Road to the Riders: Miryne Thomas

Basketball came late to Cleveland-born Miryne Thomas. At 15, he was searching for a direction to shape his life until the game found him. 

Now, he suits up as a professional, competing for the Leicester Riders as one of their marquee players. 

The 24-year-old reflected on where it all started:

“I talked with my mum about my future and what I wanted to do in life. I told her that I wanted to go to school and break the generational curse that had been on our family. 

“One day in high school, some NCAA advocates showed us the statistics of how many high school students go on to play sport in college. I knew I could be one. I was athletic and felt I had enough time to get good enough.”

With his dream of attending college spurring him on, he applied every part of himself to basketball. That included moving schools to give himself every chance of getting a scholarship. 

“The school I was at was very academically focused, so I changed to Central Catholic where athelticim was through the roof. They had three State Championships before I got there and had people go to D1 year after year. I knew that was where I was supposed to be.”

Thomas received a scholarship from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and transferred to Ball State after his Freshman year, then to Kent State as a Senior. 

He accomplished what he set out to, graduating in the summer with a B.A. in Telecommunications Video Production and an M.A. in Promotional Management and Tourism. 

“Getting to college was never about going pro. It was all about getting a degree and becoming the first in my family to do that. But when I got there, it was clear I was getting better than a lot of the other guys, and one day, my coach told me that I can do this professionally.

“Now I’m a first-generation college graduate, and doing what I love for a living. I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.”

Cleveland: This is for you!

Living in Cleveland during that period meant there was no shortage of basketball inspiration. The Cavaliers’ 2016 Championship inspired a city, and Thomas was there to witness it all.  

“Game Seven was in Golden State, and we had a watch party outside the Cavs arena. When the confetti came down, me and my friends started crying. Balling our eyes out. We’d never experienced something like that for our city.

“Growing up in the inner city was always one of the most dangerous places in America. It was overwhelming that the same city accomplished that. It gave people hope that things can be better despite all the darkness.”

The NBA title coming to Cleveland gave Thomas an extra push to fight for his dream. 

“I had been playing basketball for one year at the time, and it kicked me into gear. It gave me an extra push to show me I can do it. I remember crying and looking at my friend and saying: ‘We can really be something. Lebron was just a normal kid before he was Lebron.’”

It wasn’t only the star of the city who inspired a young Thomas. Watching the 2016 Cavs showed him that the team is a sum of its parts, and every player down the roster is pivotal to team success. 

“I was never the star, so I took a lot of inspiration from the guys who knew their role and helped get the team over the line. It showed me that everyone has an oar on the boat, and they all have to work in the same direction. JR Smith was the guy I looked up to.”

Returning to Central Catholic after that summer, Thomas’ drive saw him achieve his dream. As a former boxer, his devotion to his craft came naturally. 

“My work ethic Carried over from boxing. Working as a boxer is so much harder, so applying myself to basketball has never been a problem.

“Being from Cleveland, you can’t just be athletic. We’re inner-city kids: everyone’s athletic! In order to stand out, I realised I had to find a way to be different. The way I did that was learning how to shoot effectively. 

“My coaches told me if I got 10,000 shots up over the offseason I could become a shooter. So I followed that plan, worked hard on my shot, and it became automatic.

“That work ethic has carried over to college and the pros. If I play badly I’d be practising the next day, so why is it any different if I play well? You have to keep your grind and process consistent.”

Teammates become family 

Thomas quickly learned, coming up as a collegiate athlete the importance of a team pulling in the same direction. Despite finding differences with a teammate to start the year, they ended it as brothers. 

“At Ball State, in my sophomore year, we played Kent State and things got a bit chippy between myself and Malique Jacobs who played for them. A couple of years down the line I transferred to Kent State, and he was still there.

“We didn’t have the best relationship off the bat. We just couldn’t see eye to eye.

“But at the end of the year we won the MAC Championship, and when we sealed the Championship game, he walked to me and said ‘It was all worth it’.

“I got the same feeling you get when you’re plummeting down on a rollercoaster. This was a guy who I’d clashed with going back three years, and those few words just cleared the air in an instant. 

“We’re like brothers now. We had to battle through not loving each other to becoming family.”

Knowing the importance of the collective unit is one of Thomas’ great strengths. As a rookie, he came to the Riders understanding that he had to get on the same page as his new teammates. 

“If you want to be successful, you have to understand your teammates as people. We all come form different backgrounds, upbringings and families, and we all have to find a way to find common ground.”

That has come naturally to this group, who have connected on and off the court. 

“I love this team. Mo, Kimbal and Conner are the best vets I’ve ever had. I love their energy.

“Kimbal is one of the greatest people I will ever play basketball with. Mo is such a point of wisdom in my life, and he always has something to say that will help. Conner is like me; he comes with energy, and I look up to him and want to be like him.”

As he did when he first found the game, Thomas has hit the ground running in Leicester. He has two Team of the Week selections, put up a team-leading 20-point double in back-to-back games, and ranks top 10 in the British Basketball League in rebounds. 

In his ninth year of playing basketball, the sky is the limit for this ever-improving talent. 

Want to see Miryne in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Newcastle Eagles!

McKenzie Johnston named to Team of the Week

Riders captain Mckenzie Johnston was named to the Women’s British Basketball League Team of the Week for her performance against Oaklands Wolves this weekend.

Johnston put up 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Riders’ 92-78 win, grabbing four boards on the offensive end.

The Montana-born guard went 6-11 from the field, making both of her three-point attempts and going perfect on her five foul shots.

She made headlines with her one-in-a-million full-court heave, finding nothing but string from her own foul line to close the opening half.

Johnston is averaging 15.5 and seven rebounds through the first two games of the season, hitting the ground running in her second year in Riders red.

Want to see Johnston in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Nottingham Wildcats!

Miryne Thomas named to British Basketball League Team of the Week

Leicester Riders forward Miryne Thomas was named to the British Basketball Team of the Week for his performances against Surrey Scorchers and Caledonia Gladiators.

Thomas dominated the Thursday night matchup against Surrey, putting up 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in the Riders’ win.

He continued his dominance of the glass next time out against Caledonia, grabbing eight, including two on the offensive end.

This is Thomas’ second Team of the Week selection after his  17 points and seven rebounds saw the Riders beat the Newcastle Eagles to start October.

This is Thomas’ second Team of the Week selection after his  17 points and seven rebounds saw the Riders beat the Newcastle Eagles to start October.

Want to see Miryne in action?

Get tickets to the Riders’ next home game against Newcastle Eagles!

Academy Wrap Up – 30th October

It was another busy weekend of Academy fixtures with 9 of our teams in action. Check out our coaches thoughts below.

U14 Boys Premier 58-88 Manchester Magic

“After a slow start against a strong team. We found ourselves behind but the team in the second half played some great basketball on defence and on the fastbreak showing a lot of positives to take away from the game and to improve.” – Coach Ricardo.

U18 men 59-83 Leicester Dynamite

“U18 men lose to Dynamite in a well fought game. The difference was the very effective zone press and better energy shown by Dymanite in the first quarter, that built a deep lead for the home team. Riders did not give in and managed to get back into the game (-13 in the third) to then not find the energy to complete the come back. Harry Smith led the team with a good scoring and defensive performance.” – Coach Pietro.

U15 Boys 58-65 Birmingham Bears

U16 Boys Conference 69-71 Doncaster Eagles

U16 Boys Premier 71-67 Trafford Magic

U16 Girls Premier 54-56 Manchester Mystics

U16 Girls Conference 61-29 Leicester Warriors

“Another good win for the girls! We ran a great offence and adapted well to different defence styles that we have not come up against before. Despite having to overcome some adversity, the girls played very well!” – Coach Neve.

U12 Red 48-82 Sheffield Sharks

“A tough first game for us but it was a great learning experience for the team. It was wonderful to give 9 players their first experience at this level.” – Coach Greg.

U14 Boys Conference 26-69 Sheffield Sharks

3 things we learned from the doubleheader

The Riders come off the back of a doubleheader week, which they split 1-1 against the Surrey Scorchers and the Caledonia Gladiators.

Here’s what we learned from the matchups…

Bowman steps up

The Riders pushed the Gladiators all the way on Sunday night, and they can credit a large part of that to Blake Bowman. The young star led Leicester’s charge back into the game in the third quarter, putting up a career-high 15 points. 

Bowman scored eight points in the final two minutes of the third and the start of the fourth, throwing down an electric breakaway jam to get the final period underway. 

The Derby native missed only one of his seven shots in the game, earning our Player of the Game with a stat line of 15 points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes of action. 

Washington heating up

Riders veteran Conner Washington is building form as the season progresses. He built on his third-quarter performance, which sparked the Riders’ historic comeback against the Surrey Scorchers with two season highs in the same weekend.

Washington scored eight in as many minutes against the Scorchers, not missing a shot and draining two crucial threes as the Riders began their comeback. He followed this up with 10 points in 13 minutes against Caledonia, pulling the strings to dish six assists. 

Head Coach Rob Paternostro said that Washington’s effect on the team transcends his scoring ability:

“He gets up to the ball with incredible energy to play denying defence, and he’s part of a second unit that’s having a real impact on games. That’s the great thing about having veterans like him on the bench.

“They can see when the starting unit doesn’t have it, and they’re always ready to go. I think Conner turned the game around in a lot of ways against Surrey.”

Offensive consistency is key

The Riders have possessed the second-best offence in the League for much of the season, and this weekend was no different on that end of the ball. They averaged 88.5 points over the two games, making their season average 88.4. 

It comes from all over the court, with seven different players scoring in double-digits across the fixtures, and every Rider contributing to the points tally against the Caledonia Gladiators. 

They get it done efficiently, scoring at a 47.8% clip on the season and 47.4% over the doubleheader. The offensive consistency Leicester has shown in the opening stages of the season puts them in good stead going into any game. 

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to the Riders’ next home fixture against the Newcastle Eagles!

Report: Riders fall in dying seconds against Gladiators

The Riders fell in a heartbreaker to the Caledonia Gladiators, losing 84-83 on the road.

Clifton Moore Jr. won it with two seconds remaining for the hosts, after Kimbal Mackenzie put the Riders up one just five seconds prior. Mackenzie had a chance to win it on the buzzer but missed his effort as Leicester fell just short. 

Blake Bowman’s career night led the Riders, the athletic forward driving his team’s charge back into the game after falling down double digits in the third. He finished with 15 points, and was backed by Xavier Pinson’s 14 points following his 10 point fourth quarter. 

It was former Rider Patrick Whelan who led the game with 24. He hit two huge threes in the clutch which kept his team alive. 

The sides wasted no time exchanging blows from the tip-off, in a closely fought game throughout. All five Gladiators got on the board within five minutes, but the Riders found offensive responses to remain within a possession early. 

The hosts found separation in the first, led by Whelan who topped the game’s scoring with seven to build a lead as big as eight points. But a 10-0 run, highlighted by Conner Washington’s four-point play from the corner, meant the Riders led after one. 

Sam Idowu, building off his four-point first quarter, lifted the Riders’ bench to their feet to start the second with a monster two-handed slam off the dribble. Washington continued to roll back the clock, hitting two threes in five minutes as the Riders edged ahead. 

The teams fought tooth and nail until the half, the Riders never trailing throughout the second period. Caledonia’s Moore Jr. ended it with a jumper at the buzzer, tying it up at 44. 

The Gladiators came out of the half with the hot hands, starting 14-6 to put the Riders down eight once again. They extended their lead throughout the third: Lukas Palyza fifth three from five attempts made it a double-digit advantage with 3:16 left. 

Once again, the Riders battled back, cutting it to four after a Bowman breakaway layup. After a Gladiators response, Bowman then found the ball in his hands at the buzzer, fading away for two to make it 63-67 with one to play. 

The young Brit continued to make his mark in the fourth, throwing down an electrifying fast break jam to get the final period underway. After a cagey few minutes with both sides struggling to find the basket, Caleb Asberry putback Jaren Holmes’ miss to tie it up.

Pinson followed up his teammate with a tough fadeaway look from the corner, making it 72-69 to the Riders with five remaining. In a back-and-forth finale, the Chicago-born guard came up big, getting to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions to keep the Riders ahead. 

