Return of the Mack

The club is excited to announce the return of point guard Kimbal Mackenzie for the 2023/24 season. 

Mackenzie has proved a fan-favourite in his two seasons in Leicester, earning the Supporters Club Player of the Year last season – voted for by the Riders faithful. 

His 12.7 points and 3.8 assists also saw him named on the Molten BBL British Team of the Year alongside teammate Patrick Whelan. 

“Kimbal has been excellent for us and we are thrilled to have him back at the club. We have enjoyed working with him these past two seasons, he is a player who comes ready to play every day,” reflected Head Coach Rob Paternostro.

“He is a versatile guard who can be effective in many different spots on the floor and has shown the ability to make winning plays in important moments of the game.”

“His ability to fill different roles last seasons was very impressive.”

Mackenzie put in countless team-leading performances throughout the 2022/23 season, perhaps none better than his 31 point explosion against the Cheshire Phoenix in February. He went 11-15 from the field and 7-7 from the free-throw line in the Riders’ 105-91 win. 

“My family and I are thrilled to be returning to Leicester for my third season,” commented Kimbal. “The experience that we have had within the city and with the fans has been amazing. I look forward to continuing the winning ways of the Riders. Since day one, Leicester has felt like home, and in the business of being a professional athlete, it can be rare to be with the same team for multiple years, so I’m thankful for that.” 

“I’m happy to still be playing in front of the best fans in the league! A fanbase that makes Morningside one of the best home court advantages in the league, and fans that frequently travel across the country to support us.” 

“In deciding to come back, it’s the culture that Coach Rob has built for years that played a big part. Rob is a players’ coach, and the ultimate competitor, someone who I love going to battle with. I look forward to playing with a great group of guys, and to winning a lot of basketball games!”

Mackenzie’s form earned him his first call-up to the Great Britain Senior squad, making his debut in a FIBA World Cup Qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade.

Welcome back Kimbal! 

Thank you Pukka Pies!

Last week we hosted our Leicester Riders Foundation end of season awards night at the Morningside Arena and welcomed 500 of our academy players, parents, project groups, schools and partners which made it our biggest awards night to date. 

This year we redesigned our awards night to represent all of the work that we have done in the community over the past year in our 3 departments; Education, Community & Academy. In addition to our usual Academy awards we also added 11 awards from the work we have done in the community and schools recognising individuals and groups who have excelled over the past year. These awards went from our Champion School award right through to our Community Organisation of the year award and there were multiple nominations for each award from across our programmes. 

The night was made possible by an extremely generous donation from Pukka Pies who have enabled us to grow our awards night into a true representation of all the work we do in the community. As well as sponsoring our awards night Pukka Pies donation will also go towards allowing us to continue to run our Positive Futures diversionary project. 

“At Pukka, we are thrilled to not only be involved with Leicester Riders but also supporting the Foundation and children in the local community.” Said Nik Jones, Pukka Pies National Account Manager. “As a Leicester business with such strong historic ties to sports we are keen to work with local sport clubs and foundations to invest back into our great city and people. It was great to see such huge support on the night and really see the scale of what the foundation does and people it reaches. A huge thank you should be given to the foundation team and volunteer coaches who make all of this possible.”

Laura Shephard, General Manager of the Leicester Riders Foundation added “We’re extremely grateful for the generous donation from Pukka Pies that has gone towards hosting our end of season awards and also continuing our Positive Futures programme at St Andrews Play Association. The awards night was our biggest yet and it was amazing to be able to fully showcase  all of our work in the community alongside, from celebrating our inclusive work with Menphys & Vista through to our Young Official of the year award, our awards night was a representation of the breadth of our delivery across Leicestershire.” 

For updates on who won all of our individual awards check out @RidersBF on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

BBL announce new format for 2023/24

Following an epic conclusion to the British Basketball League season at The O2, the league is delighted to share its new formats for the 2023/24 season. 

The change of format sees the introduction of an All-Star Game which will take place next March. Additionally the formats for the entire calendar, including the Play-offs, has been revamped to make the league more thrilling than ever before, with three major pieces of silverware up for grabs next season. 

The league season will make its return on the weekend of Thursday 14 September with the opening round of fixtures in the Championship season, as rivalries are renewed and new stories are told. This, before a mid-season pause from Championship action, will see clubs turn their focus and attention to compete in the British Basketball League Trophy, which tips off on Thursday 4 January. With a new format, the Trophy comprises of two five team groups formed from British Basketball League clubs before the nail biting action concludes with a Semi-Final to decide who heads to Birmingham to compete in the Final on Sunday 29 January

The new layout of the British basketball calendar will allow for sole focus on each individual competition, ramping up the excitement for fans throughout the campaign, so they can roar on their teams. 

Following the return of Championship action, March will bring a showstopping All-Star game for the first time in over ten years – with more details to follow in due course. 

Upon the conclusion of the Championship season, the top eight teams will fight in the Play-offs, which sees an upgraded format of a “best of three” series for both the Quarters and Semi-Finals of the competition, and should a lower seeded team defeat a higher seeded team, that team will assume the seeding of the higher seed team they defeated. As always, the season finale sees the league head to London and The O2 for the pulse-raising Play-off Finals on Sunday 19 May.  

Speaking on the new formats, the British Basketball League’s CEO, Aaron Radin said:

“We’re really pleased to be launching new formats for the 23/24 season, which I know will excite British Basketball fans. We wanted to ensure the format of the season was clearer for our clubs, partners and fans to follow, ensuring that all the thrilling action flowed throughout the season. 

“The reintroduction of an All-Star game will be an amazing showcase of the sensational talent we have in the British Basketball League and adds another landmark moment into the basketball calendar. It’s been an incredible year for the league and we’re only going to continue to grow in the season’s ahead.”

