Leeds Force captain Armand Anebo has fired a warning to rival teams who dismiss his side as fodder, writes NICK WESTBY.
The BBL rookies claimed their long-awaited first win of the league season last Friday night against Surrey United but remain at the bottom of the standings.
They have shown in recent weeks in particular that they can be competitive in the elite tier of British basketball, and are making gradual improvements.
But Anebo, a veteran of the Leeds programme going back to their not-so-distant days in the National League pyramid, has warned that those within the league who write his team off are in for a shock.
“Pretty much most people thought we’d not get a win all season,” said the Ivorian-born 26-year-old forward ahead of tonight’s home game with fellow BBL newcomers Bristol Flyers.
“Certain people were saying we’d not got the personnel to compete, and other such things.
“They thought we couldn’t do it. That’s just made us want it more.”
Proving the doubters wrong with that comprehensive victory over Surrey United last Friday night was particularly sweet. “The dominant emotion was relief,” added Anebo, who wants his team to back that performance up in their two games this weekend.
“It was really pleasing to get that win. It’s been tough, but we’re slowly getting there.”
For Anebo it has been a particularly tough baptism.
He is one of only four players left over from the club’s National League days when they were known simply as Leeds Carnegie.
Now in his fourth year with the club, the former London Towers player who was born in the Ivory Coast and lived in France during his teenage years, has had to step up his game quickly.
“It’s a big challenge for me, it’s a big step up from what I was used to,” he added.
“The BBL is a test of your mental attributes as much as anything.
“As a player I think I’m getting there and I’m pleased with how I’m progressing.
“I always knew I could play at this level. It’s a big achievement and I’m very proud.
“I always think about legacy in these instances.
“We are the first players to represent Leeds in the BBL. We are the first Leeds team to win the a game in the BBL. They’re big accomplishments and we’re laying the foundations for the future.”
Anebo also has the added distinction – and responsibility – of being the club’s first captain at the top level.
He said: “I’m enjoying being captain, it’s been a challenge and I’m learning as I go.
“As long as you bring leadership skills and are there for your team and make sure they can rely on you, then those are the principles I’m working to.”
The Force welcome Bristol Flyers to the Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett University tonight (7.30pm) before heading to the capital on Sunday (4pm) to play London Lions in the Copperbox at the Olympic Park.
Leeds’s director of professional basketball Matt Newby said: “We have a good four or five years of history in playing Bristol.
“That adds an extra dimension to tonight’s game.”
With such a short turnaround between games, Leeds have been focussing this week on their own game plan, rather than worrying about how other teams might play.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time,” continued Newby, ahead of fixtures against two teams with four wins apiece.
“The reality is our squad is young. Each game we should treat as a positive experience because it’s our first year in the league.
“We should be relishing match-ups with the biggest clubs, not fearing them.”