With two and a half minutes remaining, Pinson dropped off a pocked pass to big man Mo Walker, who finished inside for two to make it a three point Leicester lead. He continued his dominance a minute later, weaving to the rim and finishing a lefty layup over the defence.

Whelan hit back, nailing back-to-back threes to give the Gladiators a one point edge with 30 seconds on the clock. 

His former teammate Mackenzie came up huge in the clutch. He came up with an offensive board from a Pinson miss, dribbling out the shot clock before pulling up and draining a midrange jumper with seven seconds left. 

Moore Jr had a response, rising with a jump hook which found the bottom of the net, putting the hosts up one with two seconds remaining. Mackenzie had a shot to win it, but it fell short and Caledonia took the win. 

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to the Riders’ next home fixture against the Newcastle Eagles!

Rayven Peeples named to Team of the Week

Riders forward Rayven Peeples has been named to the Women’s British Basketball League Team of the Week following week one’s action.

Peeples was dominant in the team’s season opener, leading the Riders to a 92-65 win against Manchester Giants.

She put up 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and led the charge in the third quarter which saw the Riders blow the game open.

In week two, Peeples continued her dominance in the paint with her second straight double-double, going off for 11 points and 12 rebounds in the Riders’ win against Oaklands Wolves.

Report: Riders beat Wolves

Leicester Riders beat the Oaklands Wolves 92-78 on the road to improve to 2-0 on the season. 

The Riders had three players score over 18 points, showcasing their strength across the roster. Taylor O’Brien led the game with 21, backed by McKenzie Johnston’s 19 and Sam Ashby’s 18 in a bombardment from the backcourt. 

A 30-18 third quarter proved the difference in the tie after a tightly contested first half. The Riders saw themselves up narrowly as the quarter came to a close, before Johnston’s full-court heave to beat the buzzer snatched momentum for the visitors. 

The Riders dominated the glass throughout, winning the rebounding battle 50-35 led by Rayven Peeple’s 12 for her second-straight double-double. 

Oaklands led at the half and put on a good showing throughout, forcing Leicester to compete for 40 minutes to get the win over the line. Shaquera Wade’s 14 points, five rebounds and three assists led the team, but it wasn’t enough as the Wolves fell to 1-1. 

Sam Ashby’s dominance began from the jump. In the first quarter she stuffed the stat sheet, putting up eight points and four rebounds in just six minutes. Her efforts were matched by Oakland’s Wade, who also put eight on the board in a back-and-forth backcourt battle. 

The Riders trailed through seven minutes before Peeples cleaned up Ashby’s missed layup with three minutes left in the quarter. That gave Leicester their first lead of the game, which they carried into the end of the first. 

The Wolves exploded to start the second quarter with a 10-0 run, draining two threes out the gate and forcing a Riders timeout. It was Ashby again who stemmed the tide, making a layup inside as Leicester kept in the tie.

The Wolves held them at arm’s length for much of the second. Their lead remained around two scores, finding the basket consistently despite Peeple’s seven points in the quarter.

Momentum swung the Riders’ way with two minutes remaining. They finished the half 5-2, cutting it to one possession by the break. 

Where the Riders found form in the third quarter in their season opener, they did the same in this one. Marissa Hamilton provided a threat from behind the arc, hitting two to put Leicester up four. 

It was the visitor’s turn to hold their opponents at arm’s length going into the fourth. Oaklands hung around for most of the quarter, but Johnston sent the Riders’ bench into raptures by making a heave from her own three-point line to beat the buzzer, making it 71-62 with one to play. 

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates had the hot hand to start the fourth, draining two threes to make it a 14-point game in the Riders’ favour. They saw the game out from there, with American guard Taylor O’Brien’s triple setting the stage for a comfortable finale.

After a two-week break, the Riders will remain on the road for their next tie, heading across the western border to take on Cardiff Met Archers on November 18th. 

Championship Preview: Riders at Gladiators

Sunday evening will see the Riders complete their second game of British Basketball League Championship Round 7 as they head north to face the 4-2 Caledonia Gladiators.

This will be the first time Rob Paternostro’s team head to Scotland this season, facing a Gladiators squad that boast a three-game winning streak, including a close victory over European competition.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders at Caledonia Gladiators

Playsport, East Kilbride, Glasgow

Sunday, October 29, 6:00pm

Overcoming Adversity

The Riders currently sit fourth in the championship table, holding a 5-3 record following Thursday night’s comeback victory over the visiting Surrey Scorchers.

Leicester’s young squad took the game 94-86, fighting back from an early 23-point deficit to take the win and continue a winning streak over the Scorchers that stretches back 12 years.

‘Mr. Reliable’ Miryne Thomas once again put in a game-winning performance for the Riders, shooting 20 points and pulling in 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games.

The enigmatic Caleb Asberry put in an impressive shift, dropping 17 points on 60% shooting, including three deep balls and experienced guard Connor Washington used his minutes off the bench to great effect, draining two crucial threes that sparked the Riders’ offence into life.

Thursday’s comeback proved that Paternostro’s squad can remain calm under pressure and respond positively when the situation calls for it. 

Beating Surrey might seem par for the course, given the head-to-head record, but the Riders showed grit and a will to win, traits that will serve them well in Sunday’s tilt against the in-form Gladiators.

A Solid Start for Caledonia

Gareth Murray’s squad have started the season in promising form, backing up their winning record in the BBL by going undefeated in Europe.

Victories over Romanian outfit BC CSU Sibia and Anwil Wloclawek from Poland has seen the Gladiators make a flying start to their FIBA Europe Cup campaign.

Caledonia’s two losses came on the road and the Riders will be hard-pressed to win in an arena that is becoming somewhat of a fortress.

The Gladiators are known for their proficiency in reaching missed shots, snagging an average of 38 rebounds per game which is good for second in the league.

This dominance on the boards is largely attributed to the play of the frontcourt duo, Trent Buttrick and club captain Fahro Alihodzic.

Both the American and British/Bosnian are averaging seven rebounds per game and sit inside the Top 10 rebounders in the BBL.

Former Rider Patrick Whelan has also been a positive influence from the wing, knocking down threes at a typically high rate, hitting on over 46% of his shots from beyond the arc.

The trend for Leicester this season shows that when they reach parity on the glass and from three-point range, they win.

Sunday may well continue that trend.

Key Matchup

The battle of the big men under the rim will be crucial in deciding the winner of this fixture, however for Sunday’s key matchup, we’ll be focusing on a pair of playmaking guards.

Riders’ flashy passer Xavier Pinson will have to be on top form if he is to get the better of Caledonia’s wily veteran, Ian DuBose.

Standing at 6’4”, DuBose is a physically gifted guard that backs up his size and strength with efficient shooting and an eye for a pass.

 The American, who has plied his trade in Germany and Denmark, is averaging a solid 15.5 points per game and 4.3 dishes per game, good for a Top 10 place in both categories.

Pinson, who is as automatic from deep range as any player in the BBL, has also demonstrated a nose for the rim and the ability to find an eye-catching pass.

The rookie point guard had another strong game on Thursday, using deft touches in the paint to score 13 points while laying on six assists in a team-centric display.

It will be exciting to see what wins between youth and experience come Sunday night.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Newcastle Eagles!

LRF Deliver Black History Month Assembly

Earlier this week we headed over to Whitehall Primary School to deliver an assembly on Black History Month for both their KS1 & KS2 students. The aim of the assembly was to educate, inspire and create discussion on Black History and how it has influenced who we are today as a community.

The assembly was led by our Inclusion Activator Myalls Martin who spoke to the students about his story, key figures who influenced him growing up and how black history has shaped the person he is today.  

“It was a liberating experience delivering the Black History Month assembly to Whitehall Primary. Black History is a subject that is close to my heart from a professional and personal stand point, so to be able to educate and inspire the students is something I am extremely proud of.” – Myalls Martin, Leicester Riders Foundation Inclusion Activator. 

“I just wanted to take this opportunity on behalf of Whitehall Primary School to say a huge thank you to Myalls for taking the Black History Assembly this afternoon. Myalls’s story, background, and messaging to the children was extremely powerful. Myalls was in his enthusiastic element and had a had an amazing impact on the students.” – Neal Ruparelia, PE Consultant at Whitehall Primary School. 

The students were engaged throughout the assembly and were encouraged to get involved, discussing black role models who have had an impact on their personal journey and highlighting the challenges that they have overcame to get to where they are today.

Here at the Leicester Riders Foundation we believe that it is important to share the stories of those who have inspired and impacted our lives and use these stories to educate the younger generation.

Championship Preview: Riders at Wolves

Round two of the Women’s British Basketball League sees the Riders take on Oaklands Wolves on the road.

Fixture information

Leicester Riders at Oaklands Wolves

Oaklands College
Hatfield Road
St Albans
Al4 0JA

Saturday, October 28, 5:45 PM

Back with a bang 

The Riders, returning with a revamped roster of fresh and familiar faces, hit the ground running to start their 2023/24 campaign. They beat the Manchester Giants 92-65, led by American forward Rayven Peeples who put up 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

Peeples exploded for 10 points in the third, which saw the Riders expand their lead to 16 after going into halftimes tied at 40. 

Leicester shot 52% from the field and a red-hot 47% from three to record a blowout in their season opener. 

They now turn their attention to Oaklands, as they face their first competitive action on the road this season. 

Winning Wolves on opening night 

After a difficult season last year, going 5-17 in the Championship and missing out on a playoff place, the Wolves started this season 1-0. 

They took on the Cardiff Met Archers on the road, taking a 79-55 win back home to get their season underway in style. 

It was a defensive display by the Wolves, who held Cardiff to just 28.4% shooting from the field in the game. On the other end, Oaklands’ three-point shooting got points on the board, as the visitors made 10 of their 26 attempts. 

Caterrion Thompson led them in the game, the 5’9” guard playing big with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Another performance like that will be sure to test the Riders around the rim. 

Key matchup  

Thompson’s hot start to the season should come as no surprise for those who have followed her career. She arrives in Oaklands having led the scoring for Finnish side Forssain, averaging 18.1 points per game. 

The Ohio-born guard started out her college career at Bowling Green, where she remained until her Junior year. As a Redshirt Junior, Thompson ranked second on her team in scoring with 13.7 points per game and averaged 5.3 rebounds. 

In her final college season with Mississippi State, Thompson averaged 8.1 points and 3.1 rebounds, leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage with 41%. 

Tasked with the role of slowing her down is Riders guard Taylor O’Brien, who had a dominant display of her own against Manchester. O‘Brien bossed the opening half of play, getting to the hoop with ease to put up a game-high 12 rebounds and 16 points. 

The rookie signed to the Riders from Flordia State, averaging 6.7 points for the Seminoles last season. 

She spent four years prior at Bucknell University, leading the team in scoring for two straight seasons and earning a place on the All-Patriot League First team for 2021 and 2022. The Pennsylvania native averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in her final season with the Bison.

Expect a battle in the backcourt in this one. 

New Riders WhatsApp Channel Launched!

We’ve launched a WhatsApp Channel to bring you all of the latest news, closer to the Team than you’ve ever been before.

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Click here to join our WhatsApp channel to get the latest stories and updates from the club.

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How to Join our WhatsApp Channel

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Report: Riders come back to beat Scorchers

The Riders took a comeback win against the Surrey Scorchers to improve to 5-3 in the British Basketball League Championship.

They were down by as much as 23 early, before a fightback starting at the end of the first half saw them come back and win the game. 

Miryne Thomas led the team’s scoring for the second straight game, going off for 20 points and 11 rebounds and coming up with momentum-building plays throughout. As did his teammate Jaren Holmes, who scored seven straight to start the final quarter and steal the late momentum. 

Surrey, led by Padiet Wang’s 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, started hot, forcing Leicester to dig themselves out of a hole and earn the win the hard way. Their last three fixtures will give them confidence going into the rest of the year, beating the Giants before playing the top two from last season close. 

They came storming out the gate, getting out to a 9-1 lead after just two minutes. They found success in close, and Wang’s putback layup forced an early timeout from Head Coach Rob Paternostro. 

The Scorchers’ hot shooting continued for the entirety of the first. Wang scored seven, digging the Riders a 28-12 hole to climb out of early. 

They struggled to make inroads for much of the second quarter. Scorchers big man Saiquan Jamison dominated the paint through the first 20 to put up 13 points and three rebounds. 

