped a Riders fastbreak, before Geno Crandall threw an audacious no-look pass behind his head to Kimbal Mackenzie, who laid it in for his eighth points of the quarter. 

Jackson took the roof off the Morningside in the early stages of the second quarter, going baseline before throwing down a dunk over a contesting Williams. Jackson scored back to back buckets to put the Riders up eight. 

The momentum remained with Leicester through much of the second quarter, as they built their lead to double digits. Crandall sent the home crowd into a frenzy, taking Resse off the dribble, dropping him with quick handles before draining a three in his face to force a Lions timeout. 

Leicester saw out the half with an 18-6 run, putting them up 52-34 as they entered the locker rooms. 

The Lions came out the gate swinging in an attempt to climb back into the tie, starting the second half with a 10-2 run led by eight from Reese. The hot start to the quarter allowed the Lions back into contention, cutting the lead to four. 

Leicester stopped the bleeding to close out the third, going on a 6-0 run finished off by a Crandall breakaway slam. The Riders entered the final period leading 67-57. 

The Riders recaptured their first-half form to start the fourth, building their lead to 14. In response, London recaptured momentum to continue their comeback. Williams’ three with four minutes left cut the game to five. 

The Riders held on, courtesy of two colossal buckets from Jurbil Adekoya in the clutch. The Valparaiso graduate has performed in the biggest moments all season long and scored four of his nine points in the fourth. 

“I pride myself on being ready. I try to be prepared and bring something to the team. It’s cool if it’s two minutes or 40 minutes. I just want to bring something to the team,” said Adekoya post-game. 

Paternostro sang the praises of his players after the game: “Jubril was excellent today. His pick and roll defence in the second half was a real difference in the game. He’s been a real unsung hero for us this year.”

Julian Washburn hit a three for the Lions to make it a four-point game, but a huge offensive rebound from Jackson late on led to game-sealing free-throws from Loving. 

The final will take place on the 30th of January at the Utility Arena in Birmingham. The Riders will face the Manchester Giants, hoping to win their first BBL Cup since 2014. 

Assistant coach Pablo Vazquez will be coaching in his first BBL Cup final in his tenure. He spoke on the test the game will present. 

“Manchester are a tough team. A lot of talent, and good British players. It will be special to play Jamell [Anderson] because it will be the first time we see him not wearing red. We’re going to try and do our thing and bring silverware back to Leicester”. 

Preview: Riders v Lions

Season So Far – Riders

After falling to the Bristol Flyers in the first game of their BBL Cup group, the Riders enjoyed a six-game winning streak to qualify for the knockouts. 

They then won a nailbiter in the quarter-finals, with Jubril Adekoya’s game-winner seeing them past the Cheshire Phoenix 85-84. 

Geno Crandall leads Leicester in the BBL Cup with 16.6 points and 7.8 assists per game, the reigning MVP picking up where he left off last season. 

The Riders enter the second leg with a slight edge over their opponents, having won the first game 99-96, led by Patrick Whelan’s season-high 25 point performance. 

 Season So Far – Lions

The Lions cruised through the BBL Cup South Group with a 7-1 record, topping the table to progress to the knockouts. They started their campaign with seven straight wins, losing only to the Riders.

In the quarter-final, London dominated against the Sheffield Sharks, pulling out a 100-68 win. Italian sniper Lorenzo Cugini led the game with 28 points, getting red hot from deep to make five of his 10 threes. 

The Lions fought back against the Riders after falling down big in the first leg, making the score manageable ahead of a highly anticipated clash in Leicester. 

One To Watch – Riders

Scoring 25 in the first leg, Warrington sharpshooter Patrick Whelan has enjoyed a string of solid performances in December. 

Whelan has averaged 19.5 points while shooting a scorching 65% from three this month, playing aggressively to put points on the board. 

A William Jewell graduate, Whelan played his first three professional seasons in Spain, achieving promotion to the Spanish second division with Real Murcia. 

Whelan can hurt defences in a number of ways from the two-guard position. He can play off-ball and hit shots, play in isolation by taking defenders off the dribble, and get out in transition for easy buckets. 

No matter how he gets it done, Whelan is capable of going off for big performances any given night. 

One To Watch – Lions

Dirk Williams has been on a tear this season, leading his team in the BBL Cup with 22.6 points per game. 

The 6’5” wing is in his second Lions season, and has scored over 20 in six of his eight Cup games this year, with a high of 30 coming against the Riders. 

Williams led London with 24 points in the first leg, going 10-13 from the field and 3-4 from three. 

Williams is a danger to opposing defences all over the court, his shooting ability opening up lanes to the rim where he can finish strong. The UAB graduate averaged 18 points per game last season and has taken leaps forward this year. 

Previous Meeting

The Riders looked in control for long stretches of the first leg, taking a 19 point lead into the fourth. But a late Lions resurgence makes it all to play for in the second leg, with just three points between the sides on aggregate.

