Women’s D1 Roster confirmed

Our Division One women’s roster for the 2023/24 season is confirmed.



  • Sasha Lecuyer
  • Grace Roberts
  • Kate Davies
  • Jasmine Graham
  • Anna Trett
  • Rose Bryan
  • Emma Dunsire
  • Lauren Dabbs
  • Eimhear Morris
  • Erin Powell (Charnwood Academy)
  • Emily Taylor (Charnwood Academy)


  • Ellie Sarri
  • Erin Caldwell
  • Daisy Porter
  • Megan Curran (Charnwood Academy graduate)
  • Lauren Cooper (Charnwood Academy)
  • Louise Fisher (Charnwood Academy)
  • Charley Woodman (Charnwood Academy)

Head Coach

Tor Freeman

Keita joins Loughborough basketball

Loughborough basketball is excited to welcome 6’10” forward Sam Keita for the 2023/24 season. 

The 23-year-old played in the BBL for the Plymouth City Patriots last season, playing seven minutes per game and featuring on 34 occasions. 

Kieta spent his final college season in the NCAA D1, playing for North Carolina Central. 

He will accompany his play in the NBL D1 with his studies in Sustainable Engineering at the University. 

Kieta commented: “I’m excited to get on board with the programme. I can’t wait to get the ball rolling, and succeed on and off the court.” 

Head Coach Will Maynard added: “Sam is a big body for us and definitely adds to our front line. He has had plenty of experiences that will help him at the D1 level. 

“He adds both a scoring threat inside and good rim protection, so he will certainly help us on both ends of the floor. We are excited to have him over the next couple of years and are looking forward to seeing him contribute to the team both in BUCS and D1.”

Campbell commits to Howard College

Former Loughborough and Charnwood Rider Lane Campbell has committed to Howard College. 

The 6’0” guard joins the Hawks after being part of the Riders programme since 2019. He spent four seasons with Charnwood College, averaging 17.6 points in the EABL last season. 

Campbell also put up 7.6 points per game in the NBL D1 last season for Loughborough.

This summer, he represented Great Britain Under 20s in the FIBA European Youth Championships, becoming the fourth GB player to record at least 10 assists in a single game in the Championships. 

Campbell follows in the footsteps of Charnwood alumni Blaize Sanga, who previously committed to Howard.

Loughborough Basketball Head Coach Will Maynard commented: “It was awesome to see Lane’s development over the three years he was at the Charnwood programme.

“I had the pleasure of coaching him at all different levels during his time here. I’m really excited to see his progress over in the States. We will all be rooting for him!”

Riders react: Red vs Purple

The Riders got their first 40 minutes under their legs last night, in their annual “Red vs Purple” pre-season outing. 

They took a 99-64 win against Loughborough University, and look to build as a newly formed team going into the season.

READ MORE: Riders take Red vs Purple win

Here’s what Head Coach Rob Paternostro and Player of the Game Myrine Thomas had to say:

Miryne Thomas

“I feel like I could do it all again!” said Thomas, after a stat sheet stuffing 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. He got 20 minutes of game time, filled with high-flying action.

“I wanted to show the fans, team and organisation that I’m the guy they needed to help win a championship. I just try and prove I’m that guy every day.”

These were important minutes for the team, with seven new players added to the roster this offseason, looking to gel with the returners. 

“I really like the team. Every time we made a mistake, we all just wanted to move on to the next play. 

“Loughborough scored at the bottom of the shot clock a few times, and that’s what we focused on at halftime. The leaders in the locker room told us we’d be fine if we locked in on our guys and closed out possessions. We did that in the second half, and we were able to increase the lead up to 30.

“Now, we need to look at our game today, fix the mistakes, and take it inch by inch.”

Rob Paternostro 

Entering his 16th season as Head Coach, Rob Paternostro has rarely faced the challenge of a significant player turnaround to the extent of this offseason. He recognised the importance of these minutes. 

“I thought it was good for us. We’ve only had three minutes in practice 5-on-5 this week, so we really benefitted from the conditioning.”

It was the first look at his new team in a competitive environment, and Paternostro liked what he saw. 

“I love the way the guys competed. Defensively, we were really aggressive, and we were able to play a lot of guys and throw a lot of bodies that them.”

Health is key going into the season, and early signs are promising for the Riders. Mo Walker and Conner Washington returned to the floor after sitting out much of last season, as well as Sam Idowu, who looked fresh after recovering from his knee injury. 

“It was great to have them back. Conner missed a lot of time with a back injury last season. I gave him a lot of minutes tonight, and he was the same old Conner. Mo also missed almost all the season, and he played really well today.

“Sam has been out for 16 months, so him being out there and making an impact was nice to see. That’s what these games are all about: letting guys get some rhythm and get the feel for being back on the floor.”

On the Riders’ opponents, Loughborough were faced with a mammoth task of professional opponents and put on a good showing. They fought wire-to-wire and held their own for long stretches. 

