Gallery 2024 All-Star Game

Leicester Riders Women’s stars suited up for the South to compete in the 2024 British Basketball League All Star game.

Take a look at the event through the lens…

Leicester Riders Weekend Preview

The Riders are set to take on a weekend of Women’s British Basketball League action, going up against the Cardiff Met Archers and Durham Palatinates in back-to-back home games. 

Here’s a look at the Riders season so far… 

The state of play

Leicester are currently third in the Championship standings with a 6-2 record. Their only two losses have come to the undefeated London Lions, which came after they hit the ground running under new Head Coach Ben Stanley’s leadership following a 4-0 start. 

The Riders enter the games off the back of a tough loss to the table-topping London Lions. The Lions beat the Riders 43-85 to remain undefeated on the season.  

Katie Januszewska provided a bright spark off the bench for Leicester with 11 points in 19 minutes, going 5-7 from the field, but the Riders couldn’t get it going offensively, especially from deep where they went 3-22. 

Former WNBA guard Temi Fagbenle went off for London in the visitor’s win, scoring 22 points in as many minutes. 

Crashing the glass

The Riders have made their name on the boards this season, pulling down 43.4 rebounds per game, the second most in the League. 

This applies especially on the offensive side of the ball. Leicester crashes the glass of their own missed shots wire to wire, and their 14.5 offensive boards per game rank the highest of any team. 

Rayven Peeples has particularly impressed in that department. She has averaged 10.3 rebounds per game, the third most of any player in the League. She leads the League in offensive rebounds with 5.8, generating consistent second-chance opportunities for the Riders. 

They’ll look to continue that trend this weekend against the two teams that grab the fewest defensive rebounds in the League this season. 

Weekend opponents 

The Riders will take on the Cardiff Met Archers and Durham Palatinates this weekend, two teams they have had success against already this season. 

Leicester took on the Archers in November, beating them 110-64 in South Wales. Their leading scorer on the season, Taylor O’Brien, put up 26 points and 6 rebounds in the win, where the Riders shot 52.4% from the field and 37.5% from three. 

The Archers currently sit bottom of the League table, going winless through eight games. As for the Palatinates, they’re currently ninth in the table with a 2-5 record. 

The Riders took them on in late January, once again going on the road and taking home the win. This time, it was a 75-62 victory, led by 15 each from GB wing Sam Ashby and Peeples. 

Leicester will need to replicate their wins from earlier in the season to continue their pursuit of the top end of the table. 

Support the team

Tickets are available for both of these fixtures, which will be played at the Loughborough University Netball Centre. 

We face Cardiff Met Archers on Saturday at 6pm, and Durham Palatinates on Sunday at 1 pm. 

Get your tickets here!

Riders sign Thompson!

Leicester Riders are thrilled to sign Athena Thompson to their 2023/24 Women’s British Basketball League roster. 

Thompson, an exciting 15-year-old youth prospect, plays for Milton Keynes Breakers in the WNBL Under 16s. 

She has experience suiting up for GB under 18s, and competed for the under 16s at the FIBA European Youth Championships this summer, alongside Riders forward Katie Januszewska who played for the u20s, leading the team in scoring with 14 points per game. 

Thompson has been a valuable participant in Riders’ practices throughout the season. The club, in collaboration with the Breakers, have decided that signing to the first team roster will be a positive step in her development going forward. 

Thompson will continue to play for her current side, Milton Keynes Breakers, while signed to the Riders. 

“We’re really happy to be able to announce Athena joining us,”  commented Head Coach Ben Stanley. 

“She’s been a huge impact player in her age group with some big games already this year, and she has really come into her own in recent practices. We’re excited to help her develop and to see her on the court with us.” 

Thompson added: “Joining Leicester Riders has been a great opportunity for me, and I’ve been able to develop my knowledge around more experienced players. It’s allowed me to compete at a high level, and I’m grateful for this opportunity going forward.”

Josh Merrington, General Manager of Milton Keynes Breakers, added: “We’re grateful to the Leicester Riders for providing Athena the opportunity to play high-level basketball with their Women’s British Basketball League team. Athena has been dominating her own age group for a while, so playing at a higher level will really aid her development.”


Want to see Thompson in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Cardiff Met Archers on Febuary 10!