Whelan led the game with 25 points, firing from deep to make six of his seven three-point attempts. For London, Williams kept London in the game with 24 points, while Italian sniper Lorenzo Cugini backed him up with a 22 point night. 

Riders partner with Hard Yards UK

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce Hard Yards UK as their official sock provider.

Leicester Riders and Hard Yards UK both share the same belief that marginal gains are critical in elite sport to maintain a competitive edge and this partnership demonstrates their commitment to continuous improvement and innovation within their respective fields.

“It’s fantastic for us to partner with Hard Yards UK. They have a quality product and we are really enthused to be able to offer our players high quality socks,” commented Riders Managing Director Russell Levenston.

“Hard Yards UK are a forward-thinking company and we are a progressive club very much at the forefront in British Basketball. So it’s a great partnership for us.”

James Barker, director of Hard Yards UK, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Leicester Riders, one of the UK’s most successful basketball teams, as their official sock provider. This partnership highlights the quality of Hard Yards’ products and their considerable benefit for elite athletes to enhance performance, maximise power transfer and move with precision.”

Riders beat Patriots to continue winning run

The Riders blew out the Plymouth City Patriots 106-60 to extend their lead at the top of the BBL Championship table to four points. They improved to a 7-0 record, led by Darien Nelson-Henry’s season-high 22 points and seven rebounds off the bench. 

The win marks 34 on the bounce against Plymouth for the Riders, a BBL record. Leicester led wire to wire, leaving the game beyond any doubt by taking a 31 point lead into the half. Their offence continued its hot form, scoring over 100 for the third league game running. 

Leicester executed to an elite standard on both ends. Their league-best defence locked in, holding the Patriots to 15 or less in each of the first three quarters. The Riders had seven steals and four blocks in the game, suffocating their opponents. 

The loss left the Patriots winless on the season, as their record fell to 0-7. The BBL’s leading scorer, Kofi Josephs, struggled through much of the game, scoring 12 through the first three quarters before scoring nine in the fourth. 

Patrick Whelan owned the opening stages, putting up six points in four minutes to get the Riders on the board. His efforts helped the hosts to bolt out to a 15-6 lead, and his three ended the quarter with Leicester leading 27-15. 

Going 16-3 to start the second, the Riders domination continued. Nelson-Henry commanded the paint, the Penn graduate grabbing two offensive boards and scoring six points in the first five minutes of the period. 

Marc Loving came up with the play of the game with under two minutes left in the half, throwing down a monster putback slam over Rowell Graham-Bell and former Rider Rashad Hassan. The Ohio State forward had 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in a balanced first-half showing. 

On the next play, Geno Crandall capitalised on the infectious energy in the Morningside Arena with a highlight of his own. He danced on Plymouth big Cameron King, leaving him stranded and stumbling before floating in a layup. 

The MVP finished with 12 points from nine shots and four assists, before taking well-earned rest in the final period. 

Leicester’s BBL best defence held Plymouth to just 10 points in the second, entering the locker rooms with the game in little doubt, the score 56-25. 

After running rampant in the first half, the Riders cruised home for the dub. Back to back Whelan threes made it 74-38 with two minutes left in the third, in a quarter Leicester won 20-15. Jackson’s deep two put the hosts up 38 entering the final period. 

The fourth saw Loughborough Riders star Greg Wild get big minutes, playing the entirety of the quarter. The 6’0” guard, who signed his first professional contract in the summer, scored seven to the delight of the home crowd. 

Another young star made his mark on the game in the fourth, as Charnwood’s Louie Jordan spiked Joseph’s layup out of bounds. To cap off a commanding win, Nelson-Henry hit a rare three to send Riders fans home happy. 

“We try to be multidimensional, and defence is a big part of our game. We know we’re going to get up shots and flow on offence, but getting stops is what we pride ourselves in. Holding them to 60 is a good night”, said Nelson-Henry post-game. 

Coach Rob Paternostro reflected on the win: “There was a focus on both ends on the floor today. We dominated in the first half to give us a great lead. The ball movement at times was exceptional.

“It was a very good effort from our guys. We were what we’ve been all year professional. We’ve had some really good performances on the offensive end. We’re really comfortable with each other, and you can see certain guy’s skills continue to develop. 

“That’s what’s great about coaching. Watching the team and individuals grow. There’s such a nice balance on the floor. You never know who’s going to burn you, and that’s the toughest team to defend.” 

The Riders turn their attention to an immense BBL Cup semi-final in their next game, as they face off against the London Lions. Leicester takes a three-point aggregate lead into the tie at the Morningside Arena, as they hope to win the competition for the first time since 2014. 

Paternostro stressed the importance of the fans ahead of the fixture: “It’s important for us to have a big crowd. We want it to be as full and as loud as possible. We need that home-court advantage.”

Preview: Riders v Patriots

Season So Far – Riders

The table-topping Riders are the BBL’s only remaining undefeated team, starting the season 6-0. They possess the league’s best offence and defence, demonstrated by their 101-72 dominating win against the Newcastle Eagles in their previous game. 