The Women’s British Basketball League will follow a very similar formats structure as the men’s league, with clubs facing off twice throughout the course of the championship season. 

The Women’s British Basketball League Chairman, Jim Saker, said: 

It is brilliant to be working in tandem with the men’s league, so we can all capitalise on the monumental growth the sport continues to see in the UK.”

British Basketball League fans should stay tuned throughout the summer for exciting announcements ahead of the 2023/24 season! Dates for all fixtures will be confirmed during the summer ahead of the return of another thrilling campaign of basketball action. 

Riders fall just short in Playoff Final

The Riders fell just short in the BBL Playoff Final, losing 88-80 to the London Lions.

A fourth-quarter comeback gave the Riders a chance to win it late, but Marc Loving’s three to cut the game to two fell heartbreakingly short, and the Lions saw out the win. 

Zach Jackson went off for 20 points and nine rebounds, giving everything to keep his team in it. He was backed by Carrington Love’s 17 points and seven rebounds, the American guard running the Riders’ offence with electric energy. 

It was not to be for Leicester, however, who went 5-24 from three and 21-37 from the free throw line in the loss. Despite the off-shooting night, the Riders aggressive play kept them in contention until late, showing heart in the face of adversity. 

London’s Jordan Taylor was named Final MVP, putting up 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds. 

In his final game before retirement, Riders’ captain Darien Nelson-Henry led the out the gates for their first two scores. It was a tightly contested start to the game, but the Lions edged out to and advantage towards the end of the first. 

Tarik Phillp’s three made it 22-14 London after one, his eight points off the bench leading the game. 

The Riders fought back to start the second. Carrington Love pulled the strings, finding open shots for his teammates and bagging four points in three minutes. 

But London responded to carve out their biggest lead of the game. They found their way to the rim on four straight possessions to go up 11. 

Continuing to play aggressively, the Riders found their way to the free-throw line to remain in contention. They took 19 in the first half to the Lions’ nine, but made only 11. They were also one for eight from three by halftime. Leicester’s shooting in the first half was a major contributor to their deficit. 

But they were down only eight, despite finding themselves off the mark shooting the ball. Kimbal Mackenzie hit a fadeaway at the buzzer to jolt momentum into the team going into the locker rooms. 

The Riders could not make inroads in the third quarter, but their timely responses to Lions’ buckets kept them in touching distance going into the fourth. They were down 15 midway through the third, but back-to-back buckets from Carrington Love and Zach Jackson cut into their deficit. 

London hit back to close the third, rebuilding their advantage to 14 by the buzzer. Jordan Taylor led the team with 11 points and six assists with one to play.  

Scoring the first seven in the fourth quarter, the Riders showed heart to make it a game. Five of those points came from the free throw line as Leicester attacked the teeth of London’s defence. 

Midway through the fourth, the teams traded three-point bombs. London had the edge from deep, winning the battle from three to get back out to an 11-point lead. 

Leicester continued to show heart. They commenced a 9-3 run to come steaming back, cutting it to five with a minute left. Loving had a chance to cut it to one possession, but his three with 40 seconds left rolled around the hoop and out. 

Phillip hit the subsequent free throws, winning it for London. 

The game concluded the Riders 2022/23 season. Thank you all for your tremendous support. 

Riders fall in Playoff Final

The Riders fell 57-41 to the London Lions in the WBBL Playoff final. 

They remained in touching distance until the fourth quarter, keeping the Lions off the scoresheet effectively. A second-half surge from the league winners saw them complete the clean sweep of silverware this season. 

Fiona O’Dwyer led Leicester’s offensive efforts with 10 points, hitting key shots throughout to keep her team in contention. It was a one-point game midway through the period, but London found their offensive rhythm late on. 

London’s Ty Battle was named Final MVP, putting up eight points and a dominant 15 rebounds.

The Riders made it a defensive game early, keeping London’s offensive sets in the halfcourt and keeping them to one possession by crashing the glass. They built a lead with their physical play, O’Dwyer’s three making it 8-4 after four minutes. 

After missing a lot of their early looks from range, the Lions attacked the paint to bounce back. Ty Battle’s back-to-back buckets kickstarted a 13-0 London run midway through the first.  

Battle’s free throws ended the quarter with London up 19-10. 

The Riders fought back to start the second. Hannah Robb put on the moves in the post, breaking Holly Winterburn’s ankles to cap off a 10-2 run. The run cut the game to one: the Riders back in the tie. 

The Lions regained control of the tie, ending the half 10-3, but the Riders were within touching distance going into the locker rooms led by seven from O’Dwyer. 

In a low-scoring third, London edged ahead. It was a 6-2 period in London’s favour after seven minutes, and the game went without a score for five of those. O’Dwyer hit a three near the end of the third to give the Riders an outside chance at the comeback.

But London came storming out the gates in the final quarter, starting  5-0 to jump out to a 19-point lead. They saw the game out professionally from there, taking their lead to the final buzzer to win the Playoff title. 

The game concludes the Riders 2022-23 season. Thank you for your incredible support all year. 

BBL Playoff Final: Key Player Matchups

Sunday’s BBL Playoff Final between the Riders and the London Lions will be a showcase of the best talent the UK’s premier basketball competition has to offer.

Elite talent on both sides inevitably means great one-on-one battles across the court. Basketball is a team sport at its heart, but just ten players occupying the floor at one time means that beating the opposite man carries a lot of impact.

Here are the individual battles to look out for this weekend.

