Basketball: Leeds Force set new goals after rise up the table

James McCann of Leeds Force.

James McCann of Leeds Force.

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Leeds Force want a minimum of four more wins to reach their season’s target but are not writing off reaching the top eight and the BBL play-offs.

The Yorkshire rookies have won six games to date in their first season in the elite tier as they head into the final third of Championship fixtures.

They have picked up a win, on average, every three or four games. Some of those have been against teams around them in the standings, with the odd victory at seasoned teams like Sheffield Sharks and London Lions making the league sit up and take note.

A continuation of that return in their final 11 games will see them reach their target, but director of basketball Matt Newby is not capping his team’s ambition. Results last weekend when they were inactive were not kind, leaving them four wins adrift of the top eight, but Newby has not given up hope.

“We could have benefitted a little better last week but we can still achieve double-digit wins,” said Newby.

“Whether we can push for the top eight or not depends on how the top teams fare. If they win out against the teams around us then it gives us a chance.

“Top eight is still achievable but our focus has to be on winning double-digit games and closing out the season having earned the respect of the league.

“We’ve probably earned that respect already, but we don’t want to rest on that, we want to finish at a sprint, not a canter.

“If that sprint takes us into the top eight, then great. If not, then a top-10 finish would be very pleasing in our first year.”

Force have been sent back into the transfer market this week following the departure of forward Sam Attah who made a big impact in his time with the team before leaving for rivals Surrey United.

With Great Britain star Devon van Oostrum signing for just one game before departing, and Giordano Estrada not acclimatising after arriving from America, it shows the challenge Leeds face in their recruitment.

Conversely that emphasises the impact of James McCann, the 22-year-old guard who came over from San Diego in the summer with little knowledge of the club, the city or the league.

But Newby has praised the professionalism of one of their leading scorers.

“James has been outstanding and that is down to his aptitude and his attitude,” said Newby. “He gives 100 per cent all the time and you cannot fault someone like that.

“If he’s had a disappointing game or a disappointing quarter he has bounced back immediately.

“He’s had to carry a lot on his shoulders and he’s managed that brilliantly.”

Force hope to have Oli Hylands, Will Hall, Paul Holland and Dwayne Camille available for this weekend’s double-header, starting with Leicester Riders at Leeds Beckett tonight and at Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday.

Rob Marsden

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