Geno Crandall put on a first-half clinic, scoring 20 points to put the game out of the Eagles’ reach. Crandall leads the team in scoring with 18 points and seven assists per game, kicking on from last season’s MVP winning year. 

Leicester are loaded with three-point snipers, shooting 41.8% from deep on the season. The Riders shooters space the floor, allowing for team-first ball movement which generates a BBL best 25 assists per outing. 

With the ability to shoot the lights out and lock down opponents defensively, the Riders are a force to be feared this season. 

Season So Far – Patriots

The Patriots sit winless at the bottom of the BBL Championship table with an 0-7 record. The newly formed Plymouth franchise look to find their feet in a competitive league, and are beginning to push teams from wire to wire. 

In early December, the Patriots kept a game against a strong Sharks team to within four with two minutes remaining, showing signs of an elite defensive outfit to hold their visitors to 66 points on the game. 

With just six players available to play in their previous game, Plymouth took a heavy defeat to the Cheshire Phoenix. The Patriots had four players playing the full 40 minutes, showing grit and heart throughout and will prove a stern test for the Riders.

One To Watch – Riders

After missing the start of the season due to injury, captain Darien Nelson-Henry has returned to the Riders to play in their previous two fixtures. The 6’11” big man has made the most of limited floor time, playing effectively whenever he sees the court.

In the first leg of the BBL Cup semi-final against the Lions, the Penn graduate put up 10 points, five rebounds and three steals in just 15 minutes. This efficiency has been consistent throughout Nelson-Henry’s Riders’ tenure, after he shot 57% from the field 73% from the line last season, making the BBL Team of the Year in his second season in Leicester. 

One To Watch – Patriots

Since joining the Patriots earlier in the year, Kofi Josephs has taken the BBL by storm. The 6’6” wing out of Fort Lewis is leading the league in scoring with 25 points per game, in his third tenure in the BBL.

Birmingham-born Josephs has previously played for the Glasgow Rocks and the Worcester Wolves, averaging 14 points with the Wolves in the 2019/20 season. 

He put the league on notice in his second Patriots game, dropping 46 points and eight rebounds against the Manchester Giants, draining five threes and going 11/12 from the free-throw line. The Riders defence will have to be on top of its game to ensure Josephs doesn’t explode for another hot night. 

Previous Meetings

The teams last faced off in the BBL Cup Group stage, with the Riders taking the victory in both of the fixtures. Their most recent game was played at the Morningside Arena, with Leicester winning 81-64 led by 20 points from Marc Loving. 

Denzel Ubairo led Plymouth with his 19 point effort, following up a 22 point performance in the first tie against the Riders.

BBL announce multi-million-pound investment 777 Partners acquire a 45% stake

The initial tranche of £7 million will ‘transform’ the League helping to unlock ‘huge untapped potential’ for basketball across the UK.

The British Basketball League (BBL) has today announced that Miami based alternative investment firm, 777 Partners, has invested £7 million in return for a 45% stake in the professional league.

Today’s announcement marks the initial phase of funding at £7 million, serving as a defining moment for the future of basketball in the United Kingdom. The investment will be used to deliver an ambitious plan that will span the entirety of the sport – from community grassroots through to the overall infrastructure of the elite game in the UK.

Central to the League’s plan is the creation of a significantly enhanced leadership team – including the appointment of a new CEO – to drive the League forward. There will also be major investment in a ‘digital transformation’ strategy to improve and enhance the product and to deliver the League and its content more effectively to the sport’s digitally native audience. Further recruitment, building a sophisticated data infrastructure and the adaption of new technologies are all also key to the deployment of investment.

With regards to the impact of the investment at game-level, strategic focus will extend both on and off the court, with initiatives ranging from elevating the quality of play and investing in official and refereeing development, to the upskilling of game-day delivery teams.
Under the new ‘BBL Supports’ programme, the League’s player-first approach will be further prioritised, with players given additional support across their basketball and wider career aspirations and additional investment made in the player onboarding process and athlete welfare programmes.

Funds will also drive the introduction of new in-stadia technologies to improve the fan experience and broadcast product. Sky Sports is the current broadcast partner of the British Basketball League, showing one League match live every weekend across the season.

Under the plans the League is also targeting at least four new, high-quality franchises to be added to the League within the next five years.

Through the BBL Inspires programme, the grassroots of the game will also benefit as the League enhances its collaboration with Leicester Riders on their work across their local communities, to help inspire and develop the next generation of British basketball talent.

A significant area of future League expenditure will be dedicated to creating the infrastructure to support clubs with operational, content and marketing initiatives – helping attract new teams whilst supporting existing Clubs in continuing to build and expand their reach. This initial investment is designed to act as a catalyst to trigger further significant investments in Clubs, with the aim also of creating much improved arenas and training facilities.