“Loughborough were competitive tonight. Our defence was tough for them at times, but they played hard, and they came right at us. I know Coach Maynard will have them ready to go for the season.”

Paternostro was asked what the focus is for the rest of the pre-season:

“Conditioning, we really need that. And beyond that, putting in some of our sets. We haven’t been able to put in much of our stuff,  so we’ve got to keep building and try and get healthy.”

American guards Caleb Asberry and Xavier Pinson sat out as a precaution, to minimise any injury risk ahead of the season. 

“We’re missing Caleb and Xavier,  and they’’ll certainly make an impact when they come back. We’re excited to see how they can push the pace and impact the game.”

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our season opener against the Cheshire Phoenix!

Get tickets to our preseason home opener against USA Select here!

Report: Riders take Red vs Purple win

Leicester Riders took a 99-64 win in the annual pre-season “Red vs Purple” fixture against Loughborough University.

Miryne Thomas led the Riders with 17 points, in a game, backed up by 15 from Jaren Holmes. 

After a tightly contested opening exchange, with Loughbroough’s Justin Hedley’s five quick points making it 10-8 to the hosts after five minutes, the Riders seized control of the game. 

Miryne Thomas made an immediate impression on the Riders faithful with eight first-quarter points, and a highlight throw down from Jaren Holmes’ lob pass. 

Leicester leapt out to a double-digit advantage early, with Mo Walker’s five-point burst ending the period 26-14 in the Riders’ favour. 

Thomas continued to dominate in the second, rising high to swat away Hedley’s layup attempt. He was backed by Kimbal Mackenzie, who came alive in the quarter for eight points. 

Loughborough kept within touching distance for stages, and Elija Bailey entered halftime the game’s leading scorer with 11 points and five rebounds. 

But Riders big man Sam Idowu stretched the lead to close the half with a three, followed up with a layup and a block of the next possessions. The teams entered the half with Leicester up 49-32. 

Mackenzie and Idowu saw the Riders build on their advantage in the third, finishing as the Riders’ two leading scorers by the end of the period. On the other end, Bailey found the hoop consistently to rack up 16 with a quarter to play. 

Leicester won the third quarter 28-16, taking a 77-48 lead into the final period. 

The fourth was a case of seeing the game out, which the Riders did professionally. They kept their 30-point lead until the final buzzer, taking home a win from their first preseason game. 

Preview: Riders at Loughborough

The Riders get their pre-season underway in our annual “Red vs Purple” game against Loughborough University. 

Here, we take a look at everything you need to know about the fixture…

Fixture information

Leicester Riders at Loughborough Basketball

Sir David Wallace Sports Hall, Loughborough University 

Friday, August 25, 7 pm

Tickets available here

New Riders era

A breathless offseason has seen a plethora of fresh faces coming through the doors of the Morningside Arena. 

Seven new Riders were added to the roster, as the club enters a new era seeking to add to its rich history. 

READ MORE: Riders 2023/24 roster

This offseason, therefore, is a key chemistry-building period for a new collection of players ahead of an intense British Basketball League schedule. 

Among the returners is Kimbal Mackenzie, off the back of a successful summer in the CEBL for the Niagara Rivers Lions, where he made the championship weekend alongside new teammate TJ Lall. 

He will play a key role in gelling the team with their Riders’ experience from previous seasons.  

 “While the results don’t matter in the long run, ultimately, you want a team that is going to play hard and try and win every possession,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro, when asked about what he looks to get out of this year’s preseason fixtures.

“These games were important for getting a feel for the rotation and understanding how to play different lineups. The more preseason games, the better in that sense.

“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.”

Loughborough- continuity is key

It’s been a busy week of announcements for the Riders’ opponents, as they announced their roster for the 2023/24 season. 

Among their returners are American guard Elijah Bailey, Welsh international Ben Woog and German-born Justin Hedley. 

READ MORE: Loughborough confirms retained core ahead of 2023/24 season.  

As confirmed by Head Coach Will Maynard, the majority of these returners enter their final year, and they look to give last season’s BUCS champions a fitting send-off.  

“We have four or five guys in their final year, and they’re determined to go out and have a great season,” said Maynard.

“Seeing them flourish and seeing what life after Loughborough holds for them will be super rewarding.” 

Accompanying the returns are new additions such as 6’4” guard Pannos Karras, who joins from Notre Dame College, and Torran Phillip out of Central Wyoming College. 

They will be met immediately with the stern test of two preseason fixtures against British Basketball League opponents, also taking on the Cheshire Phoenix on September 2. 

“It will give us some confidence going into the season, no matter the score,” explained Maynard.

“We know we can’t match their talent, but having the opportunity to go up against professionals before our regular season will tell us where we’re at and what we need to work on.” 

Loughborough looks to build on its BUCS glory from last season, and continue to challenge in NBL D1, where they finished with a 15-11 record last season. 

Played for both- Conner Washington

Loughborough basketball holds especially fond memories for Riders’ legend Conner Washington, who started his Riders journey at the University.