Carrington Love vs. Jordan Taylor

Carrington Love Stat Line: 7.65 PPG/5.52 APG/1.30 SPG/39.51 FG%

Jordan Taylor Stat Line: 9.04 PPG/5.22 APG/0.74 SPG/44.62 FG%

Look for Love and Taylor – two of the league’s flashiest ball handlers – to dictate the action on Sunday evening.

Both like to dish the ball to open teammates but have the ability to score points of their own, although expect the Lions’ point guard to attempt more shots from deep compared to Love, who typically drives down the lane.

If Love wants to get the better of his fellow American, he needs to maintain the high standard of on-ball defence he’s displayed since joining the Riders.

Taylor is one of the most efficient guards in the BBL when it comes to limiting turnovers, but if Love can pilfer a steal or two, that could be the difference between winning and losing.

Patrick Whelan vs. Aaron Best

Patrick Whelan Stat Line: 13.29 PPG/45.41 FG%/43.75 3P%

Aaron Best Stat Line: 11.86 PPG/48.99 FG%/41.45 3P%

The battle of the sharpshooters comes between shooting guards Patrick Whelan and Lions’ captain, Aaron Best.

The Brit and the Canadian are both hitting over 41% of their shots from three-point range and provide a constant threat from beyond the arc.

There is a chance that Whelan and Best will cancel each other out, but if Whelan can get hot, the impact will carry further than his points total.

The Warrington native has the ability to spread the Lions’ defence, opening lanes for the likes of Mackenzie and Jackson.

If Whelan can make that corner spot his own early, the Riders could build an all-important first-half lead.

Zach Jackson vs. Miye Oni

Zach Jackson Stat Line: 15.86 PPG/5.88 RPG/52.30 FG%

Miye Oni Stat Line: 7.94 PPG/4.17 RPG/39.42 FG%

A quick glance over the stat lines paints a dominant picture in favour of Zach Jackson. The Riders’ wing forward is outperforming his American-Nigerian opponent in every key category, but discounting Oni could be perilous.

The 6’5” guard brings impressive pedigree, winning the 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year as a member of Yale University before playing 80 regular season games and 10 playoff games in the NBA for the Utah Jazz.

On his day, Jackson is one of the dynamite scorers in the BBL, dropping over 25 points in seven games since joining the Riders, but has never scored more than 20 against the Lions.

If there’s a time for Jackson to get one over on his man and shine offensively, it’s now.

Darien Nelson-Henry vs. Josh Sharma

Darien Nelson-Henry Stat Line: 8.07 PPG/6.13 RPG/0.51 BPG/58.65 FG%

Josh Sharma Stat Line: 9.20 PPG/5.12 RPG/1.78 BPG/61.87 FG%

We finally move onto the big men, as 6’11” Riders’ captain, Darien Nelson-Henry faces up against the 7’0” Josh Sharma, voted into the ‘All-British’ and ‘Defensive’ teams of the year.

Nelson-Henry, playing in his final game before retirement, has been a different animal during the playoffs. The tough American has averaged 12 PPG and 7.75 RPG in the last four games, vastly improving on his regular season totals.

Nelson-Henry’s relationship with Love looks to have hit its peak, and his movement into the paint has allowed him to find space for an easy shot where others wouldn’t.

He will need to call upon all of his experience and guile to match the 7-foot brick wall in Sharma.

The Lions’ centre often comes off the bench for London, but his impact is nothing short of seismic. He often puts up more than 10 points in a game and held his own block party against the Giants, knocking down six shots on the way to a big win.

The O2 Arena will be rocking this weekend – from the noise of the crowd and the sheer force between this heavyweight clash.

Kimbal Mackenzie vs. Luke Nelson

Kimbal Mackenzie Stat Line: 12.55 PPG/3.86 APG/46.38 FG%/89.25 FT%

Luke Nelson Stat Line: 10.61 PPG/4.32 APG/42.72 FG%/74.29 FT%

The final matchup that could shape the story of the game comes from two spark plugs off the bench, who may not directly face each other.

Mackenzie and Nelson will both bring energy and impact during the game, and how and when they are utilised by coaches Rob Paternostro and Ryan Schmidt will be interesting to see.

Mackenzie is all-energy and a true leader on the court. He may not start the game, but with his ability to step up in the clutch, be sure that he’ll finish it. Expect to see him play aggressively with the ball in his hands, driving to the basket regularly to force the Lions into foul trouble.

Nelson is a true playmaker who can put up points when he needs to. The British combo guard displayed this in a February win over Cheshire, dropping 21 points on the Phoenix while also handing out nine assists.

The two guards will provide quality play off the bench.

Should the starting line-ups cancel each other out, whoever wins this matchup may decide the outcome of the game.

WBBL Playoff Final Preview

The Riders are set to face off against the London Lions in a final for the third time this season. Making three finals in a season is a franchise record for the club, but they hope the third time is the charm in this one to take some silverware back to Leicester. 

Road to the final 

After finishing third in the league standings with a 17-5 record, the Riders were faced with two opponents standing between them and the O2 Arena. 

The first was the Essex Rebels, who played the Riders to an overtime classic. They entered the fourth down 10, but back-to-back threes from Fiona O’Dwyer kicked off an inspired comeback. 

Ashley Arlen and Oliana Squires won it at the free-throw line at the end of overtime, progressing them to the semi-finals against the second-placed Caledonia Gladiators. 

This one was more straightforward, as the Riders dominated a 19-point road win against their Scottish contemporaries. 

Squires led the game with 25, but it was their defence which won them the day. Leicester held the Gladiators to 30% shooting from the floor, and outrebounded them 39 to 30 in the win. 

Familiar foes

These teams are well-versed in competing at the top level of domestic basketball. They have faced twice this season in finals, the Lions coming out victors on both occasions. 

