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.
In his four seasons with the club, Darien Nelson-Henry helped to create ever-lasting memories not only for Riders fans but himself.
As captain, Darien led the team to four pieces of silverware, including back-to-back league titles and a treble. He was also named to the BBL Team of the Year in consecutive seasons.
He took some time to reflect on his tenure at the Morningside Arena.
After joining, what made you want to stay?
Darien’s first season in Leicester was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the initial months at the club left an impression.
They were all he needed to re-sign, committing to the Riders long-term. According to Darien, coach Rob Paternostro had a lot to do with it.
“Rob is a reason why a lot of us wanted to stay. He’s been through it, in terms of playing around Europe, so he knows what it’s like in other places.
“He knows how to get along with players to where you feel comfortable with him, but is great at keeping his boundaries as a coach to where you’ll always do what he asks.”
“I respect that about him a lot because it’s a really hard line to walk.”
But as well as choosing coach Rob, Darien chose Leicester.
“Of course, it was great because of all the similarities to the US. I knew it was a place I could thrive, and I loved enjoying the countryside, the culture, the food and other cities in the UK.”
“In Leicester, I knew my life outside of basketball was going to be quality, and I’m a huge believer that peace of mind will translate to performance on the court.”
How do you reflect on the season played without fans in the arena?
“Any basketball player would tell you it’s weird without fans. They are where we draw our energy from. They’re the backbone and the lifeblood of why you play basketball- for the fans. To not have them there was very strange.”
“On the other hand, the basketball was pure. Our COVID season is so special to me because we were the best. With no momentum boost from the crowd and no real home-court advantage, it was all about who the better team was.”
“It came down to who was prepared better, who was in better shape, who was running better plays and who was executing better. While we didn’t win any of the tournament competitions, we won the one that. to me, matters most in the league.
“We proved we were the most consistent team in a pure setting, which was pretty awesome looking back on it.”
What was it like to play on the treble-winning team?
Winning the league title was not enough for Darien. He and the rest of the team wanted to do it all again (and more) in front of the Riders faithful.
“Winning the treble on the big stage, in front of all the fans in the arena, was really special. But that type of season is typical for this franchise in recent years when the majority of the team returns for another season.”
“When that happens, the club usually accomplishes something special. A lot of the plays we ran and our defensive strategy, while Rob does call plays here and there, he leaves the responsibility to us during the game. Once he laid the game plan, it was up to us to execute.”
“Having spent a year together, we found ourselves all on the same page. It really helped us, having spent all that time together. The stars really aligned that season.”
How would you describe playing with Geno Crandall?
For two straight seasons, Darien and two-time BBL MVP Geno Crandall shared the floor to a devastating effect.
Their relationship on-court seemed near-telepathic at times, leading to the pair winning four pieces of silverware in their time together.
“He’s a special player. And the main thing for our relationship was that we were both very vocal and very trusting of one another.
“If something went a little differently to the way we saw it, maybe he’d lead me a little too far with a pass, or he’d want me to reset a screen, and I’d roll instead, we would get together and talk it out.”
“We had a very open dialogue which helped us. But he’s so talented I think he could have done it with any big man”, said Darien modestly.
“We both had the desire to win, and his competitiveness gave me the desire to play my heart out, knowing he’s going to do the same.”
When did you know it was time to retire?
Towards the end of last season, Darien revealed the news to the home fans that he would retire.
“I had a feeling I was going to retire going into my final season, I could see the writing on the wall a little bit. My body was starting to ache, I had some nagging injuries that were tough to overcome, and all my attempts at recovery weren’t helping as much as they used to.”
“I’d finished my masters, and I’m getting married. It just seemed like my life was pointing me in a different direction.”
How do you reflect on your career, having had some time to look back on it?
“I was able to win multiple titles in multiple countries, achieve personal accolades everywhere I went and meet amazing people who I would otherwise never had the opportunity to meet.”
“I can honestly say I got so much out of basketball, and it was worth every second I put into it.”
“I’m taking a break from the game for now and taking some well-earned rest, but I’ll be back one way or another and cheering the Riders on from wherever I may be!”
The big man put in a two-way scoring effort, adding two steals and a block to the box score.
It was one of nine games Iwodu led his side in scoring on the year and his second-biggest scoring tally of the season.
February 19, 2021 vs Randers Cimbria: Idowu catches fire from deep
His highest-scoring performance in his season with Naestved came just a few months later. Idowu went off for 25 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, beating Cimbria 83-78.
In yet another efficient showing, Iwodu shot 76.9% from the field, showing his range to go 4-5 from three. His performance led Naestved to a statement win against the eventual league winners.
On defence, the New York native recorded yet another block and a steal, making his presence known on both ends.
During the season, Idowu led the team to a 16-4 record, just a win behind the top spot in the regular season standings. Performances like this went a long way to establishing themselves as a contender.
November 2, 2019 vs Den Helder Suns: Career-high scoring night
Just months into his post-college career, Idowu announced himself on the professional stage with a career-high 30-point performance against Den Helder. He went off for 30 points and 11 rebounds for Dutch side Aris Leeuwarden in just his eighth game as a pro.