Alongside Head Coach Will Maynard, he helped Loughborough to their first BUCS title in 22 years, earning Final MVP in the process.

Washington is a shining example of the thriving partnership between the Riders and the University, who have since become a powerhouse in BUCS basketball, winning five of the last six Men’s titles.

In summary…

Following the offseason, preseason games are vital for both sides to get game time in their legs, and chemistry on the court.

Meanwhile for the fans, “Red vs Purple” is a celebration of the thriving partnership between the Leicester Riders and Loughborough University, and always provides great entertainment. 

Hadley joins Loughborough Basketball

Loughborough Basketball is delighted to welcome 6’3” guard Dan Hadley ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Hadley committed to Loughborough from the Charnwood Academy, where he’s suited up since 2020. The 19-year-old has been a part of the Riders pathway system since 2014, averaging 12.5 points per game in the EABL, and 12.7 points per game in NBL DII last season. 

“I’m really looking forward to studying at Loughborough University, and getting on the court with the team this season,” said Hadley. 

“I’m hoping to take my skills to the next level with the help of this elite programme.” 

Head Coach Will Maynard added: “It’s great to see Dan’s progression over the years with the club. We are proud to keep Dan on our Riders pathway. It will be an inspiring story for all junior players within Leicester. 

“When I first saw him at the Riders all-star camp, he definitely had something about himself, and he brings that same grit and same tenacity to the court now. 

“I loved coaching Dan over our time at Charnwood together, and if there is one player who is trying to outwork everyone else in practice, it’s Dan. I’m excited to see what he can bring to the group, but from what I’ve already seen over the summer, he will bring competitiveness to the team, which will help us in the long run. 

“He joins us for four years at the University, and hopefully, he will continue to prove himself like he has done throughout his time with the programme.”

Phillip joins Loughborough Basketball

Loughborough Basketball is delighted to welcome 6’4” wing Torron Phillip ahead of the 2023/24 season.

The 20-year-old joins from Central Wyoming College, where he competed in the NJCAA Division One. Prior to this, he played a season at Panther Hoops Prep and two years at Haringly Hawks, where he won the 2020 National Cup Championship and EYBL Central Division Championship. 

Phillip will combine playing with his studies at Loughborough University, working towards his BSc in Applied Sport Science with Management. 

The 6’4 shooting guard will suit up for Loughborough’s NBL D1 and BUCS teams. 

Phillip commented: “I’m looking forward to playing at Loughborough and competing at such a high level. I hope to add more success to the great history of Loughborough University.”

“I’m looking forward to working with Torron. I think he can be an exciting addition to the group who will definitely bring a lot of energy to the team,” added Head Coach Will Maynard

“He has been in the States over the past couple of years, so it’s exciting to see what he can bring to the table. Before the States, Torron was part of Haringey Hawks, so I know he will come to the programme with a great attitude both on and off the court.”

Wylie joins Loughborough Basketball

Loughborough Basketball are delighted to welcome Seth Wylie ahead of the 2023/24 season.

The 19-year-old 6’2” guard, arrives at Loughborough after spending the last three seasons with Oaklands Wolves EABL and NBL sides, competing in Division One last season. In 2022, he helped Oaklands to the EABL Southern Conference title and was named Student-Athlete of the Year.

Wylie will combine playing with his studies at Loughborough University, starting a foundation year in Sport. 

He will suit up for Loughborough’s NBL D1 and BUCS teams. 

Wylie commented: “I’m really looking forward to a new challenge. I can already tell that the experience is going to push me! I’m ready to work, and everything I get during my time here will be a blessing.” 

Head Coach Will Maynard commented: “Seth joins us from Oakland, where he had 3 good years within their academy set-up. Speaking with Seth’s previous coaches was a no-brainer that we wanted him to be part of the Loughborough programme. 

“His attitude to the game is what really stood out for us. He has a great mindset to the game so really looking forward to having him with the group and looking forward to his progression over the next four years.”

Karras joins Loughborough Basketball

Loughborough Basketball are thrilled to welcome Panos Karras ahead of the 2022/23 season. 

The 21-year-old signs with Loughborough from Notre Dame College in the NCAA Division Two. Prior to Notre Dame, Karras played for Cardiff Met Archers II in the NBL Divison Three. Karras was named an EABL Hoopsfix All-Star in 2021.

Karras will combine playing with studying for a BSc in Accounting and Finance at Loughborough University. 

The 6’4 guard will suit up for Loughborough’s NBL D1 and BUCS teams. 

Karras commented: “I’m thrilled to be stepping on the courts and in the classrooms at Loughborough University. It’s the perfect opportunity to combine my love for basketball with a top education.”

Head Coach Will Maynard commented: “Panos is a great pick-up for us. He is joining us with some really good experiences, including playing for the national team and spending two years in the States at an NCAA D2 programme.

“He is a high-character person and player and looking forward to what he will bring both on and off the court.”  