The BBL is also committed to increasing its support of the women’s game, with additional resource being channeled towards the Women’s Basketball League, and to working with the National Governing Bodies to help grow all levels of the game, including the Great Britain teams. Increased commercialisation of all the sport’s key assets working in partnership is a key objective of the investment.

Basketball is the second most played team sport in the UK, with a quarter of teenagers playing at least twice a month and 47% of participants coming from a non-white background – the highest of any sport (*Source: Sport England). There are also over 8.4 million basketball fans living in the UK, demonstrating the significant interest levels there are in the sport.

Commenting on the new investment Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of the British Basketball League, said; “To state that we are thrilled to have 777 Partners come onboard – as passionate investors who share our vision – is somewhat of an understatement. We couldn’t be more delighted that, as a result of this significant injection of capital, we are now able to fast track the League’s big ambitions and unlock the huge untapped potential that we know the sport of basketball has in this country.

“Basketball is unique in its ability to reach across cultural, societal and economic divides and in its ability to engage with a young, diverse audience. There is therefore huge potential to use the transformative power of sport for the benefit of our growing audience and to increase the impact we can deliver from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game.”

He added; “Basketball and the BBL is coming out of Covid looking forward to a very positive future, thanks in no small measure to the more than £3 million of support from the Government’s Sport Survival funding. Now, with this investment from 777 Partners, we can plan for the future with confidence.”

Joshua Wander, Managing Partner from 777 Partners, said, “Basketball is undoubtedly a disruptive force to the institutions that dominate UK sport. The current barriers to entry and lack of support at all levels of the game have a disproportionate and inequitable impact on underprivileged and minority communities that stand to benefit from its potential. Observing the systemic forces inhibiting the growth of British basketball has deepened our resolve as a stakeholder. We are determined to work closely alongside the clubs and within their respective communities to ensure our investment serves to incubate the sport more broadly. We thank Sir Rodney, the board, and the clubs for the opportunity to do so.”

The move expands 777 Partners’ sports portfolio, which also includes La Liga Club Sevilla and Serie A side, Genoa, which they purchased in September of this year. 777 also owns BBL Club London Lions.

* Sport England 2018/2019 report https://www.sportengland.org/news/active-lives-children-and-young-people-survey-academic-year-201819-report-published

Riders defeat Eagles to remain unbeaten in the BBL Championship

The Riders remain the BBL’s only unbeaten team, blowing out the Newcastle Eagles 101-72 to improve to 6-0. MVP Geno Crandall led Leicester with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists, as the Riders had six players score in double digits. 

Leicester dominated their long-standing rivals from start to finish, winning every quarter. They scored over 20 points in each period in a red hot offensive effort, scoring over 100 in their second straight league game. 

On the defensive end, the Riders suffocated Newcastle, forcing 17 turnovers out of their opponents. The Eagles’ 72 points was their second-lowest tally of the year, after their 55 point performance in their previous game. 

Mo Walker got into an early rhythm, scoring eight points to start 4-4. The bruising big man’s play got the Riders’ offence ticking, and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Back to back threes gave the hosts a double-digit lead late in the first quarter, which ended 27-15. 

Zach Jackson drove baseline to throw the ball down with authority in the opening stages of the second period, continuing the Riders’ momentum. They built their lead throughout the quarter, as Crandall hit two straight from deep to make it 42-25. 

Crandall had 12 points in the quarter and 20 in the half to put Leicester up 20. They entered the locker rooms up 54-38, after former Rider Corey Johnson concluded the half’s action with a fadeaway two. 

Marc Loving got the second half underway with a bang, draining consecutive contested threes. The Ohio State sniper, who led the Riders in scoring coming into the game, had 12 in the third to maintain Leicester’s lead. 

Patrick Whelan’s free-throws ended the third with the score 80-53 in the Riders’ favour. They cruised through the fourth comfortably with their big lead. Their advantage allowed Charnwood’s Greg Wild and Louie Jordan to check into the game. 

Jordan took the roof off the Morningside Arena late, nailing a three to put his sid rover the 100 points tally to finish the game. 

“We played really good basketball. Guys are committed on the defensive end, we had a great week of practice, and the team did a great job of executing tonight,” said coach Rob Paternostro post-game. 

“We’re a team with confidence right now; you can see that. When you have our combination of talent and intelligence, it’s tough to stop.

“These guys love playing basketball. That’s what’s fun about my job. When you have a group that loves to play and compete, no matter what’s going on around them, basketball is what they want to do. Tonight you saw a team that really loved playing together.”

With Sunday’s fixture against the Surrey Scorchers postponed, the Riders next fixture takes place after Christmas. They host the Plymouth City Patriots on the 27th of December, hoping to stretch their lead atop the table. 

Leicester Riders U14 Girls flying high

Leicester Riders 80 – Milton Keynes 54

Leicester Riders U14 Girls are flying high in their league this season. Having finally been able to enter into their first competitive season, all their hard work and enthusiasm over the last few years is truly reaping its rewards. Sunday saw them take on Milton Keynes Basketball Club who are also new to Basketball England National League and were also 4 & 0 for the season so far.

