Following the departure of three Riders plays as part of a Riders roster restructure, Head Coach Rob Paternostro spoke to BBC Radio Leicester to explain the organisation’s decision-making process.
“We had to try and find a way to be pulling in the same direction,” said Paternostro.
“We want a group that is committed to winning together. It was an organisational decision to turn a page and head in a different direction.
“This was something that we have spoken about for a number of weeks. In my 16 seasons at the club, we’ve always had a team that is committed to winning and playing the right way. When we don’t see that, we want to correct that as quickly as possible.
“The players had been here since August, and we did everything we could to create the best environment possible for those guys. We have a track record of players around the world that will tell you this is a great place to play basketball.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into that, and we want to continue to ensure we have a great basketball club on and off the court. But sometimes you have to make tough decisions, and those decisions weren’t made hastily.
“We were having discussions for a while, and each one of the players knew that. There are certain criteria we have to play for the Riders, and that isn’t just about winning. I love to win, but there’s more to it than that. We want to play the right way, and we want our whole team to pull in the same direction.”
“We’re excited about this group going forward, and they are a group that’s come together through this. We have a team that’s excited to play, and we have had great practices this week. These guys were the reason we were in these games. They’re model professionals, and they’re ready to go.
“We know we’re down bodies, but we’re excited about going out and fighting in front of our fans. These are the times that their support is really needed. I love our fans, and we expect great support on Saturday night. This is a group of guys that really deserve that.”
The Riders are back in action tomorrow, taking on the Manchester Giants at home.
The Riders improved to 6-4 after a 111-88 win against the Newcastle Eagles. Here’s how the Riders reacted to the blowout win…
Rookie guard Jaren Holmes led the game with his best performance of the season, putting up 28 points, five rebounds and four assists.
He explained his feelings after the game.
“It feels amazing. I’m very thankful to be a Rider, and it was a great team victory. I couldn’t have scored that many points without the team. We were moving the ball really well tonight.
“Everything we work on in practice is coming on the court. The guards did a great job of driving and kicking, and I was ready to knock down the shots. I’m thankful my teammates trust me to make shots. I put myself in a position to make plays, and I was able to make them today.”
The game was in the balance at the half, before a monster third quarter saw the Riders blow the game wide open. The message at halftime was to trust in the team’s ability.
“We were told to stay the course and trust our brand of basketball. We didn’t get into all the extra stuff and just played basketball. I know a lot has been made of our rivalry with Newcastle, but that’s not how we try and play basketball, and I’m thankful we showed that.
“Coach Rob put us in a position to be successful today, and we followed the gameplan to a tee.”
Following the Riders’ impressive victory, Head Coach Rob Paternostro was proud of the way the team responded from falling down double digits in the opening quarter.
“After the first quarter, we played a solid game. The points off of turnovers were the problem early, so once we got control of that and we were able to get our defence set up, we improved as the game went on.”
The Riders’ bench outscored the Eagles 51-15, their depth proving the difference in the tie.
“Our depth was important again today. We’re playing 10 players throughout the game, which allows our defensive pressure to pick up as the game goes on. Tonight, we wore them down by the end, and that’s one of our biggest strengths.”
Reacting to Holmes’ career night, Paternostro praised the work ethic of the Iowa State graduate.
“He’s a big-time player. He’s the first in every day and the last one out. He’s a great competitor, and he had some great looks from all over today.
“What I liked is the variation in his play. It was the three-ball and the floaters in close that saw him get points on the board. It was a really versatile game from him today.”
Next up for the Riders is the undefeated London Lions. Paternotro stated the importance of preparation going into that game for the Leicester roster brimming with potential.
“We’re going to have a good week of practice and try and figure them out. No one has yet! They’re a great team that I’ve enjoyed watching this year, so we have a lot of work to do.
“One of the messages this week when we were watching film, was that there’s a long way up for this team. I feel good about that, and it’s exciting for the staff for the rest of the season.”
After putting up eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of action, athletic wing Blake Bowman reacted to the win.
“It feels great. We had a lot of energy from the crowd, and I’m super happy with the win.”
“It came from everyone today. To get 111 points, you need contributions from everywhere. Jaren played really well: 28 points is a great performance from him.”
Bowman led the team with 15 points in the Riders’ previous game, the Derby native finding form early in the season. He credits his play to the extended minutes he is beginning to find in the rotation.
“It’s great getting more opportunities. Getting more touches has made me feel more comfortable, and I’m trying to contribute the best I can.”
Like his coach, Bowman realises the importance of the upcoming week ahead of facing the Lions.