The Riders then fought back from 23 points down as the half came to a close, bringing it to within single digits after Kimbal Mackenzie’s free throws. Veteran guard Conner Washington lit the spark, consistently hitting tough shots to get Leicester back in it. 

The score was 45-36 to the visitors, a manageable position for Leicester to mount a second-half comeback.  

Coming out of the locker rooms, the Riders took the game by the reins and stormed back into the tie. They attacked the rim relentlessly, the surge led by Xavier Pinson, who cut the game to one score at the free throw line. 

A pair of Thomas threes followed up Pinson’s play, taking the first Riders lead since their first score of the game. The Scorchers responded, and the sides engaged in a back-and-forth throughout the rest of the third. 

Caleb Asberry heated up from three, making three in the quarter to lead the team in scoring going into the fourth. Two Riders scores in the final seconds saw them take the lead at the end of the quarter.

Leicester blew the game open in a strong final period. Jaren Holmes scored seven straight points to earn the Riders an advantage, the Riders making it a nine-point lead with five minutes remaining. 

The Scorchers hit back with a pair of triples, making it a tense finish, but the hosts had enough to seal the win, making shots consistently at the free-throw line. Sam Idowu hit the final free throw to end the tie. 

The Riders return to action on Sunday, taking on the Caledonia Gladiators on the road for the second game of a weekend doubleheader.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home fixture against Newcastle Eagles!

British Basketball League Secures U.S. Media Rights Partnership with NBC Sports Regional Networks

The British Basketball League has announced a ground-breaking media rights agreement for coverage of the League’s 2023/24 season with NBC Sports Regional Networks (RSN), marking a significant milestone in the League’s expansion strategy. 

Through the partnership, basketball fans in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia regions will now have the opportunity to enjoy top-tier British basketball action on NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Philadelphia, respectively. 

The regional sports networks will showcase two weekly games, taking place every Thursday and Friday, along with must-see Men’s and Women’s tentpole events, including the 2024 British Basketball League Trophy Finals (Jan 27-28), the 2024 British Basketball League All-Star Game (Mar 17), and the 2024 British Basketball League Playoff Finals (May 19).

Leicester Riders’ home fixture against the Surrey Scorchers on Thursday, 26th October, will be the first British Basketball League game shown on the networks.

The full list of Riders fixtures to be televised on the Networks are as follows:

DateOpponentH/ATip-off time
26/10/23Surrey ScorchersH19:45
10/11/23London LionsH19:45
1/12/23London LionsH19:45
15/12/23Caledonia GladiatorsH19:45
28/12/23Bristol FlyersH19:45

Please note that games selected for NBC coverage will be unavailable to watch on YouTube for American viewers.

Sports fans will also be treated to additional programming, including the brand-new UNBEATBALE magazine show. 

This collaboration with NBC Sports Regional Networks opens new horizons for British basketball, bringing the excitement of the League to new fans in the United States.

The partnership underscores the League’s commitment to reaching a broader audience and solidifying its position as a globally competitive sports entertainment product. 

Highlighting this broadcast milestone, the League’s Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Radin, said: “This deal between NBC Sports Regional Networks and the British Basketball League signifies a major step forward for our League. Bringing the excitement of British basketball to fans across these regions gives us an opportunity to welcome new fans into our League and showcase our world-class talent – a number of whom hail from American colleges – to new audiences. 

“As the CEO of the League and a former NBC Universal employee, I am incredibly proud of this partnership because I know the opportunities this gives our organisation, and British basketball, to reach new fans.

Championship Preview: Riders vs Scorchers

The Riders’ British Basketball League Championship game on Thursday night pits Rob Paternostro’s squad against the 1-6 Surrey Scorchers.

The Morningside Arena will host the Scorchers for the second time this season and Riders’ fans won’t need to cast their minds too far back to remember a 91-74 home victory on October 13.

Round seven brings a double-header for Leicester, who follow Thursday’s tilt with a trip to the home of the Caledonia Gladiators on October 29.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders vs Surrey Scorchers

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Thursday, October 26, 7:45pm

Get tickets here!

Keeping Pace at the Top

The Riders currently occupy fifth place in a BBL Championship table that is tight throughout.

Coach Paternostro’s young squad sit just above .500 with a 4-3 record after tough northern road trips to Manchester and Newcastle.

In last Friday’s outing versus the Eagles, the Riders fell 95-90 in a hotly contested game.

Despite matching the Northeasterners on the boards and putting up solid offensive numbers, a sharpshooting performance by guard Rickey McGill (31 points including six three-pointers) proved to be the difference.

The Riders didn’t go down quietly, though, with Miryne Thomas and Xavier Pinson dropping 22 and 19 points respectively.

Thomas, capable of multiple spectacular plays per game, had his best statistical game in a Rider jersey, complementing his effective scoring with 10 rebounds to claim a well-earned double-double.

The 6’8” Ohio native has been a focal point for Leicester’s offense so far this season, whether that’s through slipping into space in the paint for a monster jam or fading out wide for the corner three. 

The long power forward’s offensive production could prove the difference on Thursday night, especially against a Scorchers team that could struggle to go bucket-for-bucket with him if he hits at a high percentage.

Building on the First Win

The first chapter of the 2023/2024 season has been a difficult one for the Scorchers, but Lloyd Gardner’s squad now have a victory from which to build.

October 21 saw Surrey delight their home faithful with a comfortable 98-72 victory over a Manchester Giants team coming off two games in three days.

The Scorchers cooked from beyond the arc, hitting an impressive 20 three-pointers at a 50% clip.

Surrey pull the trigger more than any other team in the BBL, firing an average of 72 shots per game. If they can breach the net as often as they managed against Manchester, their 78.6 PPG will take a huge leap.

Accuracy and efficiency have been stumbling blocks all season, though. The Scorchers sit bottom of the league in FG% and second bottom in 3PT%. 

They rebound the ball well, largely thanks to star centre Saiquan Jamison who tops the BBL with 11.4 RPG.

Riders’ fans should expect the Scorchers to manufacture plenty of chances to score. If they can score at an efficient rate, they could cause some problems.

Key Matchup

Thursday night’s box office battle will be one that comes off the bench, as experienced guards Justin Robinson and Riders’ Kimbal Mackenzie tussle for second-unit dominance.

Crafty veteran Robinson was a key factor in Surrey’s sole win, dropping a smooth 23 points on the Giants through efficiency all over the court.

Robinson held a masterclass in taking what the defence gives you, hitting 72% of his field goals including five buckets from downtown.

The long-time London Lion is currently averaging 11.6 PPG on 42% shooting from the bench.

Attempting to match Robinson’s impact on court will be Round five BBL ‘Team of the Week’ member, Mackenzie. 

The Riders’ team leader has been as influential as ever this season, often hitting difficult shots around the rim and coming up clutch when the team needs him most.

An industrious 16-point game against the Eagles typified the qualities Mackenzie is bringing in his third year as a Rider, as he combines ruthless scoring with an eye for a pass.

The Canadian is second on the Riders in assists this season, dishing 4.7 assists per outing, which could give him the advantage in the matchup against Robinson.

The streak

The Riders currently possess a 39-game winning streak against the Scorchers, the longest active streak in the British Basketball League.

The streak dates back to November 11 2021. They have an opportunity to make it a round 40 in this one.

Academy Wrap Up – 23rd October

Check out what went on in our 8 Academy fixtures that took place on October 21st & 22nd.

U16 Boys Conference 61-50 Leicester Warriors

“Great to get a win against Warriors, every player stepped up in a game that challenged the lads to stay focused. Honourable mentions go to Rance for his offensive intensity getting to the basket, Denis closing out the game with 2 clutch steal and scores, along with our bigs Ramaan and Lucious for getting crucial And 1 baskets in the game.” – Coach Ryan.

U16 Girls Conference 56-44 Northants Lightning

“It was a great win to start the season for the u16s girls conf! We managed to run effective offence and be active on defence to create a lead that we held throughout the game. There is still lots to work on and perfect but it was a great start!” – Coach Neve.

U16 Boys Conference 63-62 Sheffield Elite II

“To come away with a gritty comeback win and chase the mistakes we made early on, was impressive to see. We were challenged by a tough Sheffield side, though to see the building spirit from the boys was credit to them. Flynn gets a shout out with his 3 to ice the game.” – Coach Ryan.

U15 Boys 38-59 Northants Thunder

“The game was a real tale of two halves. We struggled offensively in the first half, not taking advantage of some good defence we were playing. But in the second half, they switched on and implemented the adjustments really well. Lots to take away from it but happy with how we responded.” – Coach Damon.

U16 Girls Premier 58-86 Milton Keynes Breakers

“In a game full of controversy, the girls played well in what had the potential to be a very good game. We look to bounce back next week” – Coach Lewis.

U16 Boys Premier 50-86 Milton Keynes Breakers

“We came out on fire pushing Mk all the way showing much improvement from the last game. Despite the score line I am happy with the improvement within our team, we are going in the right direction.” – Coach Emo.

U18 Men 48-74 Leicester Warriors

“It was a bad day at the office for the young men, just struggled to find rhythm against a well drilled warriors team. The team are looking forward to getting back on the practice floor with Coach Pietro and look get back to winning ways in their next game.” – Coach Lewis.

U14 Boys 21-109 Derby Trailblazers

“A Well drilled all round Derby team caused us problems in transition. A positive to take away is that we didn’t give up and the 3/4 quarter we played better defence and offence, scoring 12 points in the fourth.” – Coach Ady.

Leicester Riders Student Night

Leicester Riders are offering an exclusive 45% student discount for Thursday’s game against Surrey Scorchers.

To get your discount, click here, then use the code RIDUNI in the “enter package code” option at the top of the page.

A valid student ID will be required upon entry to the Arena.

Come down and support your Leicester Riders!

Report: Riders beat Giants to open season

The Riders recorded a dominant win in their season opener, beating the Manchester Giants at home. 

American rookie Rayven Peeples led the game with 18 points, leading a third-quarter charge where the Riders built their lead. She was backed by Taylor O’Brien and Katie Januszewska who scored 16 each. 

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The score was tied at the half, but the Riders’ offence clicked into gear to score 31 in the third quarter, taking a 20-point advantage going into the fourth. 

For Manchester, the newly re-franchised outfit struggled to generate offence against stifling Riders defence in the second half. Myah Pace led their efforts with 13, but her team managed only 25 points after halftime. 

Throughout a high-scoring first half, nothing separated either side. Young Brit Januszewska impressed in the opening stages, leading the game with eight points upon her Riders return. 

The Charnwood Academy graduate was hot from three early, making two of her first three attempts. 

The Riders went into the half shooting 50% from the field, but 6-13 shooting from the free throw line left the door open for the Giants who were able to remain in the game with their three-point shooting. 

Manchester went 7-14 from deep, and the game was tied at 40 after 20 minutes. 

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American guard Taylor O’Brien made her mark early on her Riders debut, putting up 13 points and eight rebounds following the first two quarters. She then added to her tally to get the third underway, draining a three to give the Riders the lead. 

Spurred on by the triple, Leicester stretched their lead in the quarter and held the Giants and arm’s length. Six points in two minutes from forward Peeples saw them establish authority at the rim, and a pull-up jumper from returning Rider McKenzie Johnston gave them an eight-point advantage. 

Peeples had 12 points and three offensive rebounds in a monster third-quarter performance, which the Riders won 31-15 to blow the game open. 

Following the offensive explosion in the third, it was a case of seeing it out professionally in the fourth. The Riders stretched their advantage to 30, securing the win in their opening game. 

The Riders return to action on Saturday, where they take on Oaklands Wolves on the road. 

Report: Riders fall to Eagles

A Friday night filled with high drama in the British Basketball League Championship saw the Riders fall 95-90 to the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

In a fiercely contested game, accurate shooting beyond the arc from the home team made the difference in the Vertu Motos Arena, helping them secure their first win in nearly a month.

The Riders drop to 4-3 on the season but can take heart from a spirited performance on the road.

High-flying forward Miryne Thomas had his best performance in a Riders uniform, dropping 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to earn his first BBL double-double.

The point guard tandem of Xavier Pinson and Kimbal Mackenzie also made a significant impression on the stat sheet, combining for 35 points and seven assists.

Pinson, who has been deadly accurate from deep this season, went five-for-seven from deep and remains near the top of the league for three-point percentage.