The first was a tough outing for the Riders. The Lions dominated the WBBL Cup final, winning 95-42 led by Final MVP Holly Winterburn’s 16 points and nine rebounds. 

Squires’ attempt to inject rhythm into the Riders’ offence resulted in a game-high 23 points, but the game was never in doubt. 

The WBBL Betty Codona Trophy final was a different matter. The Riders had the game within five points midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a finish at the rim by Hannah Robb. 

Lions’ American forward Ty Battle responded with six straight to see the game out, but the Riders will take confidence from being in the game late, minutes away from winning the Trophy. 

It took a monumental 33 points from Lions’ GB star Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan to win it. The Riders were led by 22 points and 14 rebounds from star forward Arlen.

Key matchup 

Arlen enters this game on a high, having been named to the WBBL Team of the Year earlier in the week. 

The American forward averaged 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds this season, shooting 42% from the field, and has continued to demonstrate her elite abilities in the postseason. 

Arlen put up 18 points and 14 rebounds in the Riders’ overtime victory over the Essex Rebels in the quarter-final and 12 in the semi-final against the Caledonia Gladiators. The Riders’ will need a performance like the Trophy final from their frontcourt. 

Facing up against Arlen and vying for her second final MVP of the season is Herbert-Harrington. “Kiki” started her post-college career in the WNBA, where she was drafted sixth overall in the 2020 draft by the Minnesota Lynx.

She finished her rookie season playing in 21 games averaging 3.8 ppg and shooting 42.2% from 3. The next season, Herbert-Harrigan signed for Turkish basketball Team Kayseri Basketbol before singing in London this year. 

Herbert-Harrington led the Lions this season with 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, her points tally ranking second in the WBBL. The Riders will have their work cut out to slow her offence down. 

Where to watch

The game is live on Sky Sports and on their youtube channel, starting at 1:15 pm. It will take place before the BBL Playoff final, also between the Lions and Riders. 

BBL Playoff Final Preview: Riders vs Lions

Here we are.

One game to go.

40 minutes between the Riders and back-to-back playoff glory. A chance for every player in the squad to cement their legacy in the history of the club.

In the way – a London Lions squad that has already beaten Leicester in the BBL Cup Final.

Sunday, May 14, 4:15pm is the tip-off time. The O2 Arena in London is the location.

British basketball doesn’t get any more box office than this.

Opposition Report: London Lions

No team has been tougher to beat this season than the London Lions.

Recently named Molten Ed Percival BBL Head Coach of the Year, Ryan Schmidt, has orchestrated a season of rare dominance that saw the Lions win the BBL Cup before running away with the BBL Championship boasting a commanding 32-4 record.

No team has been able to deal with the Lions who, as well as being the most efficient scorers in the league, are the best defensive team in the UK by far.

The #1 seed Lions have carried their sparkling regular season form into the playoffs, first swatting aside Newcastle before getting the better of the #5 seed Cheshire Phoenix.

Neither the Eagles nor the Phoenix were able to get within eight points of the ruthless Pride, who average an impressive 97.75 in the playoffs.

Perhaps the best example of London’s effectiveness on court came in the semi-final second leg at home to Cheshire.

The Lions’ tenacity on the defensive end of the floor held the Phoenix to a poor 41% from the field, which opened clean looks for London’s sharpshooters as Cheshire began to tire.

Granted, the team from the capital allowed Maceo Smith to romp to 34 points, but when a team is averaging 70% in two-pointers, it’s game over.

Season Matchup

Leicester have suffered a loss in all five of their games against their southern opponents this season, including a 79-70 defeat in the previously mentioned BBL Cup Final.

Game 1 set the tone for the year, the Lions taking an 89-78 home victory in the Copper Box Arena, courtesy of an 18-11 double-double by American star, and league MVP, Sam Dekker.

The next contest didn’t arrive until December 27 and, despite the score being closer, London pulled out a second win over the Riders to quieten the Morningside Arena’s Christmas cheer.

Darien Nelson-Henry tussled manfully with former NBA player Kosta Koufous for supremacy on the boards, but his 13 rebounds weren’t enough, and the Riders lost 81-75.

The third game in the BBL Championship ended in a blowout 102-77 road triumph for the Lions. Teams must be a 100% to match the London side and Leicester were off their game. Seven-footer Josh Sharma was the standout player on court, dropping 17 points to build a +21 +/- differential.

April 7 brought a night of entertainment to the Copper Box crowd as Game 4 produced the closest result of the season between the #1 and #2 seeds – an 83-81 win for London.

A topsy-turvy first half saw the Riders take a one-point lead into the break, but, with both defences clamping down in the second 20, the Lions edged ahead at the death.

The last game of the season series should best represent the play of the final – tense, tight and point-for-point.

The Riders need to put the regular season results behind them and focus on the here and now.

Keys to Victory

Get London in Foul Trouble

The Lions have very few chinks in their armour, but getting into foul trouble might be one of them.

London are the third most prolific team at sending the opposition to the line this season, and the Riders punish free shots better than anyone.

If impact players like Kimbal Mackenzie and Evan Walshe drive to the basket aggressively, the Riders can use that league-leading 79.47 free throw percentage effectively.

Match Their Shooting Percentage

As previously mentioned, London have very few weaknesses. In that case, the Riders need to match one of their opposition’s strengths with a strength of their own.

Both squads are clearly the most efficient in the league when shooting the rock, and the Riders need to be at their 48% best on Sunday evening.

London will manufacture some clean looks – it’s inevitable. Leicester need to take their clear shots each time one presents itself.

Missing open looks will undoubtedly see the Riders fighting an uphill battle.

Overcome Defensive Intensity

The Lions’ defence has been their sharpest weapon all season.