“It’s super important. They’re the team to beat right now, and we’re going to be locked in. We’ve got to come ready, and I’m sure we’ll do exactly that.”
Coach’s thoughts: Rob Paternostro on the season so far
Let me start by saying how much your support has meant to the team to start the season. The way you all have embraced our guys, and the new players we have, means a lot to them and myself, and it’s something I’ve come to expect from our tremendous fanbase.
The season is in full swing, and I’m excited about the group we have. As a coach, you’re always looking to improve each game, and I think that we are doing exactly that.
It’s been nice to see the work we’ve done in practice translate over to the court. When I look at our team I feel like we have a high ceiling. We’re nowhere near our best right now, and as the season goes on, that’s what we’re striving for.
Since the opening game, our communication on defence, our transition defence and our ball movement and spacing continue to improve. They’re all work in progress, and now the guys have been together for a couple of months, they’re starting to get a feel for what each other on the floor.
Our game against Plymouth was a pivotal test for us, and I think winning a close game after a loss was important for this team. We showed that not only do we improve game to game, but quarter to quarter.
That was an important step for us. To shrug off a below-par half on the defensive end and respond with better play in the second half showed real maturity and intelligence. And when you have a new group, winning a tight, tough game can certainly build confidence.
When you look at our roster, we have so many guys we can turn to that can make an impact on the game. Our depth is huge, and that becomes especially important with so many games in this league and a lot of two-game weekends.
I’ve been impressed with so many of our players. Jaren Holmes has done a really good job of making plays, and his physicality has been tough for defences. Braelen Bridges’ ability to finish around the basket is really impressive.
Kimbal Mackenzie, TJ Lall and Sam Idowu playing off the bench in this winning streak has been crucial for us. In our wins, those three have made a really good impact, and it’s important to have those types of players on the bench.
Early in the season, we’re a team that is fast and can play in the open floor. We’re unpredictable and can win in different ways with different guys. We have a roster deep enough to where the other team can’t figure out where we’re going.
Being able to win in multiple ways is especially important when you look at the strength of the League across the board. Teams being allowed six imports have changed things. Each team has numerous dangerous players, and it doesn’t look like the type of league where you can play poorly and expect to win.
You need to play well, or teams will get you. It looks like the League is going to be really competitive, even though it’s hard to tell this early. Night in and night out, you need to play well to come away with wins.
That means we’ll need all of our fans behind us every night. The margins are so tight this season, that the extra push from the stands is as important as ever. Thank you for your incredible support, and we hope to make this season an enjoyable one for you all.
As the season fast approaches, I wanted to thank you all for your continued tremendous support.
There have been some big changes to our roster, and we’ve worked hard all off-season to make sure we were bringing in the right guys for our club.
This is my 16th season as Head Coach, and while we’re used to having some changes in the roster, you can really feel this season like there’s been a big turnaround.
That said, we’re excited about this group. I loved the team last year, and I really enjoyed being around the guys. But this season, there’s a sense of a fresh start and a blank canvas.
As we’re starting fresh, while on-the-court play is important, we’re taking the off-court things very seriously, especially because we have such a young roster. We want to make sure the guys feel comfortable.
Our fans and sponsors do such a great job of that. Part of the draw of this club is, of course, the winning tradition, but we also have a club that makes you feel like part of a family. That’s the first thing I noticed when I arrived here. It feels great to be embraced by our loyal supporters.
I’ve really enjoyed the energy of this group. The team have had a good time getting to know each other, and that’s the great thing about playing basketball in Europe: you build bonds with guys that last forever, so it’s great to see the start of it now.
You want to have a group that loves being together. We want them to enjoy the work on the court and being together off the court, which can be easier said than done. If you can find that balance, you’re going to have a great opportunity to have a good team.
On the court, the early stages of the season are about trying to learn about the roster. Once we’ve figured out who the players are and how they like to play, we can figure out the best way for the team to play.
Last season, we came back with pretty much the same group; we knew who we were from the jump. This year is completely different, but we’re ready for the challenge.
Looking back on the preseason, while the results don’t matter in the long run, ultimately, you want a team that will play hard and try and win every possession.
Those games were important for getting a feel for the rotation and understanding how to play different lineups. The more preseason games, the better in that sense, and I think it was a successful run of fixtures for us.
We don’t look too far ahead at this stage of the season, other than wanting to be in great condition. We want to be in great shape to deal with the season, and we want to be a group that loves playing basketball.