The Eagles’ best showing came from combo-guard Rickey McGill, who despite only hitting one three-pointer coming into the game, sunk six shots from downtown.

McGill totalled 31 points on the night and earned ‘Player of the Game’ honours.

In a sight that is becoming pleasingly familiar this season, scoring began with Thomas, who hit from deep after fine ball movement by the Riders.

The Eagles answered back quickly with an emphatic flush from Malcolm Delpeche, but a well-timed block by Braelen Bridges on the next defensive set sparked a 12-2 Riders run dominated by the three ball.

A second bucket from range from Thomas and back-to-back triples by Pinson saw the visitors hit four threes in four minutes, and with Jordan Johnson in foul trouble, the Riders looked comfortable.

Paternostro’s young squad hit a cold snap midway through the half however, allowing the Eagles to pull themselves back into the game.

After a couple of unexpected delays, due to a referee suffering an injury and Will Neighbour being ejected for collecting technical and unsportsmanlike fouls, the home side took their first lead on the back of a Tajh Green three.

A hotly contested game boiled over to end the first half, resulting in technical and unsportsmanlike fouls for Caleb Asberry and Thomas respectively, plus a second ejection for the Eagles, who had Green leave the court after a hard foul on Asberry.

Once the arena was calmed and play resumed, strong play on the inside from Bridges and a pair of Riders’ threes saw them retake the lead, 43-42 the halftime score.

Coming out of the break strong, Newcastle pulled out to a five-point lead, but an unbelievable hustle play from Jaren Holmes – stopping a fast break with a steal – galvanised the Riders and they closed the gap with a pair of three-pointers.

Nice layups from Holmes and Sam Idowu kept the Eagles defence honest, but a three-point efficiency of 55%, including five deep balls by McGill, propelled them to a seven-point lead heading into the closing stanza.

A heavy tension filled the arena heading into the fourth, ramped up by five quick points by the Riders.

Captain Mackenzie was putting the team on his back, cleverly drawing a pair of offensive fouls and taking advantage with a corner three.

Back fired the Eagles, an ‘and one’ play by Johnson taking him over 20 points, and once McGill hit yet another three, Newcastle were up by eight with four minutes left.

Holmes’ first three of the night, a beautiful right-hand layup from Thomas and a nasty step back three by Pinson showed the Riders’ resilience, but despite taking it down to the final shot, Newcastle held on for victory.

The Riders return to action on Thursday, hosting the Surrey Scorchers.

Get tickets here!

Championship Preview: Riders vs Giants

The Riders host the Manchester Giants on their opening night of the Women’s British Basketball League. 

Attempting to follow up on making all three domestic finals last season, Leicester’s revamped roster will test themselves in competitive action for the first time in this one. 

Fixture information

Leicester Riders vs Manchester Giants

Netball & Badminton Centre- Loughborough University

Saturday, October 21, 6 PM

Get tickets!

New Riders faces

The Riders enter a new era under newly appointed Head Coach Ben Stanley, who brought in a plethora of new signings among returning familiar faces. 

Accompanying the likes of Mckenzie Johnstone and Jessica Eadsforth-Yates, who played a pivotal part in last season’s success, are six new additions to the roster. 

Meet the full roster here! 

Australian guard Sam Ashby, Israeli forward Shahd Abboud and American pair Rayven Peeples and Taylor O’Brien are just a few of the new faces suiting up the East Midlands this season. 

They impressed in pre-season, beating the Sheffield Hatters and Newcastle Eagles, the latter by 20 points on the road. 

The League Championship will prove a whole new task, but early signs are positive for the new Riders roster. 

Giants re-franchise 

Over the summer, the Manchester Mystics franchised to become the Manchester Giants, putting both men’s and women’s basketball under the same name in Manchester. 

The Mystics have left a lasting legacy on the sport, having played nine seasons in the Women’s British Basketball League, memorably lifting the Cup in 2017.

Their first signing of the summer: British Basketball legend Georgia Anderson who returns to action following a season away from the game after the birth of her first child. 

Accompanying Anderson is Leah McDerment, who won the quadruple with the London Lions last season, Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist Hannah Shaw, and former Rider Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus.

With a talented roster marking the start of a new-Giants era, Manchester will have high aspirations going into their first game of the season. 

Key matchup 

Having spent a year on the sidelines, Georgia Anderson will be itching to get back on the court for this season opener. 

The 5’8” point guard is one of the League’s all-time greats, leading the Women’s British Basketball League in all-time Regular Season assists (942) and steals (255), ranks third in scoring (2226) and defensive rebounds (615) and in the top four overall for overall rebounds, assists per game and games played. 

The last time we saw Anderson in action, she put up 13.8 points, seven assists, 4.3 rebounds and two steals per game. 

Facing up against her, and a player who will play a pivotal role from the same spot is American guard Taylor O’Brien. 

The rookie signed to the Riders from Flordia State, having averaged 6.7 points for the Seminoles last season. 

She spent four years prior at Bucknell University, leading the team in scoring for two straight seasons and earning a place on the All-Patriot League First team for 2021 and 2022. The Pennsylvania native averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in her final season with the Bison. 

O’Brien also owns Bucknell’s record in the outdoor high jump and was named to the second Team All-Patriot League with a runner-up finish in the 2019 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

That athleticism will aid in her defensive efforts against Anderson, as they battle for supremacy in the backcourt. 

Championship Preview: Riders at Eagles

Round six of the British Basketball League Championship sees the Riders travel north to Newcastle for the second time this season.

After splitting last weekend’s back-to-back games – the latter of which a loss to the Manchester Giants – Rob Paternostro’s squad will want to get back to winning ways and improve on their 4-2 record.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle

Friday, October 20, 7:30pm

Watch Live!

A Weekend of Attrition

The Riders currently sit second in the BBL Championship table with eight points after splitting a weekend double-header.

Coach Paternostro did a good job of managing his players’ workload in Friday’s 91-74 win over the Surrey Scorchers, but an excellent second half by the Giants saw them best the Riders with a score of 94-80.

Fatigue may well have been a factor down the stretch in Manchester, as Leicester scored a season-low 80 points, but strong outings from Xavier Pinson, Caleb Asberry and TJ Lall were further proof that this young squad is continuing to get better.

Lall, who is proving to be a key member of the Riders’ second unit, came of the bench to drop 11 points, snag nine rebounds and draw five fouls.

The 6’7” guard’s versatility has been on full display early as he averages 8.3 points per game, 38.5% from deep range and leads the team in rebounds per game with 5.3.

The Eagles are proficient on the offensive glass, so Lall’s hustle to grab missed shots will be crucial.

As well as matching Newcastle on the boards, the Riders will need to return to their usual high standard of free throw shooting.

The Riders and the Eagles are the two best teams in the BBL at getting to the foul line, averaging 40.9 and 42.8 free throws per game respectively.

The team that can convert those chances at the foul line most efficiently could end up taking home the victory.

Getting Back to Winning Ways

Since an 81-74 victory in Bristol on September 22, the Eagles haven’t won a game, falling into a run of four straight losses.

One of those defeats came at the hands of the Riders, who bested the hometown team 92-85 in a pulsating game.

Monday’s 109-104 overtime loss to the unbeaten London Lions spells a change, though, so the Riders should expect a similarly competitive contest.

Former Giants forward Tajh Green flashed the most against the Lions, hitting all of his three shots from downtown on his way to an impactful 23-point haul.

The 6’8” big man, who has averaged a near double-double over his BBL tenure, is the Eagles’ front-court focal point with the strength to bang inside and the speed to run the floor on fast breaks.

Green, who dropped 17 points last time the two teams met, will need to repeat those numbers for an Eagles team that has struggled on offense, averaging just under 80 PPG.

That, added to a 40.7 FG%, means that Newcastle need to focus heavily on scoring efficiency if they are to best a Riders team that excels in this area.

A final wrinkle to this contest comes as the Eagles’ staff will have to manage their players’ minutes.

Newcastle travel to Bristol to face a 4-3 Flyers team on Saturday night. Back-to-back games could see star players like Jordan Johnson taking to the floor less often than usual.

Key Matchup

Both the Riders and the Eagles get to the foul line better than any other team in the BBL. However, both squads are also very good at foul-free basketball.

The key matchup for this game could be between two guards who are aggressive when hitting the lane and often force defenders into personal fouls: Larry Austin Jr. and Jaren Holmes.

Illinois native Austin Jr is a wily veteran guard, currently in his third season in the BBL, the first two spent with the Cheshire Phoenix.

Standing at 6’2”. Austin Jr. is quick and strong, known for his perimeter defence and eye for a rebound. 

He is also excellent at finding his way to the foul line. The former Central Michigan player is currently taking 5.2 free throws per game, just behind Johnson who is at 7.3, second in the British Basketball League.

Austin Jr is a good ‘alternative threat’ in the Eagles’ backcourt, a role being played perfectly by the Riders’ Jaren Holmes.

Holmes, who is averaging 13.5 points, is slightly taller than his opposite number at 6’4” and can use his size to also compete with forwards on the wing.

The Iowa State star uses his speed and will to get to the rim to great effect, and this ‘attack first’ mentality sees him shooting 4.5 free throws.

Holmes gets to the line less frequently than Austin Jr, but his 85% conversion rate, compared to his opponent’s 65%, could give the Riders’ guard the edge.

Played for both- Corey Johnson

Former Riders sharpshooter Corey Johnson once donned Eagles colours, after playing an integral part in a Riders championship win.

The Canadian wing spent two seasons in the East Midlands, putting up 10.9 points per game on 38% three-point shooting in the 2020/21 season. 

Johnson helped the Riders to the League title with a 24-6 record, playing in all 30 games that season. 

Johnson signed with Newcastle the next season, adding 14 points per game to the reigning Playoff champions. 

Johnson now suits up for the Derby Trailblazers in the NBL Division One, having played for the Manchester Giants last season. 

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game!

Coach’s thoughts: Rob Paternostro on the season so far

Let me start by saying how much your support has meant to the team to start the season. The way you all have embraced our guys, and the new players we have, means a lot to them and myself, and it’s something I’ve come to expect from our tremendous fanbase. 

The season is in full swing, and I’m excited about the group we have. As a coach, you’re always looking to improve each game, and I think that we are doing exactly that.

It’s been nice to see the work we’ve done in practice translate over to the court. When I look at our team I feel like we have a high ceiling. We’re nowhere near our best right now, and as the season goes on, that’s what we’re striving for.

Since the opening game, our communication on defence, our transition defence and our ball movement and spacing continue to improve. They’re all work in progress, and now the guys have been together for a couple of months, they’re starting to get a feel for what each other on the floor.

Our game against Plymouth was a pivotal test for us, and I think winning a close game after a loss was important for this team. We showed that not only do we improve game to game, but quarter to quarter. 

That was an important step for us. To shrug off a below-par half on the defensive end and respond with better play in the second half showed real maturity and intelligence. And when you have a new group, winning a tight, tough game can certainly build confidence.

When you look at our roster, we have so many guys we can turn to that can make an impact on the game. Our depth is huge, and that becomes especially important with so many games in this league and a lot of two-game weekends.

I’ve been impressed with so many of our players. Jaren Holmes has done a really good job of making plays, and his physicality has been tough for defences. Braelen Bridges’ ability to finish around the basket is really impressive. 

Kimbal Mackenzie, TJ Lall and Sam Idowu playing off the bench in this winning streak has been crucial for us. In our wins, those three have made a really good impact, and it’s important to have those types of players on the bench.

Early in the season, we’re a team that is fast and can play in the open floor. We’re unpredictable and can win in different ways with different guys. We have a roster deep enough to where the other team can’t figure out where we’re going.

Being able to win in multiple ways is especially important when you look at the strength of the League across the board. Teams being allowed six imports have changed things. Each team has numerous dangerous players, and it doesn’t look like the type of league where you can play poorly and expect to win. 

You need to play well, or teams will get you. It looks like the League is going to be really competitive, even though it’s hard to tell this early. Night in and night out, you need to play well to come away with wins.

That means we’ll need all of our fans behind us every night. The margins are so tight this season, that the extra push from the stands is as important as ever. Thank you for your incredible support, and we hope to make this season an enjoyable one for you all. 

Rob Paternostro

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Kimbal Mackenzie named to Team of the Week

Riders captain Kimbal Mackenzie was named to the British Basketball Team of the Week.

