LRF provide new experiences for NWSLC students

Over the past year the Leicester Riders Foundation have collaborated with North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) to provide a number of opportunities for students within the Foundation Studies department including basketball sessions, a podcast workshop and an NCS programme.

Initially the partnership started when we delivered the Mencap Around The World project at the college in 2021. The project involved 10 weeks sessions aimed at developing the young people’s teamwork and communication through the sport of basketball.

“It was great to learn basketball skills this year and helping me get fitter. It was fun to record a podcast and be interviewed, it’s something I’d like to try again in the future maybe” – George, Lifeworks Student.

“I really enjoyed all of the basketball sessions and learning how to shoot. Greg took lots of time to show us how it all works, and it was great to play some games at the end. I also really enjoyed being on a podcast and talking about things I’m interested in, really helped us.” – Charlotte, Lifeworks Student. 

In September 2022 we welcomed Reece, a supported intern from NWSLC to the Foundation for a 9 month internship. Throughout his internship Reece was able to experience working in a number of new environments such as our office, schools and out in the community. Reece has also built up new relationships with our staff, players and other members of the community which has helped him to develop key skills which he will be able to transfer into further employment. During his time with the Leicester Riders Foundation Reece became a valued member of our staff team, joining the rest of our staff in taking part in our Corporate Summer League in June which was his first experience of playing competitive basketball.

As well as delivering our basketball sessions and hosting a supportive intern from NWSLC we also hosted a podcast workshop for the students. Greg Ellis the Foundation’s Education & Community Officer hosts the Leicester Riders’ Podcast, Along For The Ride and spent a morning at the college in April passing on his knowledge to the students. As well as learning about recording a podcast the workshop brought the students out of their comfort zone and allowed them to work on their confidence and public speaking.

“The partnership with Leicester Riders has enabled our students to re-engage with sport in a supportive environment, learning a new sport in basketball and allowing them the space to get active, whilst also developing vital teamwork and leadership skills. It’s also been a great experience for them to record a podcast with Greg Ellis and develop new skills alongside developing in confidence. All of these experiences have taken their student experience to the next level.” – Rhien Shephard, Lifeworks Lecturer NWSLC.

On top of the Mencap Around the World Project and Podcast workshop we have also delivered a bespoke NCS programme for the students. The project has helped offer students access to a number of activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have exposure to. 

Over the course of the programme the students have taken part in activities such as abseiling, archery, rifle shooting and fencing and they also helped picking apples and planting onions at an allotment in Leicester. 

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

We look forward to work with NWSLC next academic year and continuing to provide unique learning experiences for their students.

An update from Head Coach Rob Paternostro

Firstly, I’d like to thank everybody for your continued support. The offseason is an exciting time for us, but we can’t wait to see you back in the stands for our first game!

Looking back, we’re coming off a really good season. We improved from the beginning to the end, and I thought we were a better team at the O2 Arena in May than we were throughout the course of the year. That’s satisfying as a coach.

We just couldn’t get over the hump against London. We had opportunities, but we just weren’t able to convert them. But when you look at how we competed against the rest of the league, we had an exceptional record. 

This time of year is exciting for coaches. We’re looking at prospective players and putting the pieces together. 

We anticipate having to sign a lot of players so we’re trying to see who is the right fit. It’s a change from last season where almost everyone came back. This year is going to be totally different.

It’s a huge task going into the offseason after we’ve had the core of our team together for so long, but we have to do our due diligence looking at the players that are out there and trying to figure out the best way to rebuild. 

We haven’t ruled out re-signing guys from last season, but we have to understand that our players have put in really good seasons and will be marketable around the world.

Having Kimbal back is a blessing for us. On the court, he’s a really dangerous player to deal with for opponents. His ability to score and get in the lane to make key plays at key moments is really valuable to our team. 

Off the court, his leadership and commitment to practice and gameplan are second to none. He’s going to help immensely with the transition with new guys.

READ MORE: Return of the Mack!

And speaking of new players, we’re delighted to have Sam Idowu on board! 

He is versatile, which I really like about him. You can put him in different positions on the floor, so he’s not just a traditional big. His versatility will be really beneficial. 

He’s a good rebounder and he’s always been a high-field goal percentage scorer, so we have an efficient player with energy and versatility. I’m really looking forward to working with Sam.

He has great size and strength, and I think it’s important in basketball to have that. Ultimately, you have to protect and finish around the basket.

It’s an exciting time, and when you evaluate and sign a player, you certainly look forward to working with them.