Loughborough announce retained core ahead of 2023/24

Loughborough Basketball’s core of young talent will return for the 2023/24 NBL Division One season. 

The returners are: 

  • Elijah Bailey
  • Justin Hedley
  • CJ Hayden 
  • Joe Bielak
  • Milo Gordon 
  • Ben Woog
  • David Oputa

American guard Bailey joined the Riders last summer on a two-year deal, playing with the Riders while studying his MSc in International Business at Loughborough University.

He averaged 20 points per game last season on a red-hot 44% from three-point range. He joined the team following experience playing professionally in Armenia, Iceland and Maldives.

German-born Hedley continues his NBL D1 career while studying Biological Science. The 6’4” guard’s previous playing experience includes his time with the Leicester Riders British Basketball League team.

Last season, Hedley put up 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game in Division 1.

Hayden studies Sports Coaching at the University while playing in the NBL D1. The 6’7”, British forward has played for Loughborough Basketball over the last three seasons and won the BUCS title with the team last year. 

British wing Bielak will continue his BsC in Exercise Science at Loughborough University alongside his playing career in Division 1 and BUCS 1st team. Bielak was also a feature on Loughborough’s BUCS winning team, the sharpshooter also averaging 12 points in the NBL D1 last season. 

6’5 Brit Gordon continues his Sport and Exercise Science studies at Loughborough alongside his NBL Division 1 and BUCS 1st team playing commitments. Gordon enters his third season with Loughborough, after averaging 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a game last year and winning the BUCS title. 

Woog, a Charnwood College alumni, joined Loughborough’s NBL Division One side last season. The British 6’8 forward was part of the Riders BUCS title-winning team last season and has international experience for the Wales Senior Men’s programme. 

Oputa returns to the Loughborough first team after a season playing for the D3 team. The 6’6” forward joined the Loughborough Basketball programme in 2019. 

All of the returners will play in both the NBL and BUCS teams this season.  

Head Coach Will Maynard commented: “To have so many players returning is great for the team. Hopefully, this continuity helps us as we move into next season, and we are able to hit the ground running as soon as pre-season starts. 

“We know how tough of a task it can be with so many games through the season and on top of that your studying, so having guys who are used to that will definitely help throughout this long season. 

“We have a great variety of players within the group which gives us a strong start when looking into the season, we have a great group of unselfish players who want to help the team win and willing to do whatever they need to do for the team to be successful. 

“A lot of the returners are in their last year of study and last year with the programme so hoping to make it a season to remember for those guys.”

Coach Will Maynard on BUCS glory

Will Maynard played on the Loughborough BUCS team which won its first championship in 22 years. Last year, he accomplished the same feat as head coach, leading the University to its fifth title in the last six seasons. 

“Coaching is way more stressful than playing,” said Maynard, comparing the two accomplishments.

“Winning as a player was special because we hadn’t won in so long. There was no pressure going up against a great Newcastle team. That was a huge difference from when I came in as a coach. We were expected to win.

“We had such a stacked team, and losing the year before in the semi-final, we felt pressure to get back on top. We had Kimbal Mackenzie, Conner Washington, Jubril Adekoya, Patrick Whelan, Blake Bowman and Evan Walshe from the pro team. We couldn’t afford to lose that game.”

They were crowned the Men’s basketball champions with a 86-75 win over the University of West England Bristol. Mackenzie was named MVP after scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting. 

“Credit to UWE. They made it hard for us! We were down double digits early, and Kimbal dug us out of the hole. They had a few professionals as well and made it a good game.

“To win it for the Division One guys who hadn’t won anything up to that point was really special. I’m super proud of all of them: they put in so much work over the season.”

Having risen through the ranks of the Loughborough pathway, it was an especially proud moment for Maynard to come back and win as a coach.  

Maynard came up through the Charnwood programme, going on to play for Loughborough’s Division Three team above his age, then attending American college for a season. He returned to a Loughborough team attempting to establish themselves on the UK scene. 

“I came back from the States after one year, and I joined as Russell Levenston (Leicester Riders managing director) was trying to make Loughborough into a well-renowned university programme, which there weren’t many of at the time. The year I came back, they recruited well and got a lot of guys in.

“My first year was with Drew Sullivan, which was an amazing experience. I learnt so much from him. I was lucky enough to practice with the Riders’ first team, which helped me develop as a player.”

Sullivan, two-time BBL MVP, helped establish Loughborough as a top-tier programme and aided Mayard’s understanding of the game immensely. 

“Being around a professional team and seeing how they worked was massive for me to understand the game at a different level,” Maynard reflected.

“I was never the quickest or most athletic, so I really benefited from learning from Coach Rob, Drew and so many others. Learning the game from them allowed me to take the next steps in my career.”

The Riders’ association with Loughborough University is of great benefit to any player, from those looking to further their development, set themselves up for life after basketball, or anything in-between. 

“I loved getting the experience of the university lifestyle and playing loads of basketball. I played BUCS, D1 and practised with the professional team. We had so much going on, and I loved everything about it.

