Basketball: Leeds Carnegie ready for step into unknown

Leeds Carnegie basketball director of coaching Matt Newby during locker room chat.

Leeds Carnegie basketball director of coaching Matt Newby during locker room chat.

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Elite basketball comes to Leeds for the first time tonight as Carnegie go head-to-head with powerhouse franchise Glasgow Rocks.

Leeds welcome the Rocks to the Carnegie Sports Arena in Headingley in the first round of the British Basketball League Trophy.

A record crowd of 750 is expected for what is a fixture that will prove a significant yardstick for Carnegie who have been accepted into the BBL for next year.

The programme has been run from the university since 2006.

After climbing the national ranks they have been identified by the sport’s governing body as being worthy of a place in the elite tier of the sport in this country.

Carnegie will join the BBL from next season, but as one of the more progressive teams in the national structure, they have been invited to make up the numbers in the BBL Trophy this season.

Overcoming the Rocks tonight may prove beyond them at this juncture, as they continue to build for next season while simultaneously challenging for National League Division One honours.

But with a near sell-out crowd cheering them on, a successful night on and off the court could pave the way for a bright future for the programme at the top level.

“Basketball is a sport you can sell, it just needs to be sold correctly,” said Matt Newby, Carnegie’s head coach and the man who has led the programme since its inception eight years ago.

“If we can follow the same lines hopefully we’ll be able to contribute to that growth. Leeds is the third biggest city in the country and it’s a great market place for the sport.

“The BBL are making big efforts to get involved with the right partners again, to get exposure in the right way, and over time you will see the sport come to the fore.

“We know there’s a huge sporting market in Leeds, but hopefully people will realise we offer something different.”

Leeds Carnegie is traditionally a university team, and while the programme will retain those roots, they will operate as a BBL franchise independent of Leeds Metropolitan University.

They plan to stay true to their ethos of developing homegrown players, but have already begun recruiting heavily for their new challenge next season.

Newby has an extensive list of contacts in Europe and North America, and allied with the fact that players who come to the club can also further their education at Leeds Met, he has been able to secure a number of imports.

The latest to arrive and who will debut tonight is 6’9” American power forward Russell Permenter, who has played in America, China, Thailand and latterly Australia.

Newby said: “Russell brings us a new look on the interior and a great attitude towards both his own development and the evolution of the team between now and the close of the season. His mobility and athletic play at both ends of the floor will help considerably.”

Permenter said: “I will be looking to bring a style of play that I hope the fans enjoy. I am hoping to help the club achieve success on and off the court.”

Tip-off tonight is 7.30pm, doors open 6.30pm.

Rob Marsden

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