Their defensive rating of 92.98 is nearly ten points better than the #2 team in that category – Sheffield.

Coach Rob Paternostro’s players will be under more pressure when in possession of the ball than they have been all season.

They need to rise above that pressure.

Playing smart, team basketball that stays ahead of the shot clock gives Leicester their best chance.

If the Riders can get the better of London’s defence, the chances of a famous victory skyrocket.

Final Word

Following the treble-winning season of last year, the hunger for silverware is embedded in the clubs’ DNA

The BBL Cup and Trophy titles passed the Riders by.

The Playoff title is still within their grasp.

They are the underdogs after five defeats to the Lions this season. Let’s hope it’s sixth time lucky for Coach Rob’s squad.

HOOP HQ opens in Loughborough

The exciting new venue in Loughborough town centre has been created to raise funds for the Leicester Riders Foundation, whilst also inspiring the future generation of British basketball talent

British basketball team, Leicester Riders, has today announced the opening of Hoop HQ, an exciting new venue designed to get more young people off the streets and onto the court.

The new experiential space, which is located in Loughborough town centre on Market Street, has been created to raise funds for the Leicester Riders Foundation, give more local children access to the sport and ultimately cultivate the future pipeline of British basketball talent.

The Leicester Riders Foundation already works with lots of communities all over Leicestershire and the Hoop HQ concept will be used as a model around the country. The area will look to become a community base for everyone to be able to access the game of basketball and connect with like-minded individuals, whether that’s through shooting some hoops or playing 3×3 basketball. 

The launch of Hoop HQ comes just days before Leicester Riders battle it out against London Lions at the British Basketball Play-Off Finals. Taking place this Sunday at the O2 Arena in London, the Riders will be looking to defend their title for the second year running. 

Commenting on the space, Leicester Riders Managing Director and Riders Foundation Trustee, Russell Levenston said: “The opening of Hoop HQ has been a dream of mine and I’m so excited to see it finally come to life. A huge thank you to Raff, the landlord for offering the shop to the foundation and believing in the project, as well as to the local companies and volunteers who’ve helped turn this into a safe, enjoyable space for the community to use.”

Hoop HQ landlord, Raff Russo said: “Hoop HQ is a fantastic initiative and the Leicester Riders team has worked tirelessly to turn what was the old Blockbusters into a welcoming venue for all the community to enjoy. This is a one-of-a-kind space which will be pivotal in driving awareness for British basketball and help to inspire the next generation of players.”

James Sirrell, Director of EDSB Compliance Solutions, commented: “EDSB Compliance Solutions are proud to support Leicester Riders Basketball team and their new Retail outlet in Loughborough. The EDSB team have worked night and day over the past few weeks to get everything compliant in time for their grand opening and we look forward to partnering up with them for many years to come.”

Hoop HQ will be open to the public from Tuesday 23rd May and will be open 6 days a week from 2pm-10pm on weekdays and 9am-5pm on Weekends. 

Arlen named to Team of the Year!

Ashley Arlen has been named to the Molten WBBL Team of the Year!

The American forward averaged 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds this season, shooting 42% from the field. She led the team to third place in the WBBL Championship standings with a 17-5 record.

Her season high was 25 points and 11 rebounds came on the season opener, and was one of seven double-doubles the Iowa native put up this season.

Arlen has continued to demonstrate her elite abilities in the postseason. She had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the Riders’ overtime victory over the Essex Rebels in the quarter-final and 12 in the semi-final against the Caledonia Gladiators, which saw them advance to the final in the O2 Arena.

Congratulations Ashley!

Riders duo named to British Team of the Year

Star Riders pairing of Kimbal Mackenzie and Patrick Whelan have been named to the Molten BBL British Team of the Year!

Mackenzie has enjoyed a breakout year, putting up 12.6 points and 3.8 assists, shooting 49.1% from the field. The fans recently voted him as the player of the season.

His play earned him a GB call-up for the first time, establishing himself as one of the country’s elite guards.

Meanwhile, his backcourt teammate Whelan is the BBL’s most efficient three-point sharpshooter at 45.1%. He is named to the British Team of the Year for the second year running, having averaged 13.5 points per game.

The news comes a week before the Riders compete in the BBL Playoff Final at the O2 Arena.

Riders through to the Playoff Final!

The Riders booked their place in the BBL Playoff final, beating the Bristol Flyers 159-156 over two legs. 

Entering the leg up seven after winning 84-77 in Bristol, the Riders needed only to lose by six or less to progress. Bristol won the second leg 79-75, Leicester hanging on to win it. 

They came back from down five in the fourth to win it, flexing their championship pedigree to get over the hump. Marc Loving proved the hero, scoring a team-high 18 points, including two late free throws to win it. 

By no means was it easy. The Flyers’ defence held the Riders to 41% from the floor, and their big names showed out. Big man Malcolm Delpeche bossed the boards with 23 points and eight rebounds to hand Leicester just their second playoff loss since 2016. 

But the hosts had enough over two legs, and they earned the right to fight for back-to-back playoff titles. 

Carrington Love got the Riders going, making their first three field goals to get the team in rhythm. The start was vital to setting the tone of the game, and a 9-5 Riders’ start settled them into it. 

They controlled the early stages from there. Loving found form to score six straight, leading Leicester through the first, which ended 21-18 in their favour. 

Both offences stalled in the second, but Bristol found their way onto the score sheet to take the lead four minutes in. Delpeche’s putback made it 25-23 to the visitors, forcing a Leicester timeout. 

The response was immediate. Zach Jackson’s three retook the lead in a back-and-forth end to the half. But Bristol’s Tevin Olison’s three ended it, the Flyers up two going into the locker rooms. 