“The Riders association with Loughborough attracts all types of players. Tyler Bernardini and Darien Nelson-Henry are guys that spring to mind who earned a really good degree alongside playing. It sets you up brilliantly for life after basketball, which is something that really sells. 

“The players have first-class facilities available to them. Having access to the physios, equipment, and courts is great for the players. The Riders’ partnership with a world-recognised university is really attractive for players looking to further their career.”

This current cohort of Loughborough University talent faces a tough test this preseason, facing off against British Basketball League opponents in Leicester Riders and Cheshire Phoenix. 

Maynard believes this will set them up for a successful season, and an important season for this group of players. 

“It will give us some confidence going into the season, no matter the score. We know we can’t match their talent, but having the opportunity to go up against professionals before our regular season will tell us where we’re at and what we need to work on. 

“It also gives our guys a chance to show British Basketball League coaches what they can do, as they look to further their careers. That’s the biggest reason we wanted to do it.

“I can’t wait to give all our guys in their final year a great send-off. We have four or five guys in their final year, and they’re determined to go out and have a great year. Seeing them flourish in their last year and seeing what life after Loughborough holds for them will be super rewarding. 

“The continuity we have in our group excites me, so playing the same guys as last year with a couple of new faces is great. The aim is another BUCS championship. 

“I’m so thankful to be involved with the Riders as a young coach.”

With Maynard at the helm, who has already brought so much success to Loughborough since his arrival over a decade ago, the programme is in safe hands.  

Want to see us in action?

Get tickets to our preseason fixture against Leicester Riders here!

Get tickets to our preseason picture against Cheshire Phoenix here!

Get tickets to our preseason picture against USA Select here!

Ticket Information: Loughborough Men’s preseason fixtures

Loughborough Riders Men’s tip-off preseason action against BBL opponents, taking on the Leicester Riders and Cheshire Phoenix.

Loughborough will play Leicester in the Sir David Wallace building at the University on August 25, tipping off at 7 pm.

Loughborough will take on the Riders in the annual “Red vs Purple” matchup.

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket typePrice
ID will be required on the door for child and student tickets

We face Cheshire on Saturday, September 2, at the Netball Centre building, tipping off at 3 pm. 

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket TypePrice
Child (6-16)£5
Student £2
Family (2 Adult, 2 Child)£15
ID will be required on the door for child and student tickets

Please note, seating is unreserved. 

T&C’s and bookie fees apply

Ticket information: Riders at Loughborough

Leicester Riders are set for preseason action against Loughborough University!

The game will take place in the Sir David Wallace building at the University on August 25, tipping off at 7 pm.

The Riders will take on the future of British basketball in the Loughborough Riders, in the annual “Red vs Purple” matchup.

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket typePrice
ID will be required on the door for child and student tickets

Please note, seating is unreserved. 

T&C’s and bookie fees apply

Shahd Abboud: Breaking down barriers

Shahd Abboud faced a challenging road to professional basketball. Since her rise to the top division of Israeli basketball, she became the first Arab-Israeli to play in the women’s Premier League and the first Arab-Israeli captain in both the men’s and women’s leagues.

Culturally, financially and logistically, Abboud navigated obstacles from the jump to pursue her dream.

“I grew up as a minority. Being an Arab in Israel is challenging in a lot of ways. I’ve always felt like I had to do more to get a fair opportunity.

“I grew up in Nazareth, and when I was in seventh grade, I was recruited by a team in a different city. It was a difficult decision because I was going to be the only Arab girl on the team. I’d be away from my parents and didn’t speak Hebrew very fluently.”

Abboud comes from a basketball family. Her parents coached and played while raising a young child, meaning she grew up on the court. Since birth, she has lived and breathed hoops. 

“When I was born, I used to be at practice all the time. I was in the gym at a young age. Seeing my parents in that environment made me want to be there. Them having basketball as their career also helped them to be able to support me and my dreams.

“I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing people in my career who gave me a platform to succeed. My parents drove an hour and a half to my games growing up to come to watch me!”

Due to a lack of funding in many Arab communities in Israel, sporting opportunities were limited for Abboud. 

She has used her platform to amend this, setting up basketball camps with her father in underfunded areas to allow a pathway for more children to devote their careers to basketball. 

“Due to the gap in funding, Arab teams don’t have anywhere to play in the summer. My dad and I wanted to provide the kids with an opportunity to play. 

“We’re now thinking of how best to integrate the Arab and Jewish communities in our camp. It’s really important for them to get to know each other at an early age, so they can begin to relate and understand each other.

“That’s the best thing about sports. There’s no colour, religion or race. You’re all teammates with the same goal. I was always around incredible people, I never felt different or unwelcome. Sport can be used for a lot of good.”

Abboud finds herself in a unique position, and one she is grateful for. She can represent the Arab community on the international stage, competing for the Israel national team from an early age.

