Riders react: USA Select

The Riders took the win in their final pre-season game, beating USA Select 105-62 in their return to the Morningside Arena Leicester.

Here’s what the team had to say after the game.

Rob Paternostro 

“I loved the way we jumped on them early. We moved the ball well, defensively, we were in gaps, and we had a huge lead. Once we were up big, the game was played a little differently.

“Our conditioning needs to get better. because I thought at the end we were a little gassed. But all in all, we were good.”

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.”

Blake Bowman

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.

Xavier Pinson

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

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.”

Sam Idowu 

Also making a return to action this pre-season was American/British big Sam Idowu, who sat out the previous season.

“I had a lot of fun tonight, and it was great to meet all the fans. It’s nice being on the court again because it’s been a long year and some change sitting out.”

“I feel good. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a long time. The preparation going into the season has been good, and I’ve played consistent minutes.

“Now I’m impatiently waiting for the season to start. I can’t wait to get going!”

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our season opener against the Cheshire Phoenix!

Pre-season report: Riders take win against USA Select

The Leicester Riders welcomed a near-sellout crowd to the Morningside Arena tonight as they hosted a USA Select squad in their final game of the pre-season.

The Riders put on an entertaining display of offence to win 105-62 against a battling USA Select defence that competed well until the final minute, with 34 of the home side’s points coming on the fast break. It is clear that speed will be a major strength for the Riders this season.

Jaren Holmes put in another impressive performance, knocking down 17 points on 58% shooting as well as dishing four eye-catching assists. The 6’4 guard played solid team basketball as he looked to develop chemistry with fan favourite Kimbal Mackenzie and the exciting Xavier Pinson. 

Pinson showed some lovely touches, flashing high-level handling skills on multiple occasions on his way to 12 points. 

Second-year forward Blake Bowman also impressed, hitting 15 points at a 100% clip to demonstrate the strides he has made during the off-season.

USA Select benefited from good performances by Vaughn McCall and Braden Young, who scored 17 points each.

Tale of the Game

The Riders’ first possession set the tone of the game as all-action guard Mackenzie sliced his way to the rim for an early layup. Mackenzie was joined in the points column by Miryne Thomas, Holmes and Bowman as Leicester built a 16-point lead. 

USA Select defended with endeavour but new Riders’ guards Holmes and Pinson looked too sharp – especially from 3-point range.

Leicester took a 30-4 lead into the second quarter but found scoring a much tougher task in the second as the visitors improved their play. USA Select’s captain McCall led the way, showing hustle on both ends of the court and was rewarded with 12 first-half points.

Despite the stiffer challenge, the Riders found a way to make their class show. Pinson repeatedly caught the eye and drew a rapturous cheer from the home crowd as he hit a devastating spin to shake his defender before calmly hitting the layup. 

The half came to an end but not before Samuel Idowu stamped some authority on the game. 

Retreating on defence, the 6’8 forward dismissed a layup into the front-row seats before muscling his way into the offensive paint to earn a couple of free throws. 

The Riders ended the half with a 51 – 23 lead.

The Riders carried their positive offensive play into the second half, Holmes and Pinson unrelenting in their ability to impress the home faithful. 

Idowu once more showed why he could be a wall in the paint this season and athletic forward Thomas was quietly building an efficient stat sheet of 19 points and 7 rebounds.

Passing looked slick, especially on the fast break. One surge down the court saw Thomas receive the ball at speed before slamming a huge two-handed dunk. 

The USA Select did still have their moments. Braden Young played a nice second half, hitting 50% of his shots from deep, and Xavier Johnson was active on the boards, pulling down an impressive 9 rebounds.

After a cohesive performance on both ends of the court, the Riders’ Coach Rob Paternostro, will feel happy that his squad are ready for the Cheshire Phoenix in next Friday’s British Basketball League opener. 

Pre-season preview: Riders vs USA Select

The Riders host USA Select final pre-season fixture. Here is all you need to know…

Fixture information

Leicester Riders vs USA Select

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Friday, September 8, 7:45 pm

Get your tickets here!

Promising signs

The Riders return from their Netherlands trip, which they can take lots of positives from. They beat seven-time Dutch champions Donar Groningen 104-75 last Friday to move to 2-0 on their pre-season campaign so far. 

It was a confident display throughout. Donar’s only led the game for 15 seconds early in the first quarter, as the Riders took control of the tie. They won all four quarters, and after a Groningen surge to make it 52-51 to get the second half underway, the Riders blew the game wide open. 