They tied the fixture quickly in the third period, starting 5-0. The Bristol momentum set up a tense third quarter as the sides battled for control of the semi-final. And it was the Flyers who took it, snatching the lead with a 7-0 run. 

Out of a Riders’ timeout, Mackenzie’s three gave the Riders much-needed points. It stemmed the tide, and the teams entered the fourth with everything in the balance. 

The Riders, after falling down five over two legs to start the fourth, fought back hard. They tied it through their captain, who trailed a fastbreak to finish in close. 

The sides exchanged blows in the clutch, neither backing down. But it was Leicester who found late form. Their big three, Patrick Whelan, Marc Loving and Jackson, hit huge baskets down the stretch to edge a lead. 

Delpeche’s fierce slam with nine seconds on the clock meant the game came down to free throws. Loving, ice in his veins, made both making it a three-point tie. Jelani Watson-Gayle, contested brilliantly by Jackson, missed his attempt from deep, sending the Riders to the final. 

The final will be played in London’s O2 Arena, and the opponent will be decided in tomorrow’s semi-final between the London Lions and the Cheshire Phoenix. 

Five Takeaways From The Semi-Final First Leg

The Riders go into Sunday’s box office clash at the Morningside Arena holding a seven-point aggregate lead over the Bristol Flyers.

After opening a commanding 26-point gap between themselves and their hosts, Leicester resisted a spirited response in the second half to win 84-77 – their first victory at the SGS College Arena this season.

Here are five things to take away from a first-leg high in drama.

Another Fast Start Proved to be the Key

Starting with an earth-shattering slam from Aaron Menzies and ending with a smooth three-ball by Zach Jackson, the Riders surged into a 39-13 lead in the first half.

Much like they did against Sheffield, Rob Paternostro’s squad started the game with purpose.

Marc Loving and Carrington Love matched Jackson with a pair of nice deep balls, and 7’3” Menzies was throwing his considerable size around at both ends of the court.

The Brit was unplayable in the first 15 minutes, blocking shots, hustling to offensive rebounds and scoring with ease around the rim.

In one of his best games as a Rider, Menzies’ stat line read ten points, six rebounds and two blocks.

All of this contributed to a healthy first half lead and, once again, piled pressure on the Flyers to bridge the gap.

Riders’ Spread the Scoring

The Riders finished the game with six players boasting double-digits in points.

Starters Jackson, Patrick Whelan and Darien Nelson-Henry all breached ten points and were ably supported by Menzies, speedy guard Evan Walshe and the ball of energy that is Kimbal Mackenzie.

Mackenzie was the Riders’ top scorer with 14, driving to the basket with pace and always asking questions of Bristol’s defence.

#1 also dished out four of the Riders’ 15 assists on a night where the team displayed its impressive strength-in-depth.

The BBL post-season is bringing out the best in every player on the Riders’ team sheet.

Big Performances off the Bench

With so many points coming from all areas of the Riders’ squad, it’s not surprising that they bested the Flyers in bench points – 39 to 28.

Thursday’s semi-final preview mentioned that (between Leicester and Bristol) the team who wins the battle of the benches wins the game.

Nothing happened on Friday night to buck this trend.

Mackenzie, Menzies, Walshe and Jubril Adekoya all brought their ‘A-game’ to the court, proven by the positive numbers in the +/- column.

Menzies and Walshe both finished with a +13 personal points differential, testament to the physicality and athleticism they inflicted on the Flyers.

The latter’s speed when pushing the ball down the court looked undefendable, perfectly demonstrated by a coast-to-coast bucket in the first half.

If Leicester’s bench continue to bring this ferocity, they will be nearly impossible to stop.

Hitting the Fast Break Hard

Having players with the quickness of Mackenzie and Walshe on the team means the Riders often dominate on the fast break – Friday night was no different.

Leicester outscored their #3 ranked opponents 20-5 in fast break points, often taking advantage of Bristol’s missed shots.

The Flyers have struggled with shooting efficiency all season, and despite their ability on the offensive glass, Leicester’s quick ball-handlers were able to punish enough misses to make it count.

The Riders’ half-court offense couldn’t always break down a very tough Bristol D, so those fast break points, combined with a decent night on the boards, really helped to build the substantial early lead.

Solid Shooting Efficiency

Shooting efficiently is one of basketball’s golden rules. Missed shots just mean more opportunities for the opposition to score.

That’s a mistake Bristol made in this first leg and the Riders didn’t – for the most part.

Leicester finished the game shooting 51% from the floor and 38% from three-point range.

Menzies and Walshe were the team’s most reliable scorers, both hitting all of their shots off the bench, and Zach Jackson had a good day from deep, nailing half of his six attempts.

The 76% free throw shooting could and should be improved for Sunday’s second leg, but again, it was good enough, mitigated by the sheer volume of points the Riders hit from the charity stripe.

The Riders can shoot better, but if they can keep Bristol to a FG% under 40, it may not even matter.

Where to watch

The game tips off at 5:30 pm at the Morningside Arena Leicester.

Get your tickets here!

It will also be shown live on Sky Sports and the Sky Sports youtube channel, starting at 5:15 pm.

Riders take a lead back to Leicester

The Riders beat the Bristol Flyers 84-77 in the first leg of the BBL Playoffs semi-final. 

They led by as many as 26 in the game, but the Flyers showed heart to get back into the fixture going back to Leicester.

Led by Zach Jackson’s 14 points and eight rebounds, the Riders had six scorers in double digits in a complete team display. They shot well from three, going 38%, and went 20-26 from the free-throw line in an efficient showing. 

VJ King exploded for 26 points off the bench for the hosts. He made big shots throughout to snatch back momentum for Bristol, his scoring runs keeping the Flyers in it. 