Young children can now look to her, as Abboud looked to her parents as sporting role models. 

“I’ve always been the only Arab girl on the team, but that’s really important so I can show young girls that it’s possible. We always feel like we need to be better to get a fair chance, and a lot of people focus on school.

“I showed them a different way: that you can follow your dreams and still get a degree. I got my master’s while at the top level of basketball. 

“Representation is really important. For kids to see someone who is like them, grew up like them and shares similar views and values. To see her accomplish things makes it easier for them to dream. I’m blessed and honoured to be in a position to set an example.

“I get a lot of kids that want to talk to me and a lot that come to my games. Arab cities now have buses to our games. After the game, I see these kids, and just to see how excited they are and how much they can aspire and dream about getting to the top feels great.”

The Nazareth native’s journey to the top level took her to the other side of the world. It was always her dream to play in the NCAA, which was almost unprecedented for girls growing up in Israel. 

But an unlikely stranger helped to make her childhood dream a reality.  

“I was playing at Israel under-20s, and a stranger approached me and asked if I was interested in playing in America. I said yes, gave him my highlights tape, and he said he’d contact some colleges.

“I thought he was joking! I was just a kid, and I didn’t know him. To this day, I don’t know who he was! But I started getting emails from different schools asking me to come and play! Thank you to that man, wherever you are!”

She earned a spot at Jacksonville Junior College. But as a young girl on the other side of the world, the experience was daunting. 

“It was completely different to what I was expecting. I came expecting a huge school, but of course, it was a junior college, so much smaller. My mum came with me to see it, and even asked if I wanted to go home!

“But I didn’t, and it turned out to be the best experience ever. In JUCO, you have to keep working hard to prove yourself and get to the next level, so I got my work ethic and understanding of what it takes to get better from Jacksonville. I met amazing people who are friends for life.”

And get to the next level she did. Abboud was a NJCAA Academic All-American named to the NJCAA Region 14 All-Academic Team. This caught the eye of Northwestern State, where she spent her final two college seasons. 

Reflecting on her early college experience, Abboud draws parallels to her move to Leicester. 

“It feels the same now! I feel the same excitement and nerves, and I’m 28! I have the same feelings: I’m giddy and excited. It’s a great feeling that reminds me of when I first went to the States.

“I’m at a point in my career where I’m ready to expand my horizons. I think Leicester and Loughborough University will be great places to try something new, see a new country and still play basketball.”

Years removed from college, now a seasoned professional, Abboud is ready to bring veteran leadership to the Riders. 

“Throughout the years, I’ve really developed my leadership. At the start of my career, I would turn up, do my job, and that would be it. My coaches always wanted more. 

“They always told me: ‘The way you hold yourself accountable is how you have to hold your teammates accountable’. I’ve learned how to set an example and help everyone else improve.

“I look to bring my basketball IQ to the team, and being able to play the game the right way, or Coach Ben’s way! Also, being one of the oldest on the team, I hope to be a figure for the younger players to come and speak to. 

“I love making new relationships and getting to know people. I think it’s the best way to be, to bring the best out of others.”

Previewing the upcoming season, Abboud has a message for the Riders faithful:

“Come watch us! I’ve heard a lot of great things about the fans, so I’m really excited to meet you all. I’ve been getting a lot of love since I signed, and we’re building a team that will be fun to watch. It’s going to be a great season, and I can’t wait to start!”

Riders retain Johnston

Leicester Riders can announce the retention of American guard McKenzie Johnston to their 2023/24 roster. 

Helping the Riders to all three domestic finals last season, she averaged 8.3 points, 6.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game in the WBBL Championship. 

Johnston signed a two-year deal last summer to play in the WBBL alongside studying for her master’s at Loughborough University.

The club would like to thank the University for their support. 

“I enjoyed my last season with the Riders, so I’m looking forward to getting back and building on what we built last with a new group,” said Johnston. 

“The team will be different, but Coach Ben is doing a great job of getting the right group of people together to be successful.” 

“We’re very excited to have McKenzie back with us,” said Head Coach Ben Stanley. 

“She’s a proven factor, and there are very few players that are as creative and selfless as her in this league. Her impact as a leader is also unquantifiable for us, and I’m really looking forward to working with her.” 

Freeman appointed D1 women’s Head Coach

Loughborough Riders are thrilled to announce the appointment of Tor Freeman as women’s Division 1 Head Coach.

Freeman will also take the reins of the BUCS 2 programme at Loughborough University and the role of assistant to Ben Stanley for the Leicester Riders’ WBBL outfit.

He joins from the WBBL’s Oakland Wolves, where he served as Head Coach for the 2022/23 season.

The 24-year-old is one of the country’s best young coaching prospects, winning Young Coach of the Year at UK Coaching Awards in 2021. 

“The opportunity to be involved with a club as successful as the Riders is something I’m really excited about,” said Freeman. 

“I can’t wait to get started and contribute to the team at both Loughborough and Leicester. Speaking with the club, the vision they have for the women’s pathway is something that really impressed me.”