READ MORE: Riders sign Idowu

It’s almost like unwrapping a gift! So when we get to August, we can’t wait to look at some of these players. It’s one of the parts of the job I look forward to. It’s a challenge, and it’s not a science by any means, but I’m looking forward to it. 

We know there’s plenty of games in the BBL, so there are lots of opportunities to compete, and we’re excited about the challenge ahead.

Thank you all for your patience this offseason, and we have some exciting news down the line for you all! 

Rob Paternostro

Meet the new members of our commercial team

We are excited to announce new members of our commercial team!

Tracey Hallam- Head of Commercial

We are delighted to welcome Tracey Hallam as the new Head of Commercial. In her role, Tracey will be supporting the three companies, Leicester Riders, Leicester Riders Foundation and Morningside Arena. 

Tracey has a wide breadth of commercial experience and is a big Riders fan, having joined from one of Riders’ sponsors, 360Autoleasing. Tracey will provide leadership on sponsorship, marketing, ticketing, corporate communications and sales.

Alejandro Medina- Marketing Executive

Alejandro Medina has also just joined us from the Business School at the University of Leicester, where he was President of the University Basketball Club and a marketing major.

Alex has been liaising with us on a range of interests over the last 3 years while he was an undergraduate and will focus on all aspects of marketing. 

Charlie Walker- Corporate Communications Executive

Charlie Walker has joined from the University of Derby, where he received a Sports Journalism degree. Charlie has been working with the club over the last three years and has been a regular contributor to the website, social channels and publications.

Rahul Khanna- Data and Systems Analyst

Rahul Khanna is another new recruit from the University of Leicester, where he was a Mathematics major. He is joining as a data and systems analyst, helping our businesses to really understand all our customers, and our partners, and their engagement with us. 

“We are delighted to welcome the new members of our commercial team,” said Riders chairman Kevin Routledge.

“We believe there are great opportunities for us to support Leicestershire
businesses, and Tracey will provide the right leadership.”

To learn about the opportunities available, contact [email protected].

International watch: Riders suit up for GB Under-20s

There was Riders’ representation on the international stage this week in preparation for the FIBA European Youth Championships in July. 

Victor Ndoukou and Lane Campbell were joined by Charnwood product Ceejay Hanson to represent Great Britain Under-20s, taking on last year’s fourth-placed finishers, Finland, in Helsinki over two games.

“It was a great environment in Finland,” said Riders women’s head coach Krumesh Patel, who was appointed head coach of GB U20’s in March.

“They are a competitive team that got a lot right! The Riders guys did really well over the two games, and we hope that’s something they can use to build towards the Euros!”

The European Youth Championships take place in Skopje, North Macedonia, from July 7-16, featuring 19 national teams from across Europe.

Great Britain competes in Division B, and have been drawn against Luxembourg, Portugal, Austria and Hungary in their group. 

Photo credit: Ville Vuorinen

Darien Nelson-Henry looks back on Riders career

In his four seasons with the club, Darien Nelson-Henry helped to create ever-lasting memories not only for Riders fans but himself. 

As captain, Darien led the team to four pieces of silverware, including back-to-back league titles and a treble. He was also named to the BBL Team of the Year in consecutive seasons. 

He took some time to reflect on his tenure at the Morningside Arena. 

After joining, what made you want to stay?

Darien’s first season in Leicester was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the initial months at the club left an impression. 

They were all he needed to re-sign, committing to the Riders long-term. According to Darien, coach Rob Paternostro had a lot to do with it. 

“Rob is a reason why a lot of us wanted to stay. He’s been through it, in terms of playing around Europe, so he knows what it’s like in other places.

“He knows how to get along with players to where you feel comfortable with him, but is great at keeping his boundaries as a coach to where you’ll always do what he asks.”

Rob Paternostro with the 2021/22 BBL Championship trophy

“I respect that about him a lot because it’s a really hard line to walk.”

But as well as choosing coach Rob, Darien chose Leicester. 

“Of course, it was great because of all the similarities to the US. I knew it was a place I could thrive, and I loved enjoying the countryside, the culture, the food and other cities in the UK.”

“In Leicester, I knew my life outside of basketball was going to be quality, and I’m a huge believer that peace of mind will translate to performance on the court.”

How do you reflect on the season played without fans in the arena?

“Any basketball player would tell you it’s weird without fans. They are where we draw our energy from. They’re the backbone and the lifeblood of why you play basketball- for the fans. To not have them there was very strange.” 

“On the other hand, the basketball was pure. Our COVID season is so special to me because we were the best. With no momentum boost from the crowd and no real home-court advantage, it was all about who the better team was.”