Kimbal Mackenzie led the team with 17 points, backed up by Jaren Holmes’ 16, the pair dominating proceedings from the backcourt. 

“Our depth has been impressive,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro following the game.

“We played 10 guys, and all of them made a great impact. We know we have a long way to go, but I like where we’re going.

“These are the types of trips where you learn a lot about your team, and because we have so many new players this season, it’s a great opportunity for them to bond on and off the court.”

Now their attention turns to the Morningside Arena, as the Riders are set to make their first home appearance of the season. They are preparing to face a young team of determined talent, looking to make a name in Europe. 

USA Select- Making professionals 

The Riders’ opponents face them in the midst of a busy European tour, where they play 19 games in 22 days hoping to secure their first professional contracts.  

The tour spans four countries and 18 cities, with a newly formed roster made up of players straight out of college. 

The programme has produced two British Basketball League head coaches in Sheffield’s Atiba Lyons and Machester’s Brian Semonian, and players such as Derby Trailblazers’ Malcolm Smith. 

The Riders are an annual fixture on USA Select’s packed schedule, and the club have built a thriving relationship with the programme over the last four decades. 

“Leicester Riders, like so many other clubs in the UK, has been phenomenal for us over the decades, which is why I never miss the UK out on these tours,” said Head Coach and General Manager Sean Kilmartin ahead of the game. 

“The club, and its vision in a sport that was always under the radar and never truly appreciated in the UK, has changed the way people look at basketball in the country. Their venue is the first of its kind, and it set the bar for the other clubs in the league.

“When my players can see all that, they see what professionalism looks like. They see how professionals put pride in their job, and their humility when they put their jerseys on for the fans.

“The Riders fanbase is amazing. The love and respect we get from those fans is humbling. They really get it.”

Played for both- Russell Jordan

The Riders are one of many organisations that benefitted from USA Select’s tour. 6’6” forward Russell Jordan was a product of the program that played for the club. 

Having played for USA Select in the mid-2000s hoping to secure his first contract, Jordan secured a deal with the Reading Rockets in the EBL with the help of Kilmartin. 

Having impressed at Reading, Jordan made the step up and signed with the Riders in 2007, playing 31 games in the 2007/08 season. He put up 5.6 points in 14 minutes per game, shooting 56% from the field and suiting up against the likes of Paternostro in his final playing season for Birmingham Panthers. 

Jordan went on to play for Worthing Thunder, Surrey Scorchers and London Capitals, averaging 13 points per game in the 2009/10 season. He is one of the true success stories of the USA Select programme in British Basketball. 

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!

Sean Kilmartin on the success of USA Select

USA Select are in the midst of a gruelling European Tour. Over 22 days, they will play 19 games of basketball, on a tour spanning four countries and 18 cities. 

The team is made up of rookies straight out of college. For some, it’s an opportunity to showcase their talents on the European stage, hoping to secure their first professional contract. For all, it’s a life-changing life experience. 

“It’s brutal, but it’s fun,” explained Sean Kilmartin, Head Coach and General manager of USA Select. 

“We don’t frame this as a mental burden, we frame it as an opportunity. They have the chance at an experience that their friends may never receive.”

Kilmartin has personally scheduled each and every camp. He directly organised in excess of 500 games with professional teams all over Europe. He has booked every hotel, flight, train, and bus ride for hundreds of players on tour. 

He has personally spoken to each and every one of their players, and helped negotiate every contract for every player signed professionally.

“All the coaching staff have other careers, and the tour costs us money every year. It’s completely self-funded. We take the cost of our trip, divide it by the amount of players, and that’s how much we charge. The coaches pay their own way every year.” 

The coaching challenge alone is mammoth. With limited time, Kilmartin and his staff turn a brand new group of young men into a functional team, ready to take on professionals overseas. 

And they only have 10 hours of training camp before flying them over the Atlantic. Every player undergoes an intense three-game training camp before the final squad is picked.

Top of the agenda when selecting the team is who will respect the programme’s outstanding reputation. This is taken so seriously that Kilmartin sends coaches to eavesdrop around his camp to decipher who is the right fit for the tour. 

“We have three or four people in plain clothes acting like they’re on their phones, but they’re listening to guys between games. How are they acting? How are they talking to their teammates? How are they talking about their teammates? We’re doing character assessments throughout.