“The chance for players to progress from WEABL to D1 and finally the WBBL is something that nobody else offers.”

Managing Director Russell Levenston added: “Tor is a fantastic young coach that we’re really excited to work with. He will prove a key asset to the development of our already successful Loughborough and WBBL programmes.”

“We would like to thank Loughborough University for their ongoing support!” 

Riders retain Ndoukou

Leicester Riders can confirm the retention of Victor Ndoukou for the 2023/24 season.

The 6’8″ forward signed his first professional contract with the Riders in January to accompany his studies at Loughborough University, committing him to Leicester for four years.

Ndoukou won the 2021/22 EABL MVP award and averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in NBL D1, shooting 46% from three that season.

“It’s an honour to play for the Riders,” said Ndoukou.

“Only the good players play for them, so I’m really grateful to be a part of that, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to sign here.

“Having the trust from all my coaching staff is a big thing for me, and hopefully, coming into this year, I can make strides with my career.”

Head coach Rob Paternostro commented: “Victor is a guy who has been with our programme for years, and we have really enjoyed working with him and watching his game develop.

“He is a skilled player with a high basketball IQ, who makes good decisions out on the floor and possesses good size and strength.”

Ndoukou is in action for GB Under-20s this week for the FIBA European Youth Championships.

Ben Stanley: A message to the fans

Hello to all the Riders fans! 

First, let me say that it’s a privilege to be a head coach in this historic club, and I can’t wait to get started.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind process. I was expecting to stay with Solent for another season, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up and something I’m thrilled to be doing.

Watching from a distance, this club looked like a great environment where everyone got on. I spoke to Ashley Arlen, who I’ve known since her Nottingham days, and she said this was a great group. 

I’ve heard similar things from everyone I speak to. That’s really exciting, and of course, this was a very competitive team last year. 

This year, we’re going to be trying to figure out who we are and what our goals are. In the short term we’re going to be focussing on our character and culture. 

We still want to win, that’s massively important to me and the club, but we also want to establish who we are as a team.

In the long term we want to be highly competitive in the WBBL. We want to continue to make finals and win things.

It’s essential to me to build a strong culture within this team. Culture is led by the coach, but ultimately it comes from the players. I can guarantee we’ll play hard and play together. 

In my role as women’s coach it’s very important to me that the players get the respect that the men get. 

They work as hard and they are just as knowledgeable, so it’s very important to me that we grow the women’s game.

I would love to be in a position where we are close to selling out the arena every game. That would be huge for us. That comes from having the right character of players throughout the programme, from juniors to pros. 

That includes everything on the court and everything we do in the community as well. I’ll be out there doing everything I can, and the players will support that too. 

I’m also delighted to begin my role as Loughborough BUCS head coach! 

I played for Brunel just as our rivalry with Loughborough was coming to a close, so it’ll be a little weird having the purple on me for the first couple of games! 

But I’m extremely excited about it, and to be a part of that programme with a storied history is something I’m looking forward to.

I can’t wait to get to know the fans! Please come out and support the girls, we’ll have a great on-court product for you next year and I know we’re going to have great people that will be great examples for the youth of Leicester and Loughborough. 

I’m looking forward to meeting you all!

Ben Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Ville Vuorinen

Basketball returns with the National Lynch Trophy

The 2020/21 basketball season will tip-off on October 10 with a new piece of silverware on offer for teams in NBL Division One following the creation of the Lynch Trophy.

The competition sees all 14 of the Basketball England NBL Division One clubs, with invited academy sides Myerscough and Charnwood, competing in four regional groups of four.

The group stages will be played over three weekends, the 10/11, 17/18 and 24/25 October, and will be used as trial events for the coming season. The games will provide controlled windows for clubs, officials, coaches and players to understand the ‘new normal’ and how games will need to be conducted before NBL Division One commences on October 31/November 1.

Playing each other once, the top two sides in each group will progress to the quarter-finals. All games in the group stage will be played in four central bubbles and will be livestreamed.

Gail Richards, Basketball England’s Senior Delivery Manager said: “We are really pleased to support and work together with NBL1 clubs to form this pre-season event.

“We are coming through a difficult time for the sport and we are confident the event will help us understand some of the challenges faced by players, clubs and officials heading into the new season, while giving the teams the opportunity for some competitive action.”

Rob Lynch, Director L Lynch Plant Hire & Haulage, said: “We’re really looking forward to working with the NBL clubs as the National Lynch Trophy 2020/21 commences and we help restart professional basketball in England.

 “It’s great to be involved in a national competition with clubs stretching from Newcastle, to the south coast where we expect Worthing and Solent to challenge, and with Hemel Storm and Oaklands Wolves on our doorstep. We know there will be some entertaining games. The Lynch Trophy 2020/21 is an exciting new tournament and we’re excited to play a part.”