The top of the league clash provided a scintillating first quarter where the lead swapped hands numerous times, but ended 18 -14 to the Riders. Coach Barwell kept his calm and rotated his players which made the difference as they went in 38 – 22 at the half. The game was competitive all the way through but the strength in depth of Riders squad proved to be a decisive factor with Milton Keynes tiring with only having eight players.

Coach Barwell had this to say:
“Today’s game felt like the culmination of three years of hard work for a group who have had their first season cancelled not once but twice. When we set up the girls’ programme in 2019, the dream was just to one day be able to compete in the NBL and the results so far in our debut season are beyond
anything that we could have imagined.

I’m lucky to have a squad with such depth of talent as we’ve already had 18 different girls compete for us in the league this year. You could see that strength in depth was the key difference betweenthe teams today and I’m extremely proud of the bench for coming in and executing just as well as
our starters did. Every game, those players not selected have still been travelling to support their teammates and the support of parents and family members has been incredible too. I feel really fortunate to coach this team and we’ll be working hard to continue the great progress that we’ve made so far.

Preview: Riders v Eagles

Season So Far – Riders

Leicester possesses the only unbeaten record in the BBL Championship, boasting a 5-0 record at the top of the league table. They look for their second league win against the Eagles in this tie, following the season opener. 

Marc Loving tops the Riders scoring charts with 18 points per game, the fourth-best scoring average in the BBL. Leicester ranks second in offence scoring 93.8 points, and defence, holding their opponents to 70.5 points. 

Last time out in the league, the Riders produced a statement 105-76  win against an exciting Glasgow Rocks outfit. Patrick Whelan had his best Riders performance of the year with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 

Season So Far – Eagles

After a rocky start to their season, crashing out of their BBL Cup group with a 1-7 record, the Eagles have got their season back on track to begin their league campaign. They sit fifth in the BBL Championship with a 4-3 record, two points off the top spot.

Two-time BBL MVP Rahmon Fletcher has led Newcastle to their early winning record, averaging 18.2 points and 10.2 assists. His passing stats help the Eagles to the best playmaking tally in the BBL, dishing 25.2 assists per game. 

Despite their run of good form, the Eagles suffered a heavy 73-55 loss to the Bristol Flyers in their previous fixture. The Newcastle offence, which ranks third in the league, never clicked into gear. The hosts made 30% of their field goal attempts, going 5/21 from three. 

One To Watch – Riders

Patrick Whelan’s attack-first mindset in his previous two games has earned him his two best Riders scoring totals of the season. 

After dropping 22 against the Rocks, Whelan led Leicester against the London Lions in the first leg of the BBL Cup semi-final, scoring 25 points and going 6/7 from three. 

The two-guard out of William Jewell college has exhibited his full offensive bag, gunning from three and driving into the teeth of the defence. 

His ability to play relentless basketball on both ends makes Whelan a dangerous opponent, with opposing players unable to switch off for a second in his presence. 

One To Watch – Eagles

Rahmon Fletcher is playing to the best of his MVP-calibre talent to start the season. He is on pace to average a double-double, following up his league-leading 19.2 points and 9.3 assists a game last year. 

Fletcher has a complete playmaking arsenal, capable of making any pass and opening up defences with crafty handles. He uses his exceptional speed paired to beat defenders and get to the hoop. 

Despite standing at 5’10”, Fletcher is adept at finishing at the rim over taller defenders and can space the floor to significant effect, averaging 38% from three last year. 

Previous Meeting

The sides last met in front of the Sky Sports cameras, tipping off their season. The Riders dominated their long-standing rivals with a 100-77 home win. 

Zach Jackson led the game with a red hot 26 points, five assists and two steals to open his account for the year, as Leicester hit 11 threes to put the game beyond doubt. 

Riders edge Lions in Cup Semi Final first leg

The Riders take a slight advantage into the second leg of the BBL Cup semi-final after beating the London Lions 99-96. Patrick Whelan continued his hot scoring form with 25 points to lead the game, going 6/7 from three. 

Leicester led the game by as many as 23 points after winning the third quarter by 12. However, a spirited comeback from their opponents made it all to play for in the return fixture. The Riders had six players in double digits in a team effort, as their offence clicked to make 51% of their shots. 

Dirk Williams led the Lions with 24 points. He and Italian sniper Lorenzo Cugini scored 46 between them to set up a thrilling second leg. London made 13 of their 27 threes and got to the free-throw line effectively late, going 5/7 in the fourth quarter. 

Captain Darien Nelson-Henry returned to the Riders’ gameday squad after missing much of the start of the season due to injury. His solid display earned him 10 points in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, reigning MVP Geno Crandall had a double-double, scoring 11 points and dishing 10 assists. 