Taylor O’Brien named Women’s British Basketball League Player of the Month

Leicester Riders guard Taylor O’Brien has been voted as the Women’s British Basketball League Player of the Month for her performances throughout November. 

The American rookie averaged 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 61.7% shooting from the field, going 2-0 over the two games in the month of action. 

Her highest-scoring performance came against the Cardiff Met Archers on November 18, where she put up 26 points and six rebounds in the Riders’ resounding win. 

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. 

Riders sign Hamilton

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of American rookie Marissa Hamilton for the 2023/24 season.

The 6’0” forward played her final college season at Merrimack College, where she put up 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and was named to the NEC Third Team.   

Prior to that, Hamilton spent three years at the University of Buffalo, playing all 31 games as a junior and leading the Bulls in blocks. 

Hamilton will play for the Riders while studying at Loughborough University. The club would like to thank the University for their continued support.

Hamilton commented: “I feel blessed to be able to continue my professional career with the Leicester Riders! I’m super excited to get to work and create some fun memories with the new staff and teammates in places I’ve never been!”

Riders sign Tweedie

Leicester Riders are excited to announce the signing of Elise Tweedie for the 2023/24 season. 

The 21-year-old Scot joins from the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated this summer. 

Tweedie played two seasons for her home country Caledonia Pride in the Women’s British Basketball League. The 6’4” center averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds and played 23 games in 2021/22. 

Tweedie will also compete for Loughborough University, where she will complete her master’s degree. The club would like to thank the University for their support.

Tweedie commented: “I’m incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to play for the Riders this season and to make my return to the Women’s British Basketball League. 

“The team’s strong culture, fan base and mission are all things I’m super excited to be a part of. I’m eagerly looking forward to starting this journey with my new teammates and coaches, and I can’t wait to see the success we can attain together!”

Head Coach Ben Stanley commented: “We’re very happy to have Elise join us this year.  She’s contributed for Pride in the League previously and knows the league.  

“She’s got good mobility, she’s versatile and brings with her size, a great attitude and huge willingness to get better. I’m looking forward to getting her on the floor and also seeing her improvement over the season.”

Riders sign Peeples

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of Rayven Peeples from St John’s University. 

The 6’3” forward started all 32 games for the Red Storm, and ranked sixth in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. She put up 6.7 points and 1.2 points in her final season in the Big East conference. 

In 2021/22, Peeples averaged 8.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, once again leading the team on the boards.

Prior to St Johns, Peeples played for North Carolina A&T as a freshman, then Northwest Florida State College. She led the Northwest Florida Raiders in scoring with 14.0 points per game, and ranked fourth in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 64.2%. 

Peeples commented: “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to play for this organisation. Everyone has been very welcoming since the day I decided to sign. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the team, and I’m really excited to be a part of a winning programme”

Head Coach Ben Stanley added: “We’re really looking forward to having Rayven here. She’s an elite defender and rebounder, and her physicality in the paint will be a great asset for us. 

“Her intangibles are going to be just as important to us as her physical abilities and skill set. Rayven has a high IQ on both ends, and I think she’ll see a lot of growth as the season progresses.”


Image credit: St John’s Red Storm

Riders sign O’Brien

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of Taylor O’Brien. 

The American guard signs 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.

“I am so excited to be a part of this organisation, and have the experience of playing professionally for the first time,” said O’Brien. 

“I am grateful to be on the Riders, and I’m looking forward to seeing what our team can do this year. I can’t wait to get back on the court!”

Head Coach Ben Stanley added: “We’re thrilled to have Taylor in Riders Red this season. 

“We were extremely impressed by her scoring ability both at Bucknell and Floria State, and we’re excited that there is a lot that she continues to add to her game. I’m anticipating her developing a lot with us this year.”

WBBL update: Riders’ roster so far!

We’re counting down the days for the new WBBL season, and it’s been a busy offseason so far! Both new and familiar names have signed to play in Riders red, and there are a few more to come!

Here you can refamiliarise yourself with our roster.

Katie JanuszewskaRetained

 “KJ” is a Charnwood product, joining the Academy in 2020. 

In 2021/2022, the versatile wing averaged 19.3 points and 11.7 rebounds in the WEABL and made the All-First Team in the Northern Conference.