Darien Nelson-Henry lifting the 2020/21 BBL Championship trophy

“It came down to who was prepared better, who was in better shape, who was running better plays and who was executing better. While we didn’t win any of the tournament competitions, we won the one that. to me, matters most in the league. 

“We proved we were the most consistent team in a pure setting, which was pretty awesome looking back on it.”

What was it like to play on the treble-winning team? 

Winning the league title was not enough for Darien. He and the rest of the team wanted to do it all again (and more) in front of the Riders faithful. 

“Winning the treble on the big stage, in front of all the fans in the arena, was really special. But that type of season is typical for this franchise in recent years when the majority of the team returns for another season.” 

“When that happens, the club usually accomplishes something special. A lot of the plays we ran and our defensive strategy, while Rob does call plays here and there, he leaves the responsibility to us during the game. Once he laid the game plan, it was up to us to execute.”

“Having spent a year together, we found ourselves all on the same page. It really helped us, having spent all that time together. The stars really aligned that season.”

How would you describe playing with Geno Crandall?

For two straight seasons, Darien and two-time BBL MVP Geno Crandall shared the floor to a devastating effect.

Their relationship on-court seemed near-telepathic at times, leading to the pair winning four pieces of silverware in their time together. 

“He’s a special player. And the main thing for our relationship was that we were both very vocal and very trusting of one another. 

“If something went a little differently to the way we saw it, maybe he’d lead me a little too far with a pass, or he’d want me to reset a screen, and I’d roll instead, we would get together and talk it out.”

“We had a very open dialogue which helped us. But he’s so talented I think he could have done it with any big man”, said Darien modestly. 

“We both had the desire to win, and his competitiveness gave me the desire to play my heart out, knowing he’s going to do the same.”

When did you know it was time to retire?

Towards the end of last season, Darien revealed the news to the home fans that he would retire. 

“I had a feeling I was going to retire going into my final season, I could see the writing on the wall a little bit. My body was starting to ache, I had some nagging injuries that were tough to overcome, and all my attempts at recovery weren’t helping as much as they used to.”

“I’d finished my masters, and I’m getting married. It just seemed like my life was pointing me in a different direction.”

How do you reflect on your career, having had some time to look back on it?

“I was able to win multiple titles in multiple countries, achieve personal accolades everywhere I went and meet amazing people who I would otherwise never had the opportunity to meet.”

“I can honestly say I got so much out of basketball, and it was worth every second I put into it.”

“I’m taking a break from the game for now and taking some well-earned rest, but I’ll be back one way or another and cheering the Riders on from wherever I may be!”

LRF take Ambassador Assembly Project Into 87 Schools

An Education project that has been particularly successful over the past season is our Ambassador Assemblies. Ambassador Assemblies is a project funded by Sport England in partnership with the British Basketball League, that allows us to take both our men’s and women’s professional players into schools to deliver to assemblies on their journeys to where they are today, and the importance of sport and education, since all the players are university graduates. Due to the programme being funded by Sport England, it is free for the schools to book and is a great opportunity to get their students to engage with our players.

In each assembly the player talks about their path to professional basketball as well as key characteristics such as respect, resilience and teamwork that can be applied to life both on and off the court and also in school. So far this season we have delivered 87 Ambassador Assemblies to 10,216 school children. 

Our ambassador assemblies are free of charge so also provide an excellent way to get into schools to showcase what the Leicester Riders Foundation has to offer in schools. The assemblies have led to us providing in school coaching in 11 schools that we did not previously engage with.

“It was really interesting to hear about the pathway to becoming a professional basketball player during our Ambassador Assembly with the Leicester Riders Foundation. The children were really engaged and had great questions about Mo’s experience. – Maxine Michalowski, Headteacher at Heather Primary School.

For more information on our school packages or to book an Ambassador Assembly for your school email [email protected].

Samuel Idowu: Top Performances

Riders’ new man Samuel Idowu is a three-year professional, with experience playing in the NCAA D1 and across Europe.

The 6’8″ big man brings size and physicality on both ends to the Riders’ frontcourt, capable of going off for big games on any given night.

We take a look at some of the biggest performances in his college and professional career.

December 12, 2020 vs Svenborg Rabbits: Dominating the paint for the win

In a midseason game against Svendborg, Danish outfit FOG Naestved needed every point of Idowu’s monster performance in the paint to see out a hard-fought victory. 

In only 25 minutes he put up 24 points and 13 rebounds, shooting a dominant 72% from the field. Naestved entered the game big underdogs, but Iwodu led the team to an upset 86-83 road win. 

The big man put in a two-way scoring effort, adding two steals and a block to the box score. 

