Leicester Riders featured on last night’s episode of “Game Night” on BBC Radio Leicester.
Radio Leicester spoke to the team about their season so far and their mindset going into the rest of the year.
Here’s what they had to say…
Teddy Allen- “The team welcomed me with open arms”
Teddy hit the ground running in Leicester following his arrival in mid-December, winning British Basketball League Player of the Month right off the bat.
He credited his early success to the unselfishness of his new team.
“It’s hard to come in somewhere and be successful with my teammates being unselfish,” Allen told BBC Radio Leicester.
“This group is exactly that. I had messages from players even before I arrived, and it was good to feel welcomed to the team. Everybody had open arms for me when I got here. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
The Riders have seen a turn in form since Allen’s arrival, but the American guard said everything was already in place for the group to be successful.
“The team were on a skid when I got here, but we had to pieces to compete. There is a lot of talent in every position, all the way down the bench. I was able to inject some energy into the group, and after that, we rediscovered our form and everyone has been playing well.”
Basketball is in Allen’s blood, as his younger brother, Timmy Allen, currently suits up for Memphis Hustle in the NBA G-League. Teddy said that growing up in a competitive environment with his brother helped them both become the players they are today.
“We’re only a year and a half apart, so we were always competing growing up, playing with and against each other. When you have a brother is a blessing. You have a competitor and someone to help you get where you want to go, and he’s definitely been that for me.”
Kimbal Mackenzie- “This group will do anything they can to win.”
Kimbal started off by reflecting on a hard-fought Trophy Final Four battle with Cheshire Phoenix, where the Riders fell just short against the eventual champions.
“It was a difficult loss in Birmingham- that was a tough pill to swallow. I’ve been on both sides of those types of games, and I hate being on that end of it.
“That said, our team is playing well and with a lot of confidence at the moment, and I think we’re in a good place. We have to keep looking forward, and it’s time for us to move on to League play.”
It was a difficult start to the season for the Riders, but their recent form has seen them rise in the Championship standings, and they look to kick on for the remainder of the season.
Mackenzie said the professionalism of the team has helped them turn their play around.
“My teammates have been great. They’ve been excited to show up and put their best foot forward. This is a group that will do anything they can to win. That’s what I expect of myself, and that’s what Coach Rob expects of all of us.
“Everyone here is professional. At every level you play, you have ups and downs, no matter how good you are, so it’s good to be back on track. We have great coaches and vets around me and it’s a professional group to be around.
“We approach every game to win and put ourselves in a position to lift the title come playoff time. Seeding really matters with the new format, so we have to work hard to be as high as possible in the league going into the postseason.”
Rob Paternostro- “We’re putting ourselves in a good position for a nice run.”
Head Coach Rob Paternostro has always taken pride in seeing improvements in his teams throughout the season.
Therefore, he has wanted to see the uptick in recent form all season long.
“We always want to have a team that gets better throughout the season. We have had a lot of great teams here, but they’ve always been better in February than they were in January. Everyone is improving. It’s a long season, so you need to have that in your group.
“I like the way we’re playing right now. Over the last 10 games, we’re ranked first in offence and second in defence. We’re putting ourselves in a good position for a nice run.”
Home form has been consistent all season long for Leicester. They have a 9-4 record at the Morningside Arena in all competitions, with two of the losses coming at the hands of the table-topping London Lions.
And Paternostro has been pleased with the recent improvement in play on the road.
“Away games always are a challenge in any sport. We went up to Newcastle in a hostile environment a couple of weeks ago and came away with a big win, so it’s clear that we’re getting better on the road. We’re showing more focus away from home than we did earlier in the season.”
While the start of the season was below the standards Paternsotro has set for this team over the previous decade, the recent improvements to the Riders’ play has given him confidence in their ability to challenge for playoff silverware.
“Let’s let it all play out. We’ve had a run that is unprecedented in any sport in this country, and of course, it’s tough to maintain that. We know there will be highs and lows, but I like how we’re playing.”
Duke Shelton- “There’s still a lot of basketball to be played.”
Another new signing to the team, Duke Shelton, has also settled quickly into Leicester life. His high-energy play style has been a welcome addition to the roster.
“This team really likes to get up and down the floor, so I thought it would be a good fit for how I play. It’s been great playing for Coach Rob, who knows how to get the best out of his players. He’s a player-coach, and that’s something different to what I’ve been used to.”
Basketball-obsessed Shelton’s seamless fit into the team is partly thanks to his dedication to the game off the court.
“I started playing basketball when I was 15, so I came to it late, but since then, it’s been my daily regimen. Every day I’ve had something to do with basketball, and it has given me the opportunity to see the world and meet a lot of different people from all walks of life.
“The game offers a lot more than what you see inside the lines.”
After their Trophy campaign, where the Riders showed signs of high-level play, Shelton sees that there is more to come from his new team.
“We showed a bit of what we can do in terms of our identity, but there’s more potential in this roster, and there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.”
TJ Lall- “We’ve been focused on the end goal”
With the Trophy in the books, the Riders now apply their full attention to the remainder of their Championship campaign and the playoffs after that.
TJ Lall, like the rest of the team, is locked in.
“All year, we’ve been focused on the end goal, but now, with the Trophy done, there’s an extra level of focus on the league and the playoffs.
“It would mean the world to win the playoffs at the end of the year. That’s what we’ve been striving for. We’re here to win, so it would be incredible.”
With big roster changes taking place earlier in the year, players such as Lall, who have been with the team at the start of the season, have had to adapt. But to him, it’s part of playing in professional basketball.
“Teams change all the time. You have to adapt and move on; the new guys have improved the team.
“We feel like it’s achievable to win it all. We showed what we can do in the Trophy, despite the loss. We were right there and lost by a point to the team that went on to win it.
“The emphasis is on getting better every practice, and hopefully, by the end of the season, we’re at our best, and we’ll see what we can achieve.”
The Riders are in action on Friday, hosting the Plymouth City Patriots.