She was also named to the Women’s NBL Division One British Team of the Year with the Loughborough Riders, putting up 13.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. 

Last season, Januszewska join St Francis Brooklyn in NCAA Division One, before returning to the East Midlands for the upcoming year. 

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates- Retained

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates is a Manchester-born guard who signed a two-year deal last summer, joining from the Newcastle Eagles.

The Charnwood graduate averaged 7.7 points per game in the WBBL Championship for the Riders last year, putting up a season-high 25 points against the Oaklands Wolves.

Jessica also studies at Loughborough University for her master’s, winning the BUCS championship last season.

Erin Powell- Retained

Erin Powell will suit up for the Riders while completing her third year at Charnwood College. 

Powell averaged 28.5 points and 18.8 rebounds in the EABL last season and 6.8 points per game in the WBL Division One for the Loughborough Riders.

She also has experience on the international stage, having played for Great Britain Under-18s.

Shahd Abboud- Signed from Maccabi Ramat Gan

Abboud is an Israeli international, who joined from Maccabi Ramat Gan in the Israeli Premier Division.

She represented her country in the 2021 European Championships and has regularly played for Israeli senior team since 2018.

In 2018, the Nazereth-native was named the first-ever Arab-Israeli captain of an Israeli Premier League team by Hapoel Petah Tikva.

In college, Abboud suited up for Northwestern State University, averaging 8.4 points per game as a junior while starting 28 games.

McKenzie Johnston- Retained

American guard McKenzie Johnston helped 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.

Sam Ashby- Signed from the University of the Pacific

Sam Ashby is a 5’9” Australian, joining the club following her college career at the University of the Pacific. 

She scored 10.9 per game in her senior year with the Tigers, earning an All-West Coast Conference Honourable Mention selection.

Prior to Pacific, the Perth native played for three years at her hometown Newman College, where she helped her team to three Associated and Catholic Colleges titles. 

She was named MVP in 2017 and earned Most Outstanding Female Basketballer honours in 2016 and 2017.  In 2018, she led Newman to the Marist Grand Final in Sydney.

Ashby will also compete for Loughborough University while she completes her master’s.

Taylor O’Brien- Signed from Floria State University

American guard O’Brien signed 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.

Rayven Peeples- Signed from St John’s University

Rayven Peeples is a 6’3” forward who started all 32 games for tSt John’s Red Storm last season, ranking sixth in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. She scored 6.7 points per game in her final season in the Big East conference. 

In 2021/22, Peeples averaged 8.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, once again leading the team on the boards.

Prior to St Johns, Peeples played for North Carolina A&T as a freshman, then Northwest Florida State College. She led the Northwest Florida Raiders in scoring with 14.0 points per game, and ranked fourth in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 64.2%. 

Elise Tweedie- Signed from University of Edinburgh

21-year-old Scot Tweedie joins from the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated this summer. 

Tweedie played two seasons for her home country Caledonia Pride in the Women’s British Basketball League. The 6’4” center averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds and played 23 games in 2021/22. 

Marissa Hamilton- Signed from Merrimack College

6’0” forward Hamilton played her final college season at Merrimack College, where she put up 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and was named to the NEC Third Team.   

Prior to that, Hamilton spent three years at the University of Buffalo, playing all 31 games as a junior and leading the Bulls in blocks. 


Want to sponsor one of our players?

Read about our WBBL sponsorship opportunities in our corporate brochure!

“I can’t wait to be a part of the culture!”- Sam Ashby on her journey to the pros

Leicester Riders’ newest WBBL addition has travelled to the other side of the world to compete in British basketball.

Australian Sam Ashby is a highly touted talent straight out of the University of the Pacific, but the leap into the unknown wasn’t something that was always feasible for her. 

“Until the age of 17, I didn’t like staying away from home for even a night,” said Ashby, recollecting how far she has come since she first moved away from her home city of Perth. 

“I’d struggle to have sleepovers with friends! But college has helped me grow up,” reflected the now 22-year-old.

Sam knew her talent could take her far as a mid-teen, making it onto Western Australian State under 16s at 15. She found herself competing against older age groups, preparing her for what was to come in college. 

