The Riders get their season underway on Friday, hosting the Cheshire Phoenix.
Here is all you need to know ahead of the fixture.
Leicester Riders vs Cheshire Phoenix
Morningside Arena, Leicester
Friday, September 15, 7:45 pm
Riders’ early style
The Riders enter the 2023-24 season with a revamped and revitalised roster, with seven new additions entering the fray. Early signs in pre-season show a deep, athletic team, which looks to be gelling quickly ahead of a long, demanding British Basketball League season.
The Riders have had contributions all the way down the roster throughout pre-season, and their ability to get out in transition following suffocating defensive possessions makes them a threat to any team in the League.
Leicester outscored their opponents 82-17 in transition in pre-season and will look to utilise their speed throughout the year.
Head Coach Rob Paternostro looked back on a positive pre-season campaign.
“Looking back on the pre-season, while the results don’t matter in the long run, ultimately, you want a team that will play hard and try and win every possession.
“Those games were important for getting a feel for the rotation and understanding how to play different lineups. The more pre-season games, the better in that sense, and I think it was a successful run of fixtures for us.
“We don’t look too far ahead at this stage of the season, other than wanting to be in great condition. We want to be in great shape to deal with the season, and we want to be a group that loves playing basketball.
“We always want to grow through the season and be better at the end. We have a great track record of playing our best basketball in the second half of the year. But what jumped out to me straight away is how much speed and athleticism we have out there.”
Cheshire’s 2022/23 in review
The Phoenix enter this year off the back of what they’ll consider a successful 2022/23. Finishing fifth in the standings with a 19-17 record, they made it to the Playoff semi-final, losing to the eventual champions in the London Lions.
The first round saw them take revenge over the Caledonia Gladiators, whose game-winning shot at the hands of David Sloan saw the Phoenix fall a game short of silverware in the Trophy final.
But making a domestic final showed progress for the North Westerners, who will look to make the final leap this year.
Cheshire’s off-season overhaul
Like the Riders, Cheshire has faced the task of bringing in a new core of players after their five top leading scorers left the club in the offseason. Their most notable departure, leading scorer Larry Austin Jr., signed with the Newcastle Eagles as they look to rebuild after an eight-placed finish last year.
Hoping to compensate for the loss of Austin Jr. at the point guard position, the Phoenix have invested in a number of young American guards. Among them are EJ Stephens from Lafayette College and Laquincy Rideau, who signed from the Slovenian first division.
Time will tell who can step into the shoes of Austin Jr. Early pre-season signs are that one of their few returners, Maceo Jack, may look to step into that role.
Jack went off for a 31-point explosion against last season’s third-placed finishers, the Bristol Flyers. The American guard averaged 10.5 points per game last year, and the performance suggests further improvement in his second professional season.
The Phoenix faced up against British opposition in their pre-season fixtures. In their only game against British Basketball League opposition, Jack’s 31 points still saw them fall 91-83 to the Bristol Flyers.
They did take wins against Loughborough University and the Derby Trailblazers, concluding their pre-season against Derby, beating the NBL opposition 106-83.
The Trailblazers have pulled off upsets against British Basketball League opposition in the Trophy, and put on a good showing in the Trophy semi-final last season against the Phoenix, so the matchup was a good test for the newly formed Cheshire roster.
Played for both
Riders legend and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Jamell Anderson suited up for the Phoneix last season, following eight seasons in Riders’ red.
The 6’8” British forward amassed over 2000 British Basketball League points for the Riders and won eight pieces of silverware for the club. His prowess on the defensive end earned him a spot on the Molten BBL Defensive Team of the Year on three occasions.
Anderson put up his best statistical performances for the Phoenix last season, putting up 13.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, helping the team to the BBL Trophy Final.
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