We always want to grow through the season and be better at the end. We have a great track record of playing our best basketball in the second half of the year. But what jumped out to me straight away is how much speed and athleticism we have out there.
There’s a new League format this season, with no Cup and a month dedicated to the Trophy. That will take some time to get used to, but at the end of the day, basketball is basketball. We’re going to try our best to do well early in the competition and improve along the way.
It’s an exciting time to be a Riders fan. Any time you can check out some new players, it’s exciting, and our fans will really like the guys we have here.
We hope you’re looking forward to the season as much as we are, and we can’t wait to see you out there!
Coach Rob was cautious with Xavier Pinson to start pre-season as he recovered from an injury sustained in the CEBL over the summer, but he made his return to the court last night.
“I liked Xavier out there. He’s a natural point guard and he’s so slick with his dribble. His head is always up because he’s such a good ball-handler who doesn’t need to look at the ball. He can get in gaps and make plays, and tonight he did that.”
“The injuries hurt us at the start of pre-season. Losing Xavier and Caleb hurt us because we haven’t got a good look at who we are with a full roster.
“But overall, I like our depth. It’s been great having Mo and Conner back out there, and I also thought Blake has been great this pre-season. He’s been playing consistently well. We’ve got a lot of good guys, and come Friday, we’ll be able to utilise them.
“We’re happy to be home, and we’re looking forward to having a good crowd for our season opener. It’s always exciting on opening night.”
Young star Blake Bowman has impressed in his second Riders pre-season, scoring in double-digits in every game.
“I’m feeling great. It’s a good opportunity to get out there and put on a show for the fans. I’ve been working on the three-point shot, and my dribble pull-up to add some range to my game.”
“As long as Coach Rob trusts me, I’m going to be out on the floor. I just need to make winning plays to force him to keep me out there.”
Bowman was perfect from the field in the game, going 7-7 and 1-1 from three.
Upon his return to court, Xavier Pinson impressed. He had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes of action.
“It was great to be out there with my teammates. I thought we controlled the pace better than we had throughout the pre-season, and we were sharper as a team. For the most part, I was just happy to be on the court.
“I know the level of competition is set to increase, but after the game, I feel like I’m in great shape. I’m ready to show the fans what we can do.
“I feel like we learned a lot about each other, and what Coach Rob wants from us as a team. It’s a great starting point for us to build going towards the season.”
Miryne Thomas once again showed his scoring ability against USA Select, leading the Riders with 19 points and seven rebounds despite only playing 19 minutes.
After picking up fouls battling inside, Thomas says his biggest focus is staying on the court.
“The biggest thing for me is to play without fouling. I got into foul trouble tonight, so I couldn’t play for long stretches.
“I’m in good shape and feel like I can play hard for 40 minutes, so I want to be in a position where I can play big minutes.”
In his first game in front of the Riders’ home crowd, Thomas fed off the energy.
“I loved the energy here at the Morningside Arena. I liked how the fans reacted to everything we did out there, and after the game, they stayed to give us love.”
Here’s what Head Coach Rob Paternostro and Player of the Game Myrine Thomas had to say:
“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.”
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.”
Firstly, I’d like to thank everybody for your continued support. The offseason is an exciting time for us, but we can’t wait to see you back in the stands for our first game!
Looking back, we’re coming off a really good season. We improved from the beginning to the end, and I thought we were a better team at the O2 Arena in May than we were throughout the course of the year. That’s satisfying as a coach.
We just couldn’t get over the hump against London. We had opportunities, but we just weren’t able to convert them. But when you look at how we competed against the rest of the league, we had an exceptional record.
This time of year is exciting for coaches. We’re looking at prospective players and putting the pieces together.
We anticipate having to sign a lot of players so we’re trying to see who is the right fit. It’s a change from last season where almost everyone came back. This year is going to be totally different.
It’s a huge task going into the offseason after we’ve had the core of our team together for so long, but we have to do our due diligence looking at the players that are out there and trying to figure out the best way to rebuild.
We haven’t ruled out re-signing guys from last season, but we have to understand that our players have put in really good seasons and will be marketable around the world.
Having Kimbal back is a blessing for us. On the court, he’s a really dangerous player to deal with for opponents. His ability to score and get in the lane to make key plays at key moments is really valuable to our team.
Off the court, his leadership and commitment to practice and gameplan are second to none. He’s going to help immensely with the transition with new guys.
It’s almost like unwrapping a gift! So when we get to August, we can’t wait to look at some of these players. It’s one of the parts of the job I look forward to. It’s a challenge, and it’s not a science by any means, but I’m looking forward to it.