Mackenzie was Player of the Game on Friday night, scoring a game-high 22 points against the Surrey Scorchers and putting up six assists and six rebounds.

He followed up the next day with another playmaking exhibition against the Manchester Giants, dishing another six assists on the road.

Want to see Mackenzie in action?

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“Sometimes, I don’t know how I’m still playing.”- Samuel Idowu on battling back from injury

After over a season on the sidelines, Samuel Idowu battled back from injury to take to the court for the Leicester Riders. The American/Brit has returned to the UK after months of dedication to his recovery. 

“I surprised myself at what I could endure,” reflected Idowu. “I always knew I was a hard worker, but this was different. From September 2022 to August 2023, I was in rehab at 10 am every day, sometimes until 7 pm.

“It’s not easy, and it gave me a newfound respect for people who have gone through serious injuries that lead to multiple surgeries. I had to do it two years in a row, and it was a massive mental challenge.

“With everything I’ve gone through to get here, I sometimes don’t know how I’m still playing.”

After a dominant two-year stretch to start his professional career in Europe, averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in the Netherlands as a rookie, Idowu suffered a ruptured patella in May 2021 and was sidelined for the first time.  

He returned the following season after going through knee surgery, and despite his continued elite play, all wasn’t right with Idowu’s body. 

“Something had gone wrong with the first surgery, and while I was able to play, I was told the injury was going to happen again. After months of rehab to get back onto the court, I had to go through the whole process again.

“Luckily, the surgery went well the second time, and I took no chances with my recovery. I spent the whole year out to focus on it.”

For any athlete, sitting on the sidelines is a mental challenge. Despite his calm demeanour, this was no different for Idowu. 

“It was new for me. Sitting out was really difficult. I’m a level-headed person and I don’t usually stress or get too anxious, but sitting for a whole year was really hard. 

“It wasn’t too difficult at the beginning when I could barely walk. My whole focus was on being able to stand. But once I was out of my brace and I could walk or even run, I started thinking I could play, which was really dangerous.

“My body wasn’t there yet, but my mind was ready. I was shooting a little bit and feeling like I could play, which just made me want to do more.

“That was a seven-month period where it was a battle to keep myself off the court, knowing I wasn’t 100% ready to be back.”

After his second surgery, Idowu didn’t take the court until his first practice in Leicester. Many would be anxious to test their injury, hoping the hard work in rehab had paid off. But Idowu’s love of the game left no room for emotion, barring his itching excitement. 

“I couldn’t wait to get back on the court. I wasn’t scared. There was so much emotion that goes into joining a new team, so to get back to it felt great. I missed it a lot, and it feels amazing to be able to trust my body.”

His impact was immediate for the Riders. In his first competitive outing, he was named Player of the Game after scoring 12 points in his debut. 

“I’m seeing the improvements in my game, and I’m starting to get back to the player I was before. Those small improvements meant a lot. I trained myself to think about that during rehab, so I’m appreciating the little gains I can make on the court.”

Idowu finds himself as a veteran on a young Riders team, tasked with helping to guide six rookies through their first season of professional basketball. 

In his five years as a pro, he has been on winning teams and losing teams, and understands what it takes to be the former. 

“I try to reiterate the fact that in order for us to win, everyone has to buy in. That was an issue with some teams I’ve been on in the past.

“That’s the main thing that excited me about this team. We get along off the court: the chemistry between us is incredible.

“Everyone has bought into winning. Every game, there’s a different Player of the Game. We don’t care as long as we win. 

“Of course, guys want to individually play as well as they can, but it’s ultimately about the team goal. It’s about winning the game. I’m excited to be a part of that winning culture.”

Part of that buy-in comes from the Riders bench, whose play has earned the team the reputation for having one of the deepest rosters in the British Basketball League. Idowu is an integral part of that unit, which takes pride in the impact it can have later in the game. 

“We want teams to look at us like we have two starting lineups. Even though we’re coming in off the bench, we still play to the standard of the starters, so there’s no break for the other team.

“That keeps everyone fresh. Coach Rob likes to play everybody, and that keeps our energy up throughout the game.”

As he continues to get back to his best, Idwou’s impact on the Riders roster has proved his dedication in rehab was well worth the wait. He’s proved an invaluable addition to the Riders since his arrival, and expect much more to come. 

Want to see Sam in action?

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Captain’s Log: Kimbal Mackenzie’s thoughts on the season so far

Thank you to everybody for their incredible support this season. It’s been great to see you all back in the stands and getting behind the team. 

The start to the season has been a great challenge for us with plenty of lessons, but ultimately I’m proud of the way this team is coming together. We have a phenomenal group stacked with talent, and I’m happy to see that starting to come to fruition on the court. 

Opening night was an important lesson for the team. Give Cheshire credit. They showed that they can be a dangerous team, and they outplayed us. 

We have a reputation for being one of the better teams in the league and for playing well at home, but we learned quickly that if we don’t show up and bring our best, we’re going to get punched in the mouth.

The first game of the year is always tricky, but the bottom line is they played harder than us and outperformed us. There are no easy games in this league, and that was important for us to learn quickly. 

This was an almost brand-new group with a couple of injuries early on, so we really didn’t have a great idea of who we were when we first entered the season. But I believe in this group, and I believe in this coaching staff. 

Every week we get in better shape, and we better understand our team philosophy, our roles, and each other. We’re a few weeks into the season, and we are all getting to know each other better every day. 

Since opening night, I have definitely seen the team start to gel. We’re finding our roles and learning how to play with one another. The way we beat Newcastle was especially important. It’s really good to show you can grind a game out early in the season. 

We’re starting to find our identity as a team. This roster is incredibly dynamic, and we have a lot of three-dimensional guys who make plays in multiple ways. We will be a difficult team to scout because we have many guys who can score, pass, rebound and understand the game well. 

You don’t know where we’re going to find success every night because we have a lot of playmakers and shot-makers.  With this packed schedule, seeing teams four times a season, that kind of versatility is going to be essential. 

Having a dynamic group that can beat teams in a lot of different ways gives us an edge. Ultimately, you never know how we’re going to approach a game. That comes from our depth, which is one of our biggest strengths. We have gotten contributions from everyone.

I could go all the way down the roster talking about the players who have contributed this season. It’s truly been a group effort, top to bottom. 

One guy who has somewhat flown under the radar and who has quietly been playing great is Braelen. He’s been a monster in the paint. He’s tough to stop: He has a great touch around the hoop and a good understanding of the game. He’s been excellent for us. 

He brings something that I can say for all of the players on our roster: fearlessness. The returning players all bring pride and toughness to the roster, and the guys that have come in have amplified that. They don’t back down from anyone.

I’m also proud to be a part of a team that puts winning first. Every player on our roster is dedicated to the teams success. The more we give ourselves to the team, the better we’re all going to play. We’ve done a good job as a team to go out there, be competitive together and enjoy winning.

For the rest of the season, I’m excited to see this team’s development. 

The trait of great teams is their progression through the season, and we have so much room to grow. We will, of course, have many ups and downs over the course of the season and will likely lose another game (as great as it would be to go undefeated the rest of the way), but the important thing is to keep looking forward and improving every day.

We have seen that early in the season, and we’ll work hard every day to continue to improve. 

Thank you to all of our fans for your unwavering support. We, as ever, have felt your support in the stands this season, and we will continue to work hard to make Leicester proud the rest of the way. 

Your captain, 

Kimbal Mackenzie

Riders fall to Giants

Saturday night saw the Riders fall to a 94-80 defeat in Manchester against the Giants in the British Basketball League Championship.

Rob Paternostro’s young squad now sit at 4-2 after battling through an attritional two games in two days.

Talented guards Xavier Pinson and Caleb Asberry top-scored for the Riders with 15 points each, and TJ Lall was close to a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Giants relied on a big second half from former Riders forward Jamell Anderson, who dropped 19 points, as well as speedy guard Jalen Harris’ 20 points on 57% shooting.

The first half began in smooth fashion, Pinson slicing through the Giants’ D to net the opening points of the game.

Manchester soon established themselves in the game though, and with Jalen Harris’ effective scoring countering Pinson’s influential start, they went bucket for bucket with the Riders.

Big man Legend Robertin was absent for the home team, so Mo Walker was introduced early to take advantage of the Giants’ lack of size inside.

The 6’10” Canadian helped himself to four points in four minutes, only missing on one of his shots.

A confident Caleb Asberry also contributed with a pair of threes, but the Riders entered the second quarter 28-27 down.

The second ten didn’t offer much chance, both teams going back and forth in an even contest.

The Giants were dominant on the offensive glass, pulling down 11 OR’s, but the tenacious Riders’ defence held Manchester to just six second-chance points.

Lall provided 17 high-quality minutes off the bench, dropping eight points as well as leading the Riders’ rebounding effort with six.

Leicester uncharacteristically struggled from the free throw line, only hitting at a 53% clip, but a spectacular dunk from Pinson and solid defence kept the score level at 46 going into the half-time break.

The second half started with an early blitz from the Giants. Former Rider Evan Walshe led the way with his signature coast-to-coast scoring.

The Riders, combating fatigue after two games in two days, looked to the bench to keep within striking distance, but things weren’t quite clicking on the offensive side of the court.

A cultured Lall three from the corner just before the fourth quarter buzzer gave the Riders hope, but they had a mountain to overcome down by double-digits.

The Riders hit the pine hard at the start of the fourth, responding to Coach Paternostro’s words perfectly, an Asberry deep ball bringing them within seven points.

Once Pinson put a nasty cross on the Giants’ defence and finished in close, the comeback was on.

A dismissive block from Asberry rocked the Giants with five minutes remaining, but the ball wouldn’t roll the Riders’ way.

Despite a long three-pointer from Pinson and a beautiful ‘and one’ play off an inbound from Asberry, the Giants were able to hold on, securing their second victory of the season.

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Preview: Riders at Giants

The Riders play the second of back-to-back games, heading to Manchester to face the Giants. 

After last night’s win against the Scorchers, they look to continue their hot start to the season.

Fixture information 

Leicester Riders @ Manchester Giants

National Basketball Performance Centre

Saturday, October 14, 8 PM

Watch live!

No Rest for Riders 

The Riders are rolling entering tonight’s game, having won four games on the bounce. Their 4-1 record means they sit a clear second in the standings early in the season. 

It was a confident win last time out against the Scorchers. Led by Kimbal Mackenzie’s 22 points, six assists and six rebounds, the Riders took control in the third and saw out a 92-74 win. 

There’s little opportunity for rest and recovery for this one, as they are set to take on the Giants just a day later. 

With that in mind, no Rider played over 27 minutes in the Scorchers games, as they look to rely on their deep bench to get them through a congested schedule. 

Led by Mackenzie, 47 of the Riders’ points against Surrey came off the bench, and they’ll need more of the same to come away with a win. 

Giants suffer from strong schedule 

It hasn’t been the start to the season the Giants may have imagined under new Head Coach Brian Semonian. They possess a 1-3 record following losses to the Caledonia Gladiators and the London Lions twice. 

They have faced some of British basketball’s sternest opposition in the Lions and Gladiators, and while their first two fixtures featured blowouts, they fought the undefeated Lions wire-to-wire last time out. 

The Giants ultimately fell 94-89, but forced the League’s leading scorer Matt Morgan to ice the game at the free throw line. Second-year Giant Nick Lewis led the team with 24, beaten only by Morgan’s 30 in the game. 

The defensive end of the ball has seen Manchester struggle early in the season, giving up a League-worst 94 points per game through four fixtures. They’ll have to shore up defensively in this one, as they take on the second-highest scorers in the British Basketball League. 

Key matchup 

Former Rider Jamell Anderson leads the Giants’ scoring so far this season, putting up 16.5 points per game. The versatile two-way wing has established himself as a top-level scorer over the last few seasons and has continued that form into this year. 

Anderson, a 6’7” wing, is playing in his 13th professional season, which has featured 12 years in the British Basketball League. His stature and skillset allow him to impact every aspect of the game, from scoring, rebounding and elite defence against all four positions. 

Looking to help occupy Anderson on both ends is Canadian wing TJ Lall. the 6’6” small forward is able to match up with Anderson in frame, and his offensive and defensive talents can challenge him on both ends. 