Crandall came out hungry in a tightly contested first period. He showed off his elite playmaking ability to dish four of his assists in the first quarter, attacking the Lions’ defence and finding open teammates. 

Whelan fed off Crandall’s passing, building off his Riders-high scoring performance in his last game with seven points in the first ten minutes. He led the game in the opening quarter, which the Riders finished up 31-25. 

Three Lions threes early in the second pegged the Riders’ lead to one. Crandall reached deep into his bag to take the game over, driving into the midrange and making tough shots in traffic as the game went back and forth. 

Ohio State’s Marc Loving capped off an 8-3 Riders run in the final two minutes of the half with a buzzer-beating three. His nine first-half points helped Leicester enter the locker rooms up 55-48, despite 20 from Williams. 

Whelan caught fire in the third, building Leicester’s lead to 21 with eight straight points. Loving rode the momentum to produce the play of the game, lifting the roof of the Copper Box Arena with a monstrous putback jam over the hapless Julian Washburn. The Riders scored 33 in the third quarter to enter the fourth up 88-69. 

With a fixture at the Morningside Arena still to play, the Lions showed fight to come back into the game, cutting the Riders lead down to a single point. Eight points from Cugini sparked the London momentum swing, as the hosts made it close ahead of the second leg.  

Loving’s free throws with seconds left put the Riders up 99-96, setting up a compelling second tie. The next leg is in Leicester on the 30th of December. 

Before then, Leicester will host their rivals in the Newcastle Eagles next Friday. A win improves the Riders’ record to 5-0 to start the year and will grant the Riders their second victory against the Eagles on the season. 

Foundation launches ‘Give To Local’ fundraiser

The Leicester Riders Foundation has launched a Give To Local Hardship fundraiser in an effort to raise £4,000 to increase its reach in promoting basketball in the community. 

The aim is to raise money that can help us to support families who have been hit hard by the pandemic and break down barriers to get more people into basketball. 

Currently, the Foundation holds sessions for anyone between the ages of 4 and 17 and has links to a number of schools throughout Leicester and Leicestershire. 

The Foundation also works to bring the game to those who may not have access to it otherwise, such as working with Menphys, a charity for young people who suffer from learning difficulties. 

We have also worked with Leicester City Council, as part of their Adult skills and learning programme, which supports adults suffering from severe mental health difficulties.

Those groups, as with all community sessions held by the Riders Foundation, are totally inclusive, and cater to people regardless of age, gender, or basketball ability. 

Our aim now is to increase our reach into the community and open the game up to even more people who may not have experienced basketball before, and may not have had too many opportunities to get involved in sport in general. 

Tracey Stephenson, whose daughter Ruby is a member of the Under 14s girls’ side, and whose business Dura Sport sponsor the kit, said: “She already loved playing basketball and was successful in gaining a place in the Leicester Riders Girls Academy in 2019. Basketball has been a huge part of our lives ever since.

“It quickly became apparent to us what fantastic work the Leicester Riders Foundation does in the local community. The sessions, camps and events that the Foundation provides are fantastic and so important for both physical and mental health.

“We love being part of the Riders family and the work that the Leicester Riders Foundation does is invaluable. The Give to Local scheme is the perfect opportunity for businesses to support the charity arm of their local club in a way that’s both affordable and beneficial and with donors benefiting from some great discounts and offers.”

All of the Riders Foundation sessions are led by our expert Community Coaches, all of whom are passionate about their work, and getting people involved in sport.

One of these is Dominic McDonaugh, who is also a Leicester Riders Foundation Project Officer, and the Head Coach of the Under 16 side. He said: “As a community coach the junior academy is a great tool to help to inspire young people to become more involved with the club and to continue to encourage their basketball development. By utilising our community arena sessions, we have a stepping stone pathway that young people interested in basketball can follow.

“However, even though we have seen great growth we are still limited in our capacity and resource and cannot provide all the basketball provisions for the community that we would like. However, through the support from local donors and businesses facilitated by Give to Local, we are extremely excited to be able to enhance our current provisions and expand them further into areas of the community where we are currently less active.”

If you are a business, you can sponsor us from as little as £10 a month. This will also allow you to offer discounts to customers for your own business, and help you attract customers. 

Individuals can support us for as little as £3, either as a one-off payment, or as a monthly donation. 

You can donate by clicking here!

Thank you for all your support!

To learn more about our ‘Give to Local’ fundraiser, you can email [email protected]

Preview: Riders at Lions

Season So Far – Riders

After falling to the Bristol Flyers in the first game of their BBL Cup group, the Riders enjoyed a six game winning streak to qualify for the knockouts. They then won a nailbiter in the quarter finals, with Jubril Adekoya’s game winner seeing them past the Cheshire Phoenix 85-84. November’s BBL Player of the Month Geno Crandall leads Leicester in the BBL Cup with 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, the reigning MVP picking up where he left off last season. 