We know there’s plenty of games in the BBL, so there are lots of opportunities to compete, and we’re excited about the challenge ahead.
Thank you all for your patience this offseason, and we have some exciting news down the line for you all!
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!”
Three Things to look out for this weekend v Giants
The Leicester Riders take on the Manchester Giants this Friday at the Morningside Arena as they look to bounce back from last Weekend’s defeat in Bristol. Here’s three things to look out for ahead of Friday’s game.
Riders aim to move 3-0 on the season against the Giants
In their two meetings so far this season the Riders have had great success against the Manchester Giants overcoming the Giants on both occasions. The Riders have stamped their authority on the defensive end against the Giants in both their previous meetings holding the Giants to 57 points in the first meeting and just 70 points in the second meeting. Although the Giants are yet to win a game in the BBL Championship they have pushed the Raiders, Sharks and Phoenix close in their last 3 games. The Riders will once again need to be locked in on the defensive end of the floor if they are to defeat the Giants on Friday as the Giants have averaged a much improved 86 points per game across those three games.
Improved execution down the stretch
In their defeat to Bristol last weekend the Riders struggled to get their offence going down the stretch, Coach Paternostro mentioned that he was happy with the shots they were getting however they could not get them to drop. Coach Rob mentioned that it is important he sees a reaction from his team this weekend who in previous weeks showed great execution on their way to a 6 game winning streak.
Riders look to get back to winning ways
The Riders were the most impressive team in the league over the month of February winning all four of their games in impressive fashion however, in their last two games the Riders have stumbled falling to the Lions and Flyers. Typically, Coach Rob has his men playing their best basketball right when it matters at the end of the season, and Friday’s game v Manchester provides the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways. The Riders face a busy April with 6 games as the BBL Championship comes to a close with everything to still play for the Riders.
Tickets are still available for Friday’s game, CLICK HERE to purchase yours!
Coach Paternostro Claims February Kevin Cadle Molten BBL Coach of the Month award
Head Coach Rob Paternostro has claimed the Kevin Cadle Molten BBL Coach of the Month after leading the Riders to a perfect four wins from four in the month of February.
The Riders impressive Month included their largest ever win over the Newcastle Eagles after they defeated their rivals 101-63 at the Morningside Arena as well as gutsy road wins against the Surrey Scorchers and Plymouth Raiders.
Coach Paternostro signed the Month off in style defeating the Sheffield Sharks 87-80 on February 29th as Rob celebrated his 500th game as Head Coach of the Riders.
New additions Corey Johnson and Jordan Spencer played a key part in the Riders change in fortune in the Month of February with the pair fully integrating into the squad adding extra bench depth to the Riders Roster. Johnson and Spencer’s additions now mean that the Riders have nine players averaging double figure minutes per game and and seven players averaging eight points per game or more.
The Riders return to the Morningside Arena on Friday March 13th when they take on the Manchester Giants, CLICK HERE to purchase your tickets!
Rob’s reflections on 500 games in charge and a busy last weekend
Leicester Riders Head Coach Rob Paternostro had a mixed weekend, as he went through the milestone for 500 games in the BBL as a coach, splitting a pair of games in the BBL Championship.
Riders had to work very hard for their sixth straight league win over Sheffield Sharks 87-80 on Saturday night, but then struggled to recover on the road on Sunday afternoon against the London Lions, going down heavily 99-65.
Against Sheffield, Riders led from the middle of the first quarter and had a twenty point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Sharks got back within a single shot in the final thirty seconds, before a Kyron Cartwright steal sealed the result.
Cartwright scored 10 points and dished out 11 assists, and Andy Thomson had a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. Namon Wright finished with 20 points on 67% shooting along with 5 assists.
Against the Lions Riders scored the first basket of the game, but the Lions scored the next 21 points and never looked back. Only Darien Nelson-Henry troubled the Lions with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
“It was disappointing on Sunday for sure, because we never got going.”
“These back-to-back games with so little recovery time are a mental as well as a physical challenge, and we did not handle it well.”
“The Sheffield performance was excellent at times, but they are always tough, physical affairs, and this one was no different.”
“The win took a lot out of us, because we were hanging on at the end.”
“But we know the Championship is going to be tight this year and we are still sitting on just 3 losses, as good as anybody.”
“it is about quickly putting that loss behind us and getting back on the horse.”
Riders now go on the road to Bristol Flyers this Friday night in the BBL Championship.
The Riders return to the Morningside Arena on Friday March 13th when they take on the Manchester Giants, CLICK HERE to purchase your tickets!
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