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning, who is also the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for basketball, and represents the constituency where Lynch are based: “I am delighted to see the return of another national competition for the NBL1 teams and also the support of a commercial partner in Lynch. This new competition speaks to the APPG vision of a stronger and more commercially viable framework for semi-professional basketball in this country.”

Follow the Lynch Trophy on Twitter @LynchTrophy and Instagram @LLynchTrophy

About L Lynch Plant Hire & Haulage

With an expansive fleet of modern plant and equipment, Lynch Plant Hire & Haulage provides operated, self-drive and contract hire plant to a variety of sectors within the construction arena. Contracts within the civil engineering, rail engineering, public utilities, ground works, highways maintenance, demolition and winter maintenance sectors all offer Lynch the opportunity to build a wide portfolio of skills within a variety of areas.

Loughborough Riders core set to Return

Loughborough Riders will boast a large returning core ahead of the NBL and BUCS Premier seasons, with key faces making a return to the line up ahead of a unusual season set to begin.

Jonas Dieterich, Kyle Jimenez, Liam Johnson, Carl Ntifo, Harrison Gamble, David Oputa return to the Loughborough side as a positive returning core for Coach Jarram’s roster with Loughborough second team players Conor O’Reilly and Mayowa Oloke stepping up to group in training camp.

Head Coach Mark Jarram will continue to build a combination roster built around student athlete players eligibly for BUCS Premier competition and a weekend roster including a number of alumni and Charnwood College students.

“We’re extremely fortunate to return a lot of our core group from last season,” commented Coach Jarram.

“With a large number of incoming freshmen it’s important to have some continuity and corporate knowledge. Harrison, Jonas and Kyle are all respected voices in the locker room whilst also leading by example.

We’re also intrigued to see how the other returners can grow and develop as second year players.”

The Loughborough Riders will continue pre-season as league details and schedules are finalized for October. Be sure to follow @lborobasketball on social media for news and updated throughout the season as basketball returns.

Oliver, Gaskin and Hinriksdóttir return to the Riders.

Kate Oliver, Christina Gaskin and Sara Hinriksdóttir return to Riders for the 2020-21 season as they finish their masters with the Loughborough School of Business and Economics.

Kate Oliver enters her fourth season in the WBBL. The Australian Center asserted her presence in the league by averaging 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The 2x Trophy MVP had eight appearances in the weekly All-Star Five.

“I want to enjoy the season, making the most of the opportunity to be back on the court and building team camaraderie with a new squad,” said Oliver. “As we have experienced, it can all be taken away in an instant, so capitalising on the time we have on court and with each other is going to be paramount this season.

“It’s a shame last year’s squad didn’t get to reach its full potential but I am excited to see what we can do this season.”

Christina Gaskin brought energy, versatility and athleticism to the Riders. Last season the GB forward averaged 5.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists during the WBBL Championship and appeared twice on the weekly All-Star Five.

“Last season we were very competitive and although I’m grateful that we got to finish on a high, I  feel like we have unfinished business”, commented Gaskin.

“I’m excited to defend our title and build upon last year with new faces and dominant returners”.

Sara Hinriksdóttirr had a strong 2019-2020 season for the Riders after averaging 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds during the WBBL Championship. The Icelandic guard earned the 2020 WBBL Trophy Final MVP award after leading the Riders with a game-high 23 points as well as 7 rebounds.

“I’ve been itching to be back playing and compete again,” commented Sara. “I’m excited to pick up where we left off and help build a quality team in the league.”

Riders have now announced six players for the upcoming WBBL season, which also include Holly Winterburn, Whitney Allen and Ella Clark.

Holly Winterburn is back!

Leicester Riders secure a 3-year deal with the former Charnwood player. 

Winterburn will be studying a Loughborough University degree at Loughborough College through the Elite Player Pathway programme. This deal will provide her with a full scholarship and a professional player contract.

Last season as a Freshman at Oregon University, she appeared in 28 games while averaging 11.4 minutes for the Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions. Winterburn earned herself Freshman of the week honours through her dominant performance against South Dakota State, scoring a season-high 17 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting.

Managing Director Russell Levenston commented: 

“We’re really excited about having Holly Winterburn rejoin the team. She is somebody who has come through the academy, was the former WBBL Young Player of the Year and had a great experience in America.”

“This is a huge story for both the club and British Basketball to keep our best players in the UK to study and play professionally. Hopefully we’ll see more in the future.”

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Loughborough University and Loughborough College for supporting Winterburn and making this happen”.

Last summer Holly was a key player for the GB U20s averaging 18.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists and named to the FIBA U20 European Championship All-Star Five.

“I’m super excited to be back! I’m in a great place mentally and physically so I can’t wait to get the preseason underway”, commented Winterburn.

“Playing in America was an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the memories and relationships I made. However, I missed home a lot so coming back to the UK was the best decision for me.”

“I have the perfect situation with the Riders, being able to study and play in the place that made me who I am today.”

The Great Britain guard is the first signing announced by the Riders as they continue to finalise the roster for the 2020-21 season.