The Riders enter the semi-finals brimming with confidence after a commanding 105-76 win against the Glasgow Rocks. They bolted out the gates, up 32-13 after the first quarter, and never looked back, torching the Rocks with 18 threes. Patrick Whelan drained six of those threes, scoring his Riders-high points tally with 22, accompanied by seven rebounds and six assists. 

Season So Far – Lions

The Lions cruised through the BBL Cup South Group with a 7-1 record, topping the table to progress to the knockouts. They started their campaign with seven straight wins, losing only to the Riders. In the quarter-final, London dominated against the Sheffield Sharks, pulling out a 100-68 win. Italian sniper Lorenzo Cugini led the game with 28 points, getting red hot from deep to make five of his 10 threes. 

In their previous fixture, the Lions bounced back from a loss to the Eagles by blowing out the Manchester Giants 107-80. Dirk Williams went off for 30, making 11 of his 16 attempts. The Lions showed their strength in depth with 40 bench points, Cugini scoring 18 in 23 minutes. 

Ones To Watch  

Doing the dirty work in his previous fixture, versatile forward Jubril Adekoya dominated the glass against the Rocks, grabbing 10 rebounds. He scored six points and dished seven assists in a balanced offensive outing, and was key to the Riders early dominance with four offensive boards in the first half. The Valparaiso graduate has played key minutes at the center position off the bench in the absence of Darien Nelson-Henry, his ability to defend any position adds flexibility to coach Rob Paternostro’s lineups. 

Leading his team in the BBL Cup with 22.4 points per game, Dirk Williams has been on a tear to start the season. The 6’5” wing in his second Lions season has scored over 20 in five of his seven Cup games this year, with a high of 30 coming against the Riders. Williams is a danger to opposing defences all over the court, his shooting ability opening up lanes to the rim where he can finish strong. The UAB graduate averaged 18 points per game last season and has taken leaps forward this year. 

Previous Fixture

With both teams having progressed to the knockout stages, the sides last met on the final game of their BBL Cup Group. The Lions took a 97-83 win to split the season series 1-1, with Conner Washington and Lorenzo Cugini leading the game with 20 points each.

Foundation hosts Primary Schools Tournament

On Monday, the Foundation hosted the Primary Schools Tournament at the Morningside Arena. 

The event was held for Year 5 and 6 students at Taylor Road, Richard Hill, St Mary’s, Fosse Mead and Hope Hamilton School, who bought two sides, all schools across Leicester. 

The tournament was played in a round robin format, with all teams coming up against each other once, with the team with the most points at the end of the day taking the title.

All teams gave their all throughout the day, with the red team from Hamilton Hope emerging victorious, closely followed by those from Taylor Road.

Jim Smith, a teacher from Richard Hill, said: “It’s a great opportunity for all of them. Obviously, we didn’t get to do this sort of thing last year, but it’s good to get back out, especially at such a great venue.

“None of them have actually played basketball competitively before, so it’s good to see them enjoying it and having smiles on their faces.”

Now that everything is back up and running after lockdown, this is an event that we hope to hold at the Morningside Arena every year, continuing to promote basketball to young people across Leicestershire.

NCS Changemakers raise money for Help the Homeless

On Friday night 27 volunteers on the NCS Changemakers programme attended the Riders game against Glasgow Rocks to raise money for Help the Homeless.

They collected £107 for Help the Homeless, before volunteering at the match and watching the Riders defeat the Rocks in an entertaining match at the Morningside Arena.

Leading the NCS sessions is part of the Riders Foundation’s wider aim to promote and deliver programmes that promote health and wellbeing, and develop and inspire volunteers. 

To get involved, or find out more about our NCS programmes, email [email protected]

Sharpshooting Riders earn victory over Rocks

The Riders remain undefeated to start their league campaign with a 105-76 blowout win against the Glasgow Rocks. They go a win clear at the top of the BBL Championship table with a 5-0 record, after Patrick Whelan led them to a home win with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 

Scoring his Riders high points tally, William Jewell graduate Whelan went 6-10 from three in a scorching hot shooting night. He played aggressively on both ends, flying around the court to stuff the stat sheet. He was one of three Riders players with over 18 points, with Geno Crandall, Marc Loving and Whelan combining for 60. 

Leicester caught fire to make 17 threes, gunning from deep for a blowout win. They dominated the paint, outrebounding their opponents 49-31, led by 10 boards from Jubril Adekoya. Adekoya had four offensive rebounds in a dominant Riders first half. The hosts were up 30 at the half before cruising comfortably to the finish. 

On the receiving end of a tough loss, the Rocks were slow out the blocks and never recovered. Tyrell Green and Jordan Harris led Glasgow with 14 points each, as the visitors won the second half 41-40 to save some pride. 

Leicester bolted out to an early lead with an emphatic opening quarter, taking a 32-13 lead. They dominated on both ends, holding the BBL’s second-ranked offence to 26% from the field while making 52% of their own shots. Led by nine points from Zach Jackson, the Riders made five three’s in the first from five different players. 