She was named Associated and Catholic Colleges MVP in 2017 and won three titles. Next came the difficult transition to America, where she tried her hand at the NCAA system. 

Ashby landed in Stockton, California, ready to play for the University of the Pacific. 

“Going to college was really scary for me. My thought process was that if I try it and I hate it, at least I’ll know and can’t regret it. If I didn’t try, there would always have been the what if.

“I had a big culture shock. It was really tough mentally being away from home. Not having family there, or even being able to talk to them because of the time difference was challenging.

“But I arrived with no expectations and thought to make the most of it.”

Ashby faced adversity on the court too. In her freshman year, she averaged three minutes a game and was forced to fight her way into the team. 

“The first year was tough. I worked really hard, and I thought I deserved to play more than I did. I kept going for extra sessions and giving absolutely everything to show that I was meant to be there.

“My coach didn’t like to play freshmen. His attitude was if you’re young, you have to earn your place, so he played the older girls. I was taking them on in practice and doing well, but I couldn’t get minutes. 

“When I came back for my sophomore year, I’d done a lot of work in the gym. I came back bigger and stronger, and they recognised that I wanted this, and gave me the opportunity.

“I showed up, did my best, and was starting for the team as a sophomore, so I think I proved myself that year.”

Prove herself she did. By her senior year, Ashby was an All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention selection, starting all 32 games for the Tigers and averaging 10.9 points per game. 

She still had to overcome mental battles, which affected her performance early into her college career.  

“I always had the basic skills, but being young and in the NCAA, I got really stressed out and suffered from performance anxiety. Decisions that I’d never make began creeping into my game. I learnt to relax, and play my own game instead of overthinking everything

“It took a lot of self-reflection and learning how to overcome that.”

Sam leaves college a different person. Someone that has grown in confidence and independence, and is ready to take on the challenges of international basketball. 

“It made me grow up. I went into college as a shy 18-year-old, but I’ve learned how to develop relationships and friendships and talk to strangers. The biggest thing I got out of college was confidence.”

With her newfound confidence, Ashby is ready to take her talents to the UK, under Head Coach Ben Stanley’s leadership.

“Ben was lovely. He told me about his coaching style, and I was really intrigued by it. He sounds like a coach that I want to play for: not a hothead but he knows what he’s doing. Being relaxed, calm and smart is a great attribute as a coach.”

She now brings the work ethic and drive which earned her a starting spot in college to the East Midlands, looking to help push the team forward. 

“I bring hard work, leadership by example and giving everything I can to make myself and others better. I’m looking forward to playing against different players. I’ve never played in the UK before, so I can’t wait to see how everyone plays.”

For Ashby, it’s bigger than just the game. She wants to use her platform to be a role model that she never had growing up. 

“I would love to promote women’s basketball. Its become so much bigger throughout the years, and throughout my college experience, seeing younger girls come in and seeing how they look up to me and other players is huge for me. 

“I never had that when I was younger. Women’s sport wasn’t even streamed at home, so I didn’t have the opportunity to look up to female athletes. Now, I can have an effect on other people which is a really big deal, and we’re really lucky that kids have female athletes to look up to.”

Now, all that’s left is to get started. 

“I’m really excited to meet everyone and play in that atmosphere. I saw the photos from the finals last year, and it looked insane. I can’t wait to be a part of that culture!”


Photo credit: Pacific Tigers

Riders sign Ashby

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of Sam Ashby on a two-year deal. 

The 5’9” Australian joins the club following her college career at the University of the Pacific. She scored 10.9 per game in her senior year with the Tigers, earning an All-West Coast Conference Honourable Mention selection. 

Ashby finished led the team in minutes played, free throw percentage and steals, and finished second in rebounding.

Prior to Pacific, the Perth native played for three years at her hometown Newman College, where she helped her team to three Associated and Catholic Colleges titles. 

She was named MVP in 2017 and earned Most Outstanding Female Basketballer honours in 2016 and 2017.  In 2018, she led Newman to the Marist Grand Final in Sydney.

While at Newman, Ashby set the program record for career free throws made and is second all-time in scoring.

Ashby will also compete for Loughborough University while she completes her master’s. The club would like to extend their thanks to the University for their support. 