“If we think there are going to be issues, it’s just not worth it to us. Our reputation is so much more valuable to us than that. We would never recommend someone to a club that we don’t think will represent us and our values. During our camp, we take the screening process very seriously.” 

The process is such that in 25 years, USA Select has never sent a player home for behavioural issues. Every player selected for the tour is a representation of the exemplary standard USA Select sets. 

It’s a process that began in Leicester, at the start of Kilmartin’s career. 

“The Riders organisation is indirectly the lineage of our first USA select player 40 years ago. When I graduated college, I played in Great Britain. Ricky Pitts was my friend in college, who reached out to me and asked if I could help him play over here. 

“I got him in touch with the Riders, and the rest is history. That was in 1987: Our first USA Select player was with the Riders.”

USA Select has been a mainstay on the Riders’ pre-season schedule for a number of years. It’s a thriving relationship between the two organisations, with an immense amount of mutual respect.

“Leicester Riders, like so many other clubs in the UK, has been phenomenal for us over the decades, which is why I never miss the UK out on these tours,” said Kilmartin, reflecting on the relationship between his programme and the club.

“People sometimes turned their noses up at British Basketball, but it’s a great league, with great athletes and a great fanbase, and people are beginning to recognise that. The league has been better than people have given it credit for a decade. I’ve been saying that publicly for a long time.” 

The time playing against professional organisations is invaluable to the USA Select team, as Kilmartin explained:

“Leicester are professionals on so many levels. They have a great youth infrastructure with Loughborough and Charnwood, whose programmes are first-class, and a top educational system through the University. 

“Then you get to the club, and its vision in a sport that was always under the radar and never truly appreciated in the UK. The Riders have changed the way people look at basketball in the country. Their venue is the first of its kind, and it set the bar for the other clubs in the league.

“When my players can see all that, they see what professionalism looks like. They see how professionals put pride in their job, and their humility when they put their jerseys on for the fans.

“The Riders fanbase is amazing. The love and respect we get from those fans is humbling. They really get it.”

The relationship between USA Select and the Riders has thrived in no small part thanks to Head Coach Rob Paternostro. Coach to coach, the respect Kilmartin has for Paternostro is evident. 

“If there were a backgammon tournament or a thumb wrestling contest, he’d be competitive in that. That’s what I respect about him. From the tip to the buzzer, he’s your mortal enemy, but when the game is over, he’s got your back.

“We always have a player or two that has what it takes, and Rob is always one of the first to make an email or a call or help these guys get a start. A word from him, one of the most respected coaches in the game, can change the trajectory of their lives.”

And changing the trajectory of young people’s lives has been the mission of USA Select for decades. They’ve had great success in doing it. 

Two head coaches in the British Basketball League have come through the ranks of the programme: Sheffield’s Atiba Lyons and Machester’s Brian Semonian. They represent just a fraction of those who have gone on to enjoy successful careers. 

“Sometimes people think they have to be high-level ballers to join the tour. This isn’t the case. If you want the opportunity to play in high-level professional arenas and experience something new, there’s a place for you here. 

“From there, you can go be a good middle-school coach, a good father and a good person. That’s where the real success of our programme lies. The most successful people from USA Select use the experience to close the playing chapter of their lives, and go on to do great things.

“We still get phone calls from guys that did our camp in the 90s telling us how we’ve impacted their lives. That’s empowering. Now we have a history of helping young athletes, so that gives us a tangible, realistic opportunity for these players to build a career.

“A lot of these young men have never been coached at the level as Rob coaches the Riders. Our goal is to develop them along the way, whether they become professional or not. This experience will stay with them their whole lives”

As the Riders welcome USA Select through their doors once again, it will be an experience for the group that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Want to see USA Select in action?

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

Ticket information: USA Select

Leicester Riders tip off their preseason campaign at the Morningside Arena against USA Select. 

The game, played on Friday, September 8 2023, tips off at 7:45 pm, with doors open to fans at 5:45 pm. 

The Riders host USA Select every preseason during their annual tour of Europe, as they aim to give aspiring professional players exposure to European basketball clubs.

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket typePrice
Adult (16+)£10
Concession (65+ and students)£7.50
Child (Under 16)£5
Hospitality £25

All above tickets are unreserved seating and can be purchased with Loyalty Points.

Hospitality information

Our hospitality package includes the following benefits:

  • Paid bar
  • Access to the Granby mezzanine
  • Main meal served prior to the game
  • Exclusive courtside seating
  • Private toilet facilities

For more information, please contact [email protected].

T&C’s and bookie fees apply