The Riders leapt out to an early advantage, taking control of the game from the first quarter. Making his return from injury after being sidelined since mid-April, Aaron Menzies made his presence known on the inside.

His interior defence was pivotal in holding the Flyers to 11 first-quarter points, and he put up seven on the other end, including a monster jam. 

The Riders went on an 11-0 run to end the period, putting them up 15 after a Menzies finish inside. 

Leicester’s early dominance continued into the second. They started it 8-0, making it 19 points unanswered to go up 26. The Riders’ defence held Bristol scoreless for nearly seven minutes of play, suffocating the hosts.  

The Flyers found form towards the end of the half. They exploded for a 12-0 run, led by five from King, to cut it to 13 by halftime. 

The sides traded three-point bombs to start the third. Bristol hit four, Leicester hit three, and the Riders’ lead was cut to 10 five minutes in. 

Evan Walshe found the bucket to score five straight for Leicester, stemming the tide. The Riders held an 11-point advantage with one to play. 

A 7-3 Riders run to start the fourth rebuilt the lead. Menzies battled inside four two quick buckets as the visitors found momentum. 

But again, Bristol battled back. They found a way to cut the game back to eight through nine straight points from King. 

The sides exchanged big buckets down the stretch, but the Riders maintained their lead. A layup from Thomas Bell ended it, Leicester taking a seven-point lead back to the Morningside Arena.

The home leg takes place on Sunday, tipping off at 5:30 pm in front of the Sky Sports cameras. 

Get your tickets here to see your Riders battle to book their place in the O2 Arena.

BBL Playoff Semi-final Preview: Riders vs Flyers

It is time for the BBL championship playoff semi-finals, and this weekend has the #2 Riders tipping off against the #3 Bristol Flyers.

Both teams will head into this matchup brimming with confidence after dominant performances in last week’s quarter-finals.

Leicester and Bristol last met in the playoffs in 2021, with the Riders dominating both games. Expect this season’s contest to be a much tighter affair.

Riders’ Road to the Semis

Last week’s playoff quarter-finals saw the Riders put on a defensive clinic as they bested the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 153-140.

Significant leads built in the first half of both games proved to be the winning formula for Leicester, who knew that their chances would skyrocket if they could make Sheffield chase the game.

The Riders’ knew that they would have one foot in the next round if they could restrict the Sharks to 75 points or less, and that’s exactly what they did.

The first leg, taking place in Ponds Forge, saw forward Marc Loving show his class as he dropped an 18-11 double-double – his fourth against the Sharks this season.

Kimbal Mackenzie once again provided a bright spark off the bench, hitting 19 points of his own at a perfect 100% clip and helping the Riders to a 79-70 first leg lead.

The second chapter was all about captain Darien Nelson-Henry and forward Zach Jackson.

Nelson-Henry and Jackson lit up the scoreboard with 18 and 25 points respectively, the former claiming a hard-earned double-double with 11 boards.

Jackson also managed to snag nine rebounds from his wing position and, at certain points of the game, looked unstoppable.

With Loving and Mackenzie both having a difficult night shooting the ball, the performances from the two showed that any player on the Riders roster can take over a game.

For their outstanding contributions, Nelson-Henry and Jackson made it onto the BBL ‘All-Star 5’ – for #21 it was a superb seventh appearance.

Flyers’ Road to the Semis

Heading into the playoff quarter-finals as the third seed with an identical 25-11 record to the Riders, the Bristol Flyers matched up against a high-scoring Manchester Giants squad.

One of the keys to the round would be whether Bristol could keep Manchester’s Dirk Williams and Tajh Green quiet.

The offensive ‘giants’ were held to an average of 11.5 PPG between them, and both were kept in single digits for one of the legs.

The Flyers did an excellent job of neutralising Manchester’s main threat and the tie was heavily in favour of the #3 seeds after a 97-71 first leg.

The only further requirement was for the Flyers not to capitulate in the SGS College Arena and they would go through to the semis.

A solid 82-81 home victory in the second leg proved that the Bristol squad could hold their nerve, and they were able to celebrate progression.

Guard Tevin Olison was the player of the round, shooting his way onto the ‘All-Star 5’ with a game-changing 29 points in Manchester.

Bench point totals of 31 and 27 also showed how well-rounded the Flyers’ squad is – a large part of the reason why they are ranked at #3.

Season Matchup

As expected, the Riders and Flyers have tied the season series, winning two games apiece.

Even more predictably, both teams have triumphed on home court, although the Riders’ average winning margin is 17.5 points compared to Bristol’s 6.5.

One major component that has determined victory in all this season’s contests has been the play of the bench. Both starting line-ups appear evenly matched, so it is no surprise that in all four games, the winning team has benefited from significantly more bench points.

The first two battles came way back in October, with Bristol taking an initial 91-85 victory on the back of a 17-point performance by Thomas Bell III.

Bell didn’t dress for the second game on October 28, and despite VJ King’s 24 points, the Flyers missed the American’s scoring and fell 91-73.

Weekly matchup nightmare, Marc Loving, went off in that game, draining six threes on his way to a tasty 34 points.

The following two games were much more spread, with Bristol hosting the Riders on January 6 and then visiting the Morningside Arena on the final day of March.

Once again, King showed off his offensive repertoire, hitting 12 FGs and 30 points to help the Flyers win, 91-85. He was assisted by savvy guard, Mike Miller, who chipped in with 10 dishes.

March 31 brought with it another blowout in Leicester; the trio of Jackson, Loving and Patrick Whelan all producing memorable games.

The Riders dominated and claimed a 106-89 victory.

The pattern shows that both teams carry a slight advantage on their home court. Margin of victory could become a huge factor when determining who makes it through to the big dance.