Ashby commented: “Signing with Leicester brings me so much excitement. I couldn’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to play professionally in another country as well as meet some amazing new people!”

Head Coach Ben Stanley added: “We’re extremely happy to have Sam sign at Riders and Loughborough. She’ll bring grittiness to the team from her experience from Australia, but she is also a real offensive threat with her shooting and ability to get downhill.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing her in Riders red!”

Leicester Riders launch rebrand

Leicester Riders are excited to present their rebrand ahead of the 2023/24 season, ushering in a new era of Riders basketball. 

The Riders are proud to have innovatively evolved throughout their 56-year history as Britain’s oldest professional basketball club. This rebrand allows the club to continue modernising, 10 years on from the launch of its previous logo.

This marks a fresh start for the club, with a revitalised roster of young talent ready to take the reins and add to the Riders’ rich history. 

The updated brand incorporates every facet of the club, from its community work with the Leicester Riders Foundation, its player pathways and development through Charnwood College and Loughborough University, to the first teams in the BBL and WBBL.

The club would like to thank its partners at 5or6 for their support during the rebrand.

Leicester Riders managing director Russell Levenston commented: “It’s been 10 years since the previous logo was created, as we thought it was the fitting moment for us to re-evaluate the Riders brand.

“Looking at how branding has changed over the past decade, we thought it was the right time to refresh ours.

“Thank you for all the work 5or6 has put into supporting the club, both with the rebranding and their continued support through the years. We have worked closely with the team there since they designed the last logo in 2013.

“What is especially pleasing is the new brand’s versatility, and how it can incorporate everything we are about, from our pathways and community work through to the pros.

“These are exciting times for the club, and we look forward to seeing how the brand grows over the coming years. We hope everyone loves it as much as we do!”

2023/24 WBBL Schedule Released

Leicester Riders’ fixtures for the 2023/24 season have been announced.

We host the Manchester Giants on opening night on 21 October.

The WBBL Betty Codona Trophy will take place throughout January, with the draw taking place at a later date.

The new WBBL All-Star game will take place on 17 March, at a venue to be confirmed.

The full fixture list is listed below. Please note that all fixtures are subject to change.

Fixtures

DateTimeCompetitionH/AOpponent
21st Oct18:00ChampionshipHManchester Giants
28th Oct17:45ChampionshipAOaklands Wolves
4th Nov18:00ChampionshipHNewcastle Eagles
18th Nov15:15ChampionshipACardiff Met Archers
25th Nov18:00ChampionshipHNottingham Wildcats
3rd Dec12:00ChampionshipALondon Lions
9th Dec16:00ChampionshipAEssex Rebels
13th/14th JanTBCTrophy Quarter-FinalTBCTBC
20th/21st JanTBCTrophy Semi-FinalTBCTBC
28th JanTBCTrophy FinalTBC
10th Feb16:00ChampionshipHCardiff Met Archers
17th Feb19:30ChampionshipANewcastle Eagles
25th Feb14:00ChampionshipAManchester Giants
2nd Mar18:00ChampionshipHOaklands Wolves
9th Mar18:00ChampionshipHLondon Lions
17th MarTBCAll-Star Game
31st Mar17:00ChampionshipANottingham Wildcats
6th Apr18:00ChampionshipHEssex Rebels
13th Apr13:00ChampionshipADurham Palatinates
21st Apr17:00ChampionshipACaledonia Gladiators
27 Apr18:00ChampionshipHSheffield Hatters
TBCChampionshipHCaledonia Gladiators
TBCChampionshipHDurham Palatinates
TBCChampionshipASheffield Hatters


Ticket information is to be announced in the near future!

International watch: Katie Januszewska to play in the European Youth Championships

Riders’ guard Katie Januszewska is set to suit up for Great Britain Under-20s in the FIBA European Youth Championships!

“KJ” was named to the 12-player roster by Head Coach Chantelle Handy, as the squad prepares to play in Division “B” on July 28.

GB will head to Craiova, Romania, to take on Germany, Ukraine and Switzerland in Group A.

The top two finishers in the group will progress to the quarter-final stage.

Schedule of play

July 28, 1:30 PM- GB vs Ukraine

July 30, 1:30 PM: GB vs Germany

August 2, 4 PM: GB vs Switzerland

Where to watch

You can watch every game on GB Basketball TV.