Lall impressed early in his Riders tenure, earning Player of the Game honours with 14 points and four rebounds against the Plymouth City Patriots, leading the team to their first win of the season. 

A second-year pro, having spent last season in the Japanese first division for Kyoto Hannaryz, is sure to play a big role from a pivotal position on the court in this one. 

Played for both: Jamell Anderson

Most of Anderson’s storied British basketball career was spent in Leicester, where he won eight trophies for the Riders. 

He signed in 2011 from the Essex Pirates and helped the team to their first piece of silverware in 12 years, with a treble in 2013. 

His final season with the Riders was 2021, concluding his decade-long commitment to the club with a BBL Championship title. 

Jamell’s defensive prowess earned him a spot on the Defensive Team of the year twice with the Riders, and once last season with the Cheshire Phoenix. 

He left the Riders for the Giants for 2021/22, scoring 10.8 points per game on the year. Anderson re-signed with the Manchester Giants last year, after departing the city for the Cheshire Phoenix last season. 

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Riders react to win against Scorchers

Leicester Riders improved to 4-1 with a 92-74 win against the Surrey Scorchers. 

Here’s how the team reacted to the win… 

Rob Paternostro 

The Riders blew the game open in the third quarter, holding the Scorchers to five points over an eight-minute stretch. Head Coach Rob Paternostro credited the defensive success to the team’s work on the glass. 

“Defensively, we were solid when we started rebounding. We had trouble on the boards early, and they had 15 offensive rebounds in the first half. Once that picked up, it was a solid night for us.

“I don’t think we played particularly well offensively at times, there was some sloppy play, but all in all it was a really good game with contributions from a lot of players on the bench tonight.”

The Riders got 47 of their points off the bench, led by Player of the Game Kimbal Mackenzie who put up 22. 

“Kimbal of course played well with those numbers, and I think the rest of the unit did a really good job on defence. TJ Lall and Conner gave us some really good minutes, and it’s nice to have a bench you have confidence in.

“That becomes especially relevant when you play back-to-back games. Nobody played more than 26 minutes tonight, so it was a total team effort.”

The team returns to action tonight on the road against the Manchester Giants. Paternostro spoke on how he plans to prepare the team for the clash. 

“Ice baths for the guys! But overall, we’ve got to be focused. When you play a back-to-back, you don’t have an opportunity to talk about that team until the day of the game, so tomorrow we’ll have a meeting to go over them. 

“They’re a talented team that played London close last week, so it’s going to be really important to utilise the bench.”

Kimbal Mackenzie 

Mackenize led the game with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists, his best statistical performance of the season to date. 

He saw the positives of the victory, while recognising the team did not execute a perfect game. 

“It was a good win. Any time you can get one in the win column it’s a good thing in this league.”

“We were a little better on the glass than we had been the rest of the game. Today, we were good in stretches and not so good in other stretches, but that’s the nature of the early season. We need to keep getting better.”

The newly formed group have hit the ground running, winning four games on the bounce. 

“I’m proud of the guys. Everyone is coming into their own and starting to find themselves as a team. We have a lot of room to grow, and everyone on the team will tell you that, but we’re definitely glad to get four in a row.”

Sam Idowu

After the Riders’ opening night loss to the Cheshire Phoenix, the Riders have bounced back emphatically, putting themselves in a positive position going into the rest of the year. 

Riders forward Sam Idowu said the loss made it clear to the team that they needed to lock in. 

“The opening game set the tone for us to turn things around quickly, so I’m glad we reacted positively, and that’s led to a four-game winning streak. It feels good to have done that, and we all want to keep the ball rolling and build momentum.”

Idowu matched up against Scorchers big man Saiquan Jamison, who battled on the boards all evening. He finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, but had more joy in the first half than the second. 

“Stopping him was something we prioritised. We recognised we needed to keep him off the glass, so it was about boxing him out and being the first to react to the ball coming off the rim.

“We wanted to make sure they didn’t build any momentum from offensive rebounds. We didn’t do a good job of that early, but in the second half, we controlled the glass.”

Idowu had nine points and nine rebounds in the game, making his presence known on the inside. He also drained a three to extend the Riders’ lead in the third. 

“It felt good to step outside and hit a three. Being versatile really helps open up different parts of my game, so that’s something I’ll keep working on.”

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Report: Riders beat Scorchers

The Riders added another win to a four-game streak tonight after a 91-74 victory over the winless Surrey Scorchers. 

In a game that saw the Riders limit their opponents to just 32% from the floor, solid defence and hustle on the boards built the foundations for victory. 

Rob Paternostro’s team also kept up their efficient play, hitting at a 44% clip, including 38% from three-point range. 

Riders’ captain Kimbal Mackenzie was the catalyst for success, scoring 22 points from the bench whilst also collecting six rebounds and dishing six assists. 

Physical guard Jaren Holmes also lit up the scoreboard, dropping 18 points on the night, including a deadeye four of five from downtown. 

Andrew Lawrence top-scored for the Scorchers with 12 points, and key-man Saiquan Jamison put up 11 points and nine rebounds, but they never recovered from a low-scoring third quarter. 

Immediately after the first tip, the game became a clash of contrasting styles, with the Riders cutting through lanes and attacking the basket and the Scorchers preferring to pull back and hit the three ball. 

As he has done consistently this season, Miryne Thomas opened the Riders’ account with a simple layup after getting free inside. 

Seconds later, Braelen Bridges slammed down a dunk following a clean pick n’ roll with Xavier Pinson and, with Holmes knocking down seven early points, Leicester’s offense looked good. 

The Scorchers didn’t let the home side escape though, keeping parity on the scoreboard through effective rebounding and accuracy from deep. As predicted, Jamison was proving to be a handful on the boards. 

The first quarter buzzer sounded with the score at 24-21 Riders, Holmes knocking down a big three to break the tie. 

The second stanza was all about Mackenzie. 

The Riders’ captain brought an immediate impact from the bench, pulling up and popping off a long two, before willing the Riders to crash the glass harder and create open looks from deep. 

Samuel Idowu was also providing quality off the bench, battling Jamison for every rebound and contributing with seven points. 

Leicester’s second unit quickly built an eight-point lead, but Surrey’s 6’8″ centre was a consistent problem inside, leading the visitors at the half with 11 points and four boards. 

A cold snap for both teams towards the end of the half was broken by Thomas with a neat move in the paint, before Mackenzie and Holmes drove the Riders to a useful nine-point lead at the half. 

The second half began in low-scoring fashion with both teams struggling to find a bucket.  

The visitors hit on a couple of free throws, but it wasn’t until Holmes drained a corner three – three minutes into the half – that there was a score from the field. 

Strong hustle on defence – led by Caleb Asberry – limited the Scorchers to contested shots, and once the Riders’ shooters warmed up, the lead grew. 

Once Holmes hit his fourth deep ball, the scoreline sat at 61-47, Riders ahead. 

A couple of quickfire Scorchers buckets on the fast break teased a fightback, but a pair of successful trips to the line by Mackenzie maintained the lead. 

The final quarter saw Paternostro’s squad aiming to put the game beyond doubt helped by the experienced Conner Washington hitting a pinpoint three.  

It soon became ‘heat check’ time for the Riders, entertaining the home crowd with back-to-back threes from Thomas and Lall. 

The contest wound down towards the final buzzer in competitive fashion, but Leicester’s defence never let the Scorchers get close enough to cause concern. 

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Preview: Riders vs Scorchers

Friday night sees the Riders host the Surrey Scorchers in the British Basketball League Championship – the first of back-to-back games this weekend.

Rob Paternostro’s team will be in a buoyant mood after a huge 92-85 win on the road against the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles, part of a three-game winning streak for the Riders.

Leicester Riders vs Surrey Scorchers

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Friday, October 13, 7:30 pm

Get tickets here! 

Victory on the Road

Last week’s defeat of the Eagles completed an excellent road trip for the Riders, who also took an impressive 92-74 win in Bristol.

‘BBL Team of the Week’ member Miryne Thomas played a crucial role in both games, averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds on the trip.

Thomas’ quickness and eye for space inside is proving to be a real handful for opposing defences and has resulted in several highlight-reel plays.

The backcourt trio of captain Kimbal Mackenzie, Xavier Pinson and Jaren Holmes is also running hot – the all-action three added 40.5 points per game across the two victories whilst also dishing nearly 70% of the Riders’ assists.

The Riders are currently second in the league in FG% at 50%, fourth in efficiency from deep at 37% and third in FT%, hitting on 75% of their trips to the line.

Maintaining this level of shooting will be crucial against a Surrey team that are aggressive on offense and sit second in shots taken per game.

Leicester’s rebounding has also improved in recent games, largely thanks to the introduction of Caleb Asberry into the lineup (he bagged nine against the Flyers).

With the Scorchers firing off 70-plus shots per game, denying second-chance points through solid defensive rebounding will be key to keeping the opposition score in check.

Scorchers Close to First Win

The Scorchers travel to the Morningside Arena winless with a 0-4 record but have come close to victory on a couple of occasions this season.

Their closest finish came against the Cheshire Phoenix in a thriller, 101-103. Following a spirited fourth-quarter comeback, the Scorchers had a couple of chances to push the game to overtime but couldn’t quite drop the clutch bucket.

The returning duo of Padiet Wang and Josh Steel led the way, dropping 14 and 20 points respectively, with Steel knocking down an impressive four of six from deep.

Surrey hit on 46% of their shots against the Phoenix, an improvement in an area of the game they have struggled with.

The Scorchers sit bottom of the BBL in FG%, and despite having guard Andrew Lawrence providing some of the best service in the league, are scoring on just 37.1% of their attempts.

The Southerners are one of the better squads in the league on the offensive glass – averaging 10.8 per game – but unless their efficiency improves, they will find it tough to match an accurate Riders team through four quarters.

Key Matchup

The Scorchers’ solid rebounding can largely be attributed to one man – Saiquan Jamison.

Standing at 6’8”, the power forward isn’t the tallest big man in the league, but he certainly knows how to use his size to crash the glass.

Jamison, returning for a second stint in Surrey after a move to Europe, is dominating the BBL with 12.8 rebounds per game, including 4.5 on the offensive boards. 

Jamison is a second-chance getter for the Scorchers. Tasked with limiting his effectiveness will be Riders’ young centre, Braelen Bridges.

The 6’10” Bridges, who can play anywhere in the front court, is more of a scoring big man than a pure rebounder but may have to adapt his game slightly to win the battle inside.

The former Georgia Bulldog is averaging more points per game than Jamison despite less minutes, and if he can combine those solid offensive skills with sturdiness under the rim, the Scorchers should see their scoring chances suffer.

The free-running guards may make the flashier plays on Friday, but the most important contest may be the one inside the paint.

Played for both- Evan Walshe

Evan Walshe, a Rider last season, suited up for Surrey during the 2020/21 season, scoring 7.9 points on 49% shooting from the field. Walshe helped the Scorchers to a 10-18 record, before departing to Spain. 

Walshe returned to British Basketball in 2021, signing with the Riders and winning the treble that season. He remained the following year, leading the team to victory with 15 points against the Caledonia Gladiators with 15 points and three rebounds. 

Walshe signed with the Manchester Giants this season, starting the year with 10.5 points per game. He hit the ground running with a 17-point game, and will look to make a further impression on the league this season. 

Riders by numbers: The season’s statistics so far

It’s early in the season, but the British Basketball League is starting to take shape!

Here we take you through the early statistical talking points for the Riders.

Scoring success

The Riders find themselves near the top of the offensive charts, following back-to-back games putting up 92 points. They rank second in points per game with 89.5, and in field goal percentage hitting on 50% of their shot attempts. 

Their ball movement leads to 19 assists per game, third-best in the League, and every player sees involvement in the dynamic offence. 10 Riders are scoring over seven points this season: Leicester’s deep roster getting contributions from top to bottom. 

Much of the Riders’ success in scoring the ball has come at the free-throw line. They shoot the most free throws in the league, 27.5 per game, converting their foul shots at a 74.55% rate. 

Aggressive play in attacking the hoop gets the team to the line, and opponents in foul trouble, proving an effective way to get points on the board. 

Braelen’s efficiency 

Braelen Bridges’ scoring ability at the hoop means he leads the League’s efficiency charts by a wide margin.