It was one of nine games Iwodu led his side in scoring on the year and his second-biggest scoring tally of the season. 

February 19, 2021 vs Randers Cimbria: Idowu catches fire from deep

His highest-scoring performance in his season with Naestved came just a few months later. Idowu went off for 25 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, beating Cimbria 83-78. 

In yet another efficient showing, Iwodu shot 76.9% from the field, showing his range to go 4-5 from three. His performance led Naestved to a statement win against the eventual league winners. 

On defence, the New York native recorded yet another block and a steal, making his presence known on both ends. 

During the season, Idowu led the team to a 16-4 record, just a win behind the top spot in the regular season standings. Performances like this went a long way to establishing themselves as a contender.

November 2, 2019 vs Den Helder Suns: Career-high scoring night

Just months into his post-college career, Idowu announced himself on the professional stage with a career-high 30-point performance against Den Helder. He went off for 30 points and 11 rebounds for Dutch side Aris Leeuwarden in just his eighth game as a pro. 

The game resulted in a 74-63 loss, but Idowu’s game-leading effort showed his ability to put the scoring load on his back and dominate. He hit the ground running with Leeuwarden, leading the team’s scoring in seven of their first eight games. 

Idowu got his points in only 33 minutes, shooting 12-20 from the field. He would go on to be his team’s second-leading scorer in his rookie year, averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. 

January 31 2019 vs Rider University: Idowu writes his name in college history

Idowu was a defensive force in college, and the record books show as much. He became just the fourth player in St Peter’s history to surpass 100 career blocks. And he did it in style.

Playing against the Rider Broncs, Idowu swatted a monster six shots to get over the century mark. The game remains his career high in blocks for the rim-protecting savant, establishing himself as a top defensive prospect.

Idowu averaged 1.8 blocks per game as a senior with the Peacocks, leading the team with 59 on the season.

December 4, 2019 vs Leiden: Career high on the glass 

Idowu grabbed his career-high in rebounds as a rookie for Leeuwarden. He went off for 18 points and 14 rebounds, outmuscling Leiden for a huge 10 offensive boards. 

The second-possesions Idowu earned his side kept them in the game, but they ultimately fell 73-62. 

Idowu averaged a block per game that season, by far the most on the Leeuwarden roster. His shot-blocking has become a staple of his game. The towering forward has averaged at least a block a game for the last six seasons. 

The former GB u20 will look to bring his interior defence to the Riders roster this season. 

Riders sign Idowu

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of 6’8” forward Samuel Idowu.

The former GB u20s star spent his three college years in NCAA division one with Saint Peter’s University. Iwodu starred for the Peacocks in helping them win the program’s first ever national postseason tournament championship in 2017.

Idowu averaged 16.1 pts in his first professional season in Holland with Aris Leeuwarden. His second year he spent in Denmark with Team FOG Naestved, averaging 15.5 pts. He spent his third year with Yoast United, but was cut-short due to injury.

“It’s been a long time, but I can’t wait to come back to England” commented Idowu.

“I’m excited to join the Riders for the new season! I look forward to meeting the team, embracing the fans and the culture as well.”

The New York native, who holds a British passport, becomes Coach Rob Paternostro’s second recruit of the summer having secured the services of fan favourite Kimbal Mackenzie late last month.

Coach Rob commented: “We are really looking forward to working with Sam. He is a versatile big with good experience in Europe, who has shown the ability to score and rebound as a professional.”

“I enjoyed speaking with him, he is an intelligent engaging guy who I think will fit in very well with us.”

Photo credit: Saint Peter’s Peacocks

Jelson Homes to continue long-standing partnership

Leicester Riders are delighted to confirm that long-standing title sponsor Jelson Homes have extended their sponsorship and support of the club in what will be our 16th season working together.

“Jelson Homes have been an invaluable partner for the club since its rebirth in 2007. We are under no illusions that their continued support is massive for us. It enables Coach Rob to put out a side that has not only competed down the years but also brought home many trophies,” reflected Managing Director Russell Levenston.

“We can’t thank Robert Jelley and Jelson Homes enough. They enable us to provide outstanding accommodation for our players and have helped finance our progress. They have been a rock for us and one we really appreciate.”

Managing Director of Jelson Homes, Robert Jelley commented:

“Our partnership with Leicester Riders has been a fantastic one since the beginning. Seeing the growth over our time together has been incredible, not only in the success on the court and arena development but also in the growth of their community work.”

“We are delighted to be supporting the club once again next season. We’re all very much looking forward to it.”

Riders would like to put on record their thanks for Jelson Homes’ continued and much valued support.