Key Players

When teams have so many great players in their squad, it becomes very difficult to pick a matchup that stands out among the rest.

One area that is worth zeroing in on however, is the tussle between the on-court generals – Riders’ Carrington Love and Flyers’ Mike Miller.

Both starting point guards are often the premier ball-handlers on their teams and regularly dictate the pace of play.

Second-year Flyer, Miller, has been ever-present this season, playing in 37 games across all competitions.

The American is averaging 9.51 PPG and 6.94 assists per 40 minutes, good for eighth in the BBL.

Whilst not a sharpshooter from beyond the arc, Miller does posses scoring ability and uses his 6’3” frame to overpower his opposition guard.

It will be imperative that Love stays strong when sticking to his man and does a good job of getting in the way of passing lanes.

The Riders’ point guard himself has shown flair when scoring the basket and intelligence when dealing the killer pass.

Since joining Leicester mid-way through the season, Love is averaging 7.89 PPG and a delicious 10.63 assists per 40, putting him top of the league in that category.

The 6’1” American had also shown quick hands in defence, currently pilfering 2.44 steals per 40.

Neither Miller nor Love are the biggest bodies on the court. That doesn’t mean that they won’t carry the biggest impact when all is said and done this Sunday evening.

Where to watch

The first leg will be shown live on the British Basketball League’s official youtube channel, starting at 7:30 pm.

Final Word

This weekend, fans will be treated to a contest worthy of a BBL semi-final. Expect it to be tight. Expect it to be high in quality.

Both teams have played a season deserving of a place in the BBL Finals.

The Riders hope they will be the team that claims the honour.

Bowman dunks on top of the O2!

The British Basketball League delivered the first of its kind show-stopping basketball dunk competition, brought to you by General Tire, at the top of The O2. 

All to celebrate the countdown to the British Basketball League play-off finals, which take place later this month.

Leicester Riders star and high-flyer Blake “The Showman” Bowman headed 52 meters up onto the iconic roof of The O2, with roofwalk attraction Up at The O2 which provides panoramic views overlooking London’s skyline, where he recreated a series of epic slam dunks from this year’s regular basketball season, performing and recreating one iconic dunk for each of the qualifying teams who have made it through to this year’s BBL play-offs. This included Tajh Green’s unbelievable off the backboard dunk for Manchester Giants, Josh Sharma’s jam for the London Lions and Bristol Flyer’s alley-oop spectacular. You can view all eight dunks by clicking HERE.

A judging panel of experts were on hand to cast their verdict on which dunk would be crowned the BBL’s ‘Dunk of the Season’. The panel included WBBL board member Siobhan Prior, Behrad Bakhtiari and Denzel Kazembe from Simply British Ballers and leading basketball reporter Sam Neter from the dedicated British basketball website, Hoopsfix. 

After eight outstanding dunk recreations, it was Bowman’s very own windmill jam that came out on top, crowning him champion of the British Basketball League “Now You Know” Dunk Challenge, brought to you by General Tire.

The activity, hosted by British Basketball master of ceremonies Tahir Hajat, celebrates another incredible year for the British Basketball League, continues to showcase the appetite there is for Basketball in the UK, whilst also raising awareness for the season defining play-off finals which take place at The O2 on Sunday May 14th. 

An expected capacity crowd of close to 17,000 fans are set to generate an electric atmosphere inside The O2, with the British Basketball League’s flagship event also set to be broadcast live on Sky Sports. 

Fans from across the world are also encouraged to vote for their favourite dunk from the season by using the #BritishDunks and #NowYouKnow. 

The British Basketball League’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Joe Edwards, said:

“Make no mistake, this season the British Basketball League has made history and we’ve taken the sport we all love to new heights.  We wanted to do something to grab the attention of Basketball fans and the general public and celebrate the end of season play-off’s at The O2. 

He added: “Whilst a completely crazy idea it might seem, it made complete sense to do this, and we hope Basketball Fans worldwide enjoy what the British Basketball League has to offer.  I want to say a special thanks to our partner General Tire, and all of our other partners, the players and our staff for sharing our vision together and making this possible.”

Speaking on the incredible dunk challenge, Peter Robb, Marketing Director at General Tire, said:

It’s great to work on this project with the British Basketball League, basketball in Britain is really taking off and it was fantastic to be able to support  such an innovative idea. The challenge perfectly ties in with our brand’s philosophy of ‘anywhere is possible’, so it was a real privilege to partner with the league and make this incredible idea come to life. 

“The British Basketball League has done an amazing job in harnessing the country’s love for basketball and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. As an SUV/off road tyre specialist we stand for adventure and getting out and living life to the full, so hopefully this project encourages people of all ages to get off the sofa and participate in the sport and head down to watch their local British Basketball League team in action.”

British Basketball has never been at such a high – in every sense of the word, after another meteoric year for the league, which has seen incredible progress both on and off the court. The league has had record viewership across its broadcast, fans have packed into arenas across the country each week and the men’s championship champions, London Lions, proudly flew the flag for UK basketball in a record breaking run in the EuroCup. 

But the trophy the teams all dream to lift is still up for grabs, as the league’s most sought after championship game, the play-off final is set to thrill a sold out crowd at The O2 on Sunday May 14th.

Just four teams remain standing and fighting for the chance to compete in the play-off finals in ten days time. London Lions face Cheshire Phoenix, whilst Bristol Flyers do battle with last season’s champions Leicester Riders this week to try to book their tickets to the capital. 

Tickets for the event are selling fast and fans can grab the last few remaining tickets by visiting

Fans unable to make the finals will be able to tune in live on Sky Sports and the Sky Sports YouTube Channel on Sunday May 14th from 13:00 BST.