His 18-21 shooting from the field leaves him at 85.7%, over 20% more than the second most efficient scorer in the League, Leicester’s own Samuel Idowu. 

With his efficient numbers, Bridges caught the eye last time out against the Newcastle Eagles. He put up 15 points, and more impressively, went 6-6 from the field, not missing a shot. 

Alongside Idowu, Bridges ranks 12th in the League in blocks per game, and is scoring 11 points per game on the season so far.

His ability to muscle in close and score consistently with his touch around the rim makes him a deadly threat inside. 

Pinson’s playmaking  

Establishing himself early as one of British Basketball’s elite playmakers, Xavier Pinson leads the League with his assist numbers through four games. The Chicago-born guard dishes six per game, and boasts an assist:turnover ratio of 3:1. 

Pinson dishes an assist on 40% of his possessions, second most in the League. His best game sharing the rock came against the Bristol Flyers, where he put up a near double-double with nine assists. 

An impressive aspect of Pinson’s numbers is that he is averaging just 24 minutes per game, after missing the pre-season through injury.

As that number increases, and he gets more game time under his belt, expect Pinson’s playmaking to continue to drive the Riders’ offence forward. 

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Miryne Thomas named to British Basketball League Team of the Week

Riders forward Miryne Thomas has been named to the British Basketball League’s Team of the Week, following his performance in the Riders 92-85 road win against the Newcastle Eagles.

Thomas led the Riders to victory with 17 points, seven rebounds and a block, injecting energy into the Riders’ roster with ferocious attacks at the rim.

He went 6-11 from the field in 29 minutes of action, finishing with a game-high +/- of 16.

“I’m living my dream. I’ve been working to get here for over 10 years, and now I’m soaking it in,” said Thomas post-game.

“I’ve been telling the team I’m here to run and get tired. If I have zero points and rebounds and we come out with a win, I’m as happy as I would be if I had 100 points.”

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5 things we learned from Riders at Eagles

The Riders took a 92-85 win on the road to long-standing rivals, the Newcastle Eagles.

Here’s what we learned from the game…

Miryne magic

For the second straight game, Miryne Thomas led the team with 17 points. His ability to score on all three levels, run in transition and battle around the hoop presents a constant threat to opposing defences. 

In the seven-point win, Thomas finished the game with a +/- of 16 points, showcasing his impact on winning. He came up with monster slams throughout the game to inject energy into the team, while flying around the court on defence and in transition. 

“I’m living my dream. I’ve been working to get here for over 10 years, and now I’m soaking it in,” said Thomas. 

“I’ve been telling the team that I’m here to run and get tired. If I have zero points and rebounds and we come out with a win, I’m as happy as I would be if I had 100 points.”

Clutch gene 

With the game tied with 3:15 remaining, the Riders demonstrated their ability to battle it out in the clutch. They won the remainder of the game 14-7, executing on both ends with the game on the line. 

Jaren Holmes impressed late, scoring six points in the final three minutes, including a coast-to-coast and-one play with 45 seconds on the clock. He hit a go-ahead three with the score at 78-78 to snatch momentum when it mattered. 

“I trust my work. I make those shots every day in practice, from the layups to the threes, so I know I can be myself,” said Holmes.

“Hopefully, this win can put us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’re trying to build momentum and keep our energy and spirits high. We’re becoming a more cohesive group. Every day we learn more about each other, and each other’s games.”

Head Coach Rob Paternostro was proud of how the team saw the game out late.

“I was a little disappointed because I thought we could have been up a little more at the half.”

I knew we’d have to hang on in the second half, and we did a really good job in the last five minutes to get the job done.”

Different ways to win

The Riders’ victory against the Bristol Flyers last week came in large part thanks to their three-point shooting, going 46.2% from range. 

They weren’t on the same red-hot form in this one but found another way to get it done. Leicester’s one-two punch of Thomas and Bridges wreaked havoc inside. They found success in the pick and roll with the Riders’ playmakers and in the post. 

Newcastle had no answer. Thomas’s 17 was accompanied by Bridges 15 points, the latter going 6-6 from the field. Bridges is 18-21 from the floor on the season, making a name as one of British Basketball’s most efficient scorers. 

Strength in depth

The Riders, once again, demonstrated the talent they have throughout their deep roster. Their bench outscored the Eagles 33-17, proving the difference between the sides. 

They were led by Kimbal Mackenzie, who put up 16 points and four assists as the sixth man. He played out the final stages of the game, and his high defensive IQ proved pivotal in seeing out the game. 

Another bench player stepping up in the closing minutes was Sam Idowu, whose clutch three made it 84-79 with just over a minute remaining. Idowu also proved his value on the defensive end with a monster block on Larry Austin Jr late. 

Idowu came off the bench to great effect throughout. Behind the elite combination of Miryne Thomas and Braelen Bridges, the Riders did not miss a step when Idowu swapped them out, playing with the same level of physicality on both ends. 

Giving minutes to 11 players, the Riders flexed the talent they have in their squad. 

Riders rolling on Offence 

In the early stages of the season, the Riders’ offence is ranked as one of the British Basketball League’s best. Their 89.5 points per game is good for second in the League, as is their 50.2% field goal percentage and 38.6% three-point percentage. 

Scoring 92 points for the second straight game, the Riders’ offensive firepower throughout their roster proved too much for the Eagles. Leicester had nine points contributors on the night, and four players scored at least 15 points. 

With multiple players able to be the difference on any given night, the Riders are in contention to put up big scoring numbers every time they take the floor. 

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Riders react to win in Newcastle

The Riders improved to 3-1, following a 92-85 win on the road against the Newcastle Eagles. Here’s what the Riders had to say after the hard-fought victory…

Miryne Thomas

For the second straight game, Miryne Thomas led the scoring load with 17 points, accompanied with six rebounds and a block in an energetic performance in the paint. 

Thomas explained that his hunger and desire stems from his gratefulness for the opportunity professional basketball brings him.

“I’m living my dream. I’ve been working to get here for over 10 years, and now I’m soaking it in. 

“I’ve been telling the team I’m here to run and get tired. If I have zero points and rebounds and we come out with a win, I’m as happy as I would be if I had 100 points.”

On the opposing side of the court, the Eagles’ Jordan put on a show. The former Glasgow Rock scored a game-high 22 points, injecting momentum into his team as they attempted a comeback from ten points down. 

“Johnson is a tenacious player. Kudos to him and the Eagles for the battle they gave us.

“During our timeouts, we knew we were fine. We knew who he is and what he’s capable of, but we know who we are and what we’re capable of on defence, and we were able to see out the win.”

Rob Paternostro

Following the game, Head Coach Rob Paternostro was pleased with how the team battled in the clutch, fending off the Eagles, who got back into it late. 

I thought we were solid tonight,” said Paternostro. “I was a little disappointed at halftime. I thought we could have been up a little more, but I knew we’d have to hang on in the second half, and we did a really good job in the last five minutes to get the job done.”

Coach was happy with the buy-in on the defensive end. The Riders showed physicality and energy throughout, causing Newcastle difficulties in running their offence.  

“Defensively, we were really good in the halfcourt tonight. In transition, we could have done a better job, and we put them on the foul line a few too many times, but I liked how we played defence. The guys were committed to it, and these players are learning and improving every week.”

The new-look Riders showed maturity for a young roster comprised of six rookies. They fought hard wire to wire and executed in a composed manner late. 

“At times, we have five rookies out there, and games like this will be great for them. We’ve had really good weeks of practice, and what’s showing up on the practice floor is starting to show up in the games.

“Our depth is huge. Tonight, we played 11 guys because we had to make sure we were fresh. We’re still trying to figure out rotations, and we’re learning a lot about our team, but this was a big step for us.

“For us, it’s about getting better each week. This league is tough, so we’ve got to keep improving.”

Jaren Holmes

Coming off a 15 point game, including six points in the final six minutes, Jaren Holmes echoed his coach’s sentiment: “We want to pride ourselves on being one of the best-conditioned teams in the League, and with our depth, we’re able to play hard late.”

Holmes’ clutch play separated the sides late, hitting a three with a defender in his grill and completed an and-one play in transition. He credited his work on the practice floor for his ability when the pressure is high. 

“I trust my work. I make those shots every day in practice, from the layups to the threes, so I know I can be myself.”

‘Hopefully, this win can put us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’re trying to build momentum and keep our energy and spirits high. We’re becoming a more cohesive group. Every day we learn more about each other, and each other’s games.”

Holmes put the win down to a collective effort, with contributions from every Rider. 

“Braelen had a monster game in the post, which opened everything up for us. Miryne, Kimbal, and Xavier all had incredible games, which goes for everyone up and down the roster. It was a true group effort.” 

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Report: Riders beat Eagles in thriller

The Riders improved their record to 3-1 on the season following a pulsating 92-85 win over the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

In a game that entertained fans inside the Vertu Motos Arena from start to finish, Leicester went toe-to-toe with their Northern rivals, matching them on the boards and on the fast break.

Athletic forward Miryne Thomas took ‘Player of the Game’ honours, dropping 17 points in spectacular fashion with eye-catching dunks and clutch three-pointers.

Thomas was ably supported by Braelen Bridges and Jaren Holmes, who put up 15 points each – Bridges hitting 100% from the field.

Kimbal Mackenzie, and frontcourt rock Samuel Idowu brought intensity from the bench, Riders’ captain scoring 16 crucial points and Idowu proving to be a handful at both ends of the court.

The 6’8” big man made three blocks in the late stages of the game, helping to throw the Eagles off rhythm each time they looked like making a run.

Free-scoring guard Jordan Johnson was the top scorer for the home side, knocking down 22 points, aided by a strong 17 from high-flyer Tajh Green.

The game started in frenetic fashion, with the Riders finding success inside and on the fast break. Despite strong on-ball defence from the Eagles, Bridges and Thomas took charge, finding early success on their way to a combined 13 first-half points.

Midway through the first, Thomas sent the visiting supporters into raptures with a highlight reel dunk, fed by a bullet pass from Caleb Asberry.

The high-quality first quarter came to a close with the teams level on points, Mackenzie making it 21 apiece with a clutch buzzer-beater.

An excellent second quarter for the Riders started with a spectacular layup from the captain, capitalising on two offensive rebounds by Leicester’s frontcourt.

With Xavier Pinson injecting pace into the game and TJ Lall knocking down their first three of the night from the corner, the Riders pulled out a deserved five-point lead.

Green wowed the home fans with a huge putback dunk and the dangerous Johnson hit ten points for the Eagles, but Leicester’s squad depth was proving to be the difference.

20 points from the bench helped the visitors go into halftime with a 42-37 lead after an exciting first half.

Riders hit the ground running in the third, Thomas rising high for a seismic slam to extend the lead, before dropping beyond the arc and stroking a three from deep.

As expected in the pre-game build-up, the teams were going bucket-for-bucket.

Leicester’s aggressive play and crisp passing pushed them to the first double-digit lead of the night, and they headed into the final 15 minutes 59-49 to the good.

But the Eagles showed fight and stayed in touch, proving that they should be near the top of the standings come playoff time.

A fast-break three by Johnson put the home side into a 65-64 lead, which they took into the fourth quarter.

The final ten began in the same vein as every other quarter – with a big play from Thomas, who drained a corner three.

With the game finely poised at 69 each, Caleb Asberry made the defensive play of the season so far, chasing down an Eagles fast break before rising highest to make a block against the backboard.

This energised the Riders to a late four-point lead, but the Eagles kept pegging them back.

A dagger of a three from Holmes gave Leicester an 81-78 lead, maintained by a dominant block from defensive wall, Idowu.

The gap rose to six following an Idowu bucket from beyond the arc and a strong ‘and one’ play by Holmes.

Intelligent play from the experienced Mackenzie carried the Riders in the final minute, and they travel South with a hard earned early-season victory.

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LRF offer volunteer opportunities

This season the Leicester Riders Foundation is offering number of opportunities for you to get involved through our new volunteer programme.

Below are the roles available and you can apply for any of the roles below by CLICKING HERE.

Team Manager

The Role of a Team Manager is to Support the Head Coach with one of Junior National League Academy teams, take lead on communication between parents, kit washing and collecting and handing and making sure the team has all of the equipment they need for game day.

Community Sessions Assistant

This is an opportunity to shadow one of our coaches to learn the roles and responsibilities of a coach whilst supporting on data collection, registers and case studies.