The game resulted in a 74-63 loss, but Idowu’s game-leading effort showed his ability to put the scoring load on his back and dominate. He hit the ground running with Leeuwarden, leading the team’s scoring in seven of their first eight games.
Idowu got his points in only 33 minutes, shooting 12-20 from the field. He would go on to be his team’s second-leading scorer in his rookie year, averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.
January 31 2019 vs Rider University: Idowu writes his name in college history
Idowu was a defensive force in college, and the record books show as much. He became just the fourth player in St Peter’s history to surpass 100 career blocks. And he did it in style.
Playing against the Rider Broncs, Idowu swatted a monster six shots to get over the century mark. The game remains his career high in blocks for the rim-protecting savant, establishing himself as a top defensive prospect.
Idowu averaged 1.8 blocks per game as a senior with the Peacocks, leading the team with 59 on the season.
December 4, 2019 vs Leiden: Career high on the glass
Idowu grabbed his career-high in rebounds as a rookie for Leeuwarden. He went off for 18 points and 14 rebounds, outmuscling Leiden for a huge 10 offensive boards.
The second-possesions Idowu earned his side kept them in the game, but they ultimately fell 73-62.
Idowu averaged a block per game that season, by far the most on the Leeuwarden roster. His shot-blocking has become a staple of his game. The towering forward has averaged at least a block a game for the last six seasons.
The former GB u20 will look to bring his interior defence to the Riders roster this season.
Leicester Riders slipped to a fourth league defeat of the season, going down 73-69 at Bristol Flyers. In a similar pattern to their trophy defeat in the south west, Riders had led for long periods, only for a fourth quarter rally to see the home side over the line.
Jesse Chuku hit a couple of early three pointers before Josh Ward-Hibbert scored eight consecutive points for the Riders as they opened an 18-11 lead.
Levi Bradley pulled his team back into the game, but Leicester would post eight points without reply to lead 28-17 early in the second quarter. Namon Wright’s back-to-back three-pointers kept Leicester’s lead in double figures, but Bristol were able to make inroads into the deficit just before half-time.
Corey Johnson was able to send Riders into the interval with a nine-point lead as he connected from behind the arc for the final score of the first half.
The home side then started the second half strongly to trim Riders’ advantage to only three-points as Lewis Champion got the scoreboard ticking for his team, but Ward-Hibbert and Johnson re-establish a small cushion a 52-44 with twelve minutes to go.
Early in the final quarter, Bristol posted seven points without reply to move 55-54 ahead and for the next five minutes the lead went back and forth. With 2:30 to play, Riders trailed by one-point, but Champion helped the Flyers to a 72-66 advantage.
Andy Thomson halved that with a three-pointer and though he had to more attempts to level the game from behind the arc, neither dropped and Riders slipped to a second consecutive victory against the Flyers.
Riders struggled to find consistency in their shooting and as such whilst they had four players in double-figures, their top score was only 13 from Josh Ward-Hibbert.
The Riders return Home to the Morningside Arena next Friday when they take on the Manchester Giants in the BBL Championship, CLICK HERE to get your tickets!
Report: Riders defeat Sharks to continue winning run
Leicester Riders survived a late scare to claim an 87-80 victory over Sheffield Sharks and stretch their winning run to six games.
Riders had led by 20 in the third quarter, but some impressive shooting from the short-handed visitors in the fourth period meant the result was in the balance until the final seconds.
Both teams started slowly, but Leicester were able to hit a few three-pointers as they edged the first five minutes 11-6. Andy Thomson sparked a bit of life into proceedings and with Jamell Anderson scoring well, Leicester still held a five-point lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Sharks level the scores at 24 points each, but the two sides were stuck on that score for over two minutes. A bizarre goaltending call gave Sheffield a 29-28 lead with four minutes to go, but Riders then held the Sharks scoreless for the remainder of the half.
Namon Wright had five of 11 unanswered points to finish the second quarter and Leicester took that momentum into the second half. Nick Lewis hit a tremendously difficult three-point shot early in the third quarter, but that was their only score in the first three minutes of the period.
In the seven minutes either side of half-time, Riders posted a 22-3 burst which had them 50-31 in front. The lead peaked at twenty points and with 13 minutes to go it looked like the game would meander out into a comfortable home win.
But Bouna Ndiaye caught fire for the Sharks, pulling them to within ten at the start of the fourth quarter. Corey Johnson’s three re-established a 15-point lead, but Lewis and Ndiaye had the gap down to five with four minutes to play.
Johnson hit another two corner three-pointers as Riders seemed to be keeping the visitors at bay, but Connor Cashaw refused to let it go and cut the deficit to 83-80 with a minute to go. Riders, though, held their nerve and sealed the win from the free throw line.
Wright was again in imperious shooting form, netting 20 points including four three-pointers, whilst Thomson and Ky Cartwright both posted double-double.
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