The Riders buckled down defensively from the tip, holding their opponents to four points in the opening five minutes. They jumped out to a 12-4 lead, and capitalised on their early advantage by exploding for ten straight points late in the first. Crandall fuelled the momentum with a stepback three, the Gonzaga guard brimming with confidence after being named the BBL player of the month for November. 

In an attempt to fight back into the fixture, the Rocks went on a 12-4 run to start the second, led by five points from Jordan Johnson. The Riders response to the Glasgow surge was a 14-4 run of their own, capped off by a three from Conner Washington to stretch the lead to 20. Washington encapsulated the Riders effort on both ends, taking a charge from Johnson after his three-ball. Bedford born Washington had 12 points in as many minutes in the first half. 

To conclude the half, Crandall rocked Fraser Malcolm to sleep before draining a three for his 16th points of the evening. He scored 10 in the second quarter, leading the Riders into the locker rooms with a 65-35 lead.  

Loving kicked off the third quarter with a bang, hitting back to back threes to extend their lead. The teams traded buckets in the period, the Riders maintaining their 30 point advantage led by 11 points from Loving. 

Leicester saw the fixture out comfortably, with Charnwood and Loughborough prospects Greg Wild, Victor Ndoukou and Louie Jordan gaining key BBL minutes. Jordan scored the final Riders points of the evening, draining a late three to cap off a dominant win.

The Riders take a break from the BBL Championship in their upcoming fixture. They head to the Copperbox Arena to face the London Lions in the BBL Cup. The semi-final clash is the first of two legs, with Leicester playing with hopes of winning the competition for the first time since 2014. 

Geno wins BBL November award

Guard Geno Crandall has won the league’s monthly award for November 2021 after an excellent start to the campaign that has seen him build on his Molten BBL MVP award from last year.

Crandall has been BBL All-Star 5 on five occasions this season, more than any other player and including twice in the last three weeks, he averaged 19 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals per outing this past month, shooting 90% at the free-throw line.

Crandall finished with 24 points in the BBL Cup quarter final versus Cheshire including a key drive-and-dish for Jubril Adekoya that won the game with just a few seconds to play.

Riders have started the league campaign perfectly with a 4-0 record in the defence of their BBL Championship title.


Leicester Riders produced a scintillating comeback to beat the Essex Rebels 96-90 in a thrilling shoot out at the Essex University on Sunday.

Trailing by as many as 14 in the third quarter the Riders were led by the back court duo of Anna Lappenkuper & Brooklyn McAlear Fanus who combined for 37 second half points to secure a crucial win and move them to 5-2 in the WBBL Championship.

The free scoring Rebels were heading into the game on the back of a four game winning streak while the Riders were unbeaten in three.

The first quarter served as taster of what was to come as both offenses were dominant as the teams combined for 49 points, with Essex up by one.

The Rebels began to wrestle control in the second quarter and took that quarter 23-18 to enter the locker rooms up by six at the half.

It was the Rebels who again started the stronger in the third period and were looking dominant as they led 67-53 with just 3 minutes remaining in the quarter but Riders closed the quarter with a 12-0 run.

An early three pointer in the fourth quarter extended the hosts lead to 75-69 with 8 minutes left but Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus responded by scoring five in a row. This was the point where German guard Lappenkuper took over the game. She scored 11 consecutive points for the Riders and 17 fourth quarter points in total as she guided her team to an impressive win.

Lappenkuper finished with a WBBL best of 35 points shooting 75% from the field to go along with 4 assists. Her back court partner McAlear-Fanus also weighed in with 19 points & 6 rebounds while centre Oceana Hamilton had 12 points and a huge 18 rebounds as well as 4 blocks.

The Riders attention now turns to a WBBL Cup Semi Final clash up in Newcastle on Saturday evening (7pm Tip off) as they continue their defence of the trophy they won last year.

Watch the Riders Women in action on Sunday 4pm as they take on Durham Palatinates. Buy Tickets Here

Foundation leads college NCS group

This week, Leicester Riders Foundation have been leading an NCS session for special educational needs students from college. 

The course, which is part of the Foundation’s community action group, has helped offer students access to a number of activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have exposure to.

Over the course of last fortnight, the students, from the Foundation Studies group at North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, have taken part in activities such as abseiling, archery, rifle shooting and fencing.

On Wednesday and Thursday, they were at an allotment in Leicester, picking apples and planting onions.

All students have individual targets, though the NCS programme helps to develop teamwork amongst the group, as well as aiming to help their mental health and confidence, and giving them a sense of achievement.

NCS Team Leader Richard Jones said: “The most rewarding part about it is seeing that the students can achieve anything they put their mind to, and seeing them express themselves, and bringing out their potential.

“They are a really great group, they get stuck in, and they really seem to be enjoying themselves.”

Taking NCS sessions is part of the Foundation’s targets to work within the local community and deliver programmes that promote health and wellbeing.

To get involved, or find out more about our NCS programmes, email [email protected]