Game Day Activator

Game Day Activators will support LRF staff on our Leicester Riders Game Day activation zone, helping to promote sessions and raise money for hardship fund via our shooting games. This is a great day to be a part of a Leicester Riders Game Day.

Game Day Manager Assistant

Game Day Manager Assistants will support our Junior National League Academy Game Days when we have numerous fixtures at the Morningside Arena. Game Day Manager Assistants will act as a welcome host to opposition and inform them of changing rooms, court timings and make sure that game day runs smoothly.

Table Officiating

Learning how to officiate the game of basketball and towards a qualification in the process.


Learning how to referee the game of basketball and towards a qualification in the process.


Learning about all the aspects of being a basketball coach at community and academy levels shadowing and mentored by our qualified staff.


Learning how to take stats for our Academy teams.

Team Leader

Certain projects that we run at the Leicester Riders Foundation need a youth worker to liaise with participants and staff so the role wouldd provide opportunities to learn about specific themes such as NCS or working with the Local Police and Home office.

Event support staff

Event Support Staff will engage with schools, communities and charities on various events to raise awareness of the foundation and its delivery sessions and projects.

Birthday Host

Be an integral part of our game day experience by being one of our birthday hosts and welcoming our birthday ballers into the Arena on game day. You will also be a liaison point for parents, guardians or group leaders ensuring that all aspects of their birthday package and game day experience are met.

Chuck A Duck

Chuck A Duck is a fan interaction game that takes place during the 3rd quarter of Leicester Riders games. In this role you will be responsible for selling the ducks and making sure that the activity runs smoothly.

Game Day Season Guide Seller

At Leicester Riders games you will be responsible for selling our Leicester Riders Season guides and game day team sheets.


Our game day Stewards will be on hand on Leicester Riders games to help fans find their seats and be on hand to help with anything they may need throughout the game.

Courtside Hospitality Host

Courtside hospitality hosts will greet our sponsors and help them to find their seats and that they have an enjoyable game day experience.

For any of the roles above working with children you will be required to go through and full reference check and have a DBS.

CLICK HERE to apply for any of the above roles.

Preview: Riders at Eagles

Round four of the British Basketball League Championship sees the Riders heading north for the first time this season to face long-standing rivals the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

Following last week’s comprehensive win against the Flyers in Bristol, the Riders hope to go two-for-two on the road and keep pace with the first-place London Lions.

READ MORE: Riders vs Eagles: The history

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle

Friday, October 6, 7:45 pm

Watch live!

Off to a Flyer

Coach Rob Paternostro will want his Riders squad to emulate the hot start they got against Bristol, which resulted in an unassailable 27-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Led by versatile forward Miryne Thomas, Leicester blitzed the Flyers with powerful play in the paint and supreme accuracy from beyond the arc.

The Riders dropped 46% from deep, which proved to be the difference between the teams.

Energetic point guard Xavier Pinson had his best game so far as a Rider, with a stat line of 17 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for a near triple-double.

Pinson’s comfort running the offence appears to be growing with game time, which has helped the Riders’ offensive output increase each week.

“We got better in practice this week,” said Pinson post-game. “Everything we did translated over to the game.

“I was hurt when I first arrived, but now I’m healthy I’m getting more comfortable and assured in what I’m doing.”

Leicester’s ability to score freely will be of paramount importance against the Eagles, who used the off-season to acquire some dangerous pieces of their own.

Eagles Looking to Soar

After a disappointing 2022/23 season, the Eagles played aggressively in the free agent market, securing the services of BBL stars Larry Austin Jr and Tajh Green.

Early signs suggest that the off-season deals are paying dividends – Newcastle sit level on points with the Riders after a 2-1 start.

But they enter this game off the back of a short turnaround. The Eagles fought wire to wire in the ENBL on Wednesday evening, playing BC Šiauliai in Lithuania.

They fell 94-92 to a buzzer-beating game-winner, and take on the Riders two days later.

A large part of the Eagles’ game centres around physicality near the rim, whether that be in scoring or snagging rebounds.

Newcastle tops the league in made free throws per game with 24.7 and boards per game with 39.

It is imperative that the Riders box out prolific rebounders, Austin Jr and Green, to prevent the upgraded Eagles’ backcourt from having extra chances at buckets.

Last week’s loss to the Cheshire Phoenix proved that if teams match the Eagles on the glass, they are beatable – especially if the Riders keep stroking it from deep.

Key Matchup

The on-court battle to watch this Friday may be between the two starting point guards – Newcastle’s Jordan Johnson and the aforementioned Xavier Pinson.

28-year-old Johnson has started the season in excellent form, dropping 19.3 points per game, including 23 total trips to the free throw line.

A seasoned professional who has previously competed in the British Basketball League for the Caledonia Gladiators, Johnson brings speed and precision to the Eagles’ backcourt and an understanding of when to drive to the hole or dish a pass to an open teammate.

Disrupting Johnson with active on-ball defence will be crucial, so look for Pinson to be keen to add to his 1.7 steals per game.

Leicester’s 6’3” point guard should match up to his more experienced opponent well, using his agility and ball skills to great effect.

Pinson has also been deadly from downtown, currently leading the league with a three-point percentage of 54.5.

Expect the battle for points to wage most vehemently in the backcourt.

Both players could wind up as the game winner in this contest.

Played for Both

Both the Riders and the Eagles have the honour of calling two-time League MVP, Andrew ‘Drew’ Sullivan, one of their own.

Sullivan earned a plethora of accolades, both nationally and domestically, over the course of his career, including a bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and becoming the first player to make 100 appearances for Great Britain.

The 6’8” power forward first suited up on British shores for the Eagles, helping them to a dominant 2006 season, including a 71-51 BBL Trophy victory over the Riders.

After a few seasons testing himself against European competition, Sullivan signed for the Riders and helped them complete a treble-winning season in 2013.

Over five seasons with the Riders, Sullivan averaged 12.5 points per game and seven rebounds per game.

The Londoner last played for the Riders in 2017, where he retired at the age of 36 as a legend of British Basketball.

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Education Programmes 2023/24

The Leicester Riders Foundation offers a wide range of Education programmes from Primary School through to University provision. Our Education offering includes in school coaching, development days, mentoring programmes and much more.

CLICK HERE to read our 2023/24 Education Programmes booklet.

For more information or to book one of our schools programmes email [email protected].

Riders vs Eagles- The history

The Riders head north on Friday to take on their historic rivals, the Newcastle Eagles. The sides have faced off in the biggest games in British Basketball over the last decade. Here, we catch you up with the history…

2011/12- The first Final meeting

The sides first met in a major final in the Rob Paternostro era in the 2012 BBL Playoff Final: the Riders’ first final since 2001. 

The Eagles, then serial winners of the competition having won four since the Riders’ last appearance, added a fifth to their trophy cabinet on this occasion. They won the game 71–62, led by MVP Charles Smith’s 21 points.

That season, the Eagles pulled off the domestic quadruple, their victory against the Riders capping off the achievement.

Leicester pushed the Eagles all the way in the League, falling just two points short to set up the rivalry between the organisations. 

2012/13- Riders on the board

The next season, the Riders took the silverware against the North Easterners, winning the treble by lifting the Championship, Cup and Playoff trophies.

They first met the Eagles in the 2013 BBL Cup final. Jay Cousinard’s MVP performance led Leicester to a 85–80 win, earning the first piece of silverware for Head Coach Rob Paternostro. 

The Riders went on to lift the League title with a 30-3 record, clearing the second-placed Eagles by ten points, before meeting them in the Playoff final to complete the treble. 

Leicester won the tie 68–57, again led by MVP Cousinard, to make it 2-1 in domestic finals between the sides. 

2013/14Trading trophies

Again, the teams fought for silverware at the earliest opportunity the next season in the BBL Cup final. The Riders had the edge, playing out a classic at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham. 

Cousinard’s late free throws put Leicester up three with seven seconds remaining, as the Riders fought back from 11 points down with four minutes to play, led by eight points from MVP Drew Sullivan. 

The Riders didn’t meet the Eagles in the remaining two finals, as Newcastle went on to top the Championship table and fell short in the Playoff final against the Worcester Wolves. 

2014/15- Eagles quadruple

The 2014/15 season saw the Riders and Eagles share a title fight wire to wire. The Eagles emerged victors, finishing with 62 points to the Riders 60, then going on to win the Playoff final against the London Lions. 

The Eagles again won the quadruple as they did in 2012, facing off against the Riders in yet another final. This time, it was the 2014 BBL Trophy final, which they won 96-90 led by MVP Smith once again. 

Smith’s season saw him named League MVP, as he put up 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the Eagles’ historic season. 

2015/16- Riders respond

The Riders responded next season, winning the League and Trophy double. It was Leicester’s turn to pip Newcastle to the Championship title, a 29-4 record seeing them edge out the second-placed Eagles 58 points to 56. 

Leicester beat their Eagles on their new homecourt at the Morningside Arena to lift the title.

The Riders went through the Eagles in the Trophy final, winning 85-77 led by MVP Sullivan against his former team. It was revenge for the Riders, who were beaten by the Eagles in the Cup final earlier in the year. 

The Eagles’ Rahmon Fletcher won the first of his two BBL MVP awards, and led the team in the Cup win to take home Final MVP. 

Leicester had a shot at the treble in the BBL Playoff Final, but fell a game short to the Sheffield Sharks. 

2016/17- Building on success

The 2016/17 season saw Leicester build on the previous year’s success, winning another domestic treble. 

Winning the League over Newcastle by eight points, and taking a dominant 84–63 victory against the Eagles in the Playoff Final saw them establish themselves as the BBL’s premier outfit, after they lifted their first silverware of the season with a 91-58 win against the Plymouth Raiders in the Trophy. 

The Playoffs marked the last time the sides have faced off in a domestic final. 

The Eagles weren’t left empty-handed, however, winning the BBL Cup with a 91–83 victory against the Glasgow Rocks. But the Riders finished the season the stronger of the sides, with Pierre Hampton leading the team to a playoff win with a Final MVP performance. 

2018/Present- Recent years

2018 saw the first season where Leicester and Newcastle didn’t meet in a final in seven years. It also marked the first season the Eagles failed to make a final in eight years. 

Meanwhile, the Riders secured another treble, winning the League by 10 points over the London Lions.

They faced the Lions in the Playoff final to win the treble, taking the victory comfortably 81-60, and beat the Sheffield Sharks to win the Trophy final 90-85. 

The Eagles finished third in the standings with a 21-11 record, not facing the Riders in any of the knockout competitions throughout the season. 

The most recent high-stakes game between the Riders and Eagles dates back to the 2021 Playoffs, where the Eagles beat the League champions over two legs in a behind-closed-doors semi-final. 

They went on to win the Playoffs that season, before the Riders responded with another treble the following season. 

With a revamped roster for both sides this season, it would come as no surprise for the teams to meet at the highest level once again. 

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Riders review: September summary

With the first month of British Basketball League action in the books, we take a look back at September’s action…

Story of September 

After the disappointment of an opening night loss to the Cheshire Phoenix, the Riders responded with back-to-back wins against the Plymouth City Patriots and the Bristol Flyers.

A comeback against Plymouth got them on the board, as the newly formed team seemed to click into rhythm midway through the third quarter. 

They took that form into the Flyers game, exploding out to a 37-10 lead after a quarter. They fended off a Bristol fightback with a red-hot second half, shooting 46% from three in the game to start the season 2-1. 

“We wanted to come out from the jump and put in a full game at a high-level,” said Xavier Pinson, who was named Wok 68 Player of the Game against Bristol. 

“We’ve got to keep building, and take steps forward from here.”

September in stats

Through three games, the Riders’ offence has established itself as one of the best in the League. Their 88.7 points per game, 50.6% field goal shooting and 39.1% three-point shooting rank second in each category. 

Ball movement and playmaking have led to the scoring success. Leicester averaged 18.7 assists, third in the League, led by Pinson’s six per game. Pinson ranks as British Basketball’s second-leading assist maker following his nine against Bristol. 

The Riders get contributions all the way down the roster, with nine scorers contributing over 7.5 points per game. Michigan-born guard Jaren Holmes is leading the way with 14 points per outing, finding success through consistency with double-scoring performances in all three fixtures. 

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