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.” 

Riders sign Abboud

Leicester Riders are thrilled to announce the signing of 5’11” guard Shahd Abboud for the 2022/23 season.

The Israeli international joins from Maccabi Ramat Gan in the Israeli Premier Division.

She represented her country in the 2021 European Championships, and has regularly played for Israeli senior team since 2018.

In 2018, the Nazereth-native was named the first-ever Arab-Israeli captain of an Israeli Premier League team by Hapoel Petah Tikva.

In college, Abboud suited up for Northwestern State University, averaging 8.4 points per game as a junior while starting 28 games.

“I’m really thankful for the opportunity and excited to be joining the Riders,” said Abboud.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to work with Coach Stanley, getting to know my teammates and building chemistry in order to achieve our goals this season.”

“Shahd is going to be a huge credit to the programme,” said Head Coach Ben Stanley. 

“She brings a wealth of experience and determination, and she really knows how to play the right way. She’ll be a fantastic role model for our community with all she’s accomplished so far, and we’re excited to have her here.”

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 Powell

Leicester Riders can confirm the return of Erin Powell for the 2023/24 season. 

The 5’10” forward will suit up for the Riders while completing her third year at Charnwood College. 

Powell averaged 28.5 points and 18.8 rebounds in the EABL last season and 6.8 points per game in the WBL Division One for the Loughborough Riders. 

She also has experience on the international stage, having played for Great Britain Under-18s.

“I’m super excited to get back to playing and learning with the Riders,” said Powell. 

“My last two years with the programme have allowed me to progress towards my goals greatly. Hopefully, I can make positive impacts on the floor with my team. 

“I love the atmosphere at Riders, and I am grateful to have another year of development with them.”

“I’m really interested to see Erin continue to develop this season with us,” said Head Coach Ben Stanley. 

“She’s shown a lot of improvement over the last year and has already impressed me in conversation this summer. This year should be a big jump for her.”

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates back for 2023/24!

Leicester Riders are delighted to confirm that Jessica Eadsforth-Yates has been retained for the 2023/24 roster. 

The Manchester-born guard signed a two-year deal last summer, joining from the Newcastle Eagles.

Eadsforth-Yates, a Charnwood graduate, averaged 7.7 points per game in the WBBL Championship for the Riders last year, putting up a season-high 25 points against the Oaklands Wolves. 

The deal includes Jessica’s studies at Loughborough University, where she won the BUCS championship last season.

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

“I’m very happy to be back with Riders following an overall successful season for the team last year!” commented Eadsforth-Yates. 

“I’m looking forward to getting to know Coach Stanley more and improving personal development, along with new team goals! I can’t wait to get back to work and start building towards what should be an exciting year for the team!”

“We’re really happy to have Jess back,” said Head Coach Ben Stanley.

“I’ve watched her for many years, and I know she’s passionate, team-oriented and ready to work. I’m looking forward to having her with us for another year.”

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

Report: Riders Women bounce back with impressive win over Cardiff

Leicester Riders women bounced back from their defeat last week at Durham by winning easily on the road at Cardiff Met Archers 84-61.

Riders started the game with a vengeance completely dominating the opening period 29-12.

Jen Ashton opened the scoring with a three and Sarah Hinriksdottir hit two more as Riders raced into an 11-3 lead.

Ella Clark hit a further two threes in a row to extend Riders big lead.

Cardiff bounced back in the second period to contain Riders somewhat but at halftime Riders were cruising 47-26.

Any suggestions of a comeback by Cardiff were quickly dampened in the third quarter, as Hinriksdottir continued to score freely and Riders lead ballooned to 73-41.

Cardiff clawed back some respectability in the final quarter but the result was never in doubt.

Hinriksdottir led the way for Riders with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.

Riders guard Jen Ashton passed 500 WBBL career Championship points during the victory.

Christina Gaskin contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds while Kate Oliver added 10 points and 9 rebounds, as well as 6 assists.

Riders now prepare to defend their WBBL Trophy when they play Durham in the Final at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow this Sunday. Tickets are still available, call 0116 255 8635 or email [email protected] to book yours!