Leeds Force: If we’re in the mix we’ll be happy – Newby

Oliver Hylands.
Oliver Hylands.
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Leeds Force have set a target simply to be competitive in their first season at the top level of British basketball.

The programme formed at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2006 has risen quickly through the ranks and their maiden campaign in the BBL begins on Sunday at Durham Wildcats.

Paying deference to the standard of opposition they will face on a weekly basis, the rookies are mindful not to make brash statements.

Finishing in the top eight of 13 teams, therefore securing a place in the end-of-season play-offs, would represent a significant achievement.

But in their first season among the elite, last season’s National League play-off champions merely hope to prove their worth.

“If we are competitive this season, then that will represent a success for us,” said Matt Newby, Force’s director of basketball.

“We can’t go around shouting our mouths off.

“And we can’t start predicting our record in terms of wins and losses is a difficult one to play.

“In terms of our aspirations, if we could finish in the top eight and reach the play-offs, then that would be a huge success for us.

“But the minimum aim for us, is we have to make sure we are competitive.”

To ensure they meet that requirement, Newby has challenged himself, his coaching staff and his players to ensure they work tirelessly between games to be prepared for everything that established clubs like Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks will throw at them on a weekly basis.

“One of the keys for us this year will be ensuring we are as physically and mentally prepared as we possibly can, every time we step on the floor,” added Newby.

“If we can begin every game confident that we have met that standard, then that’s all we can do, and we’ll only be disappointed in ourselves if we haven’t done that.

“The way the guys have worked in the pre-season has been very encouraging. They’ve had two days rest since the end of August. We’ve had some tough pre-season games and they’ve worked hard on the floor and also in the gym on their strength and conditioning.

“In terms of preparation, I don’t think we could have done any more.

“The scouting has gone well, we know our opponents well, though some have yet to finalise their rosters which makes it difficult, but we are ready.

“In terms of the brand of basketball we will playing, this will evolve over time but our focus initially will be constructing our defensive system and preparing for managing the talent other rosters have.”

Tomorrow’s opponents Durham Wildcats are entering their 10th year in the BBL and will offer an early take on just how sizable the step up in class will be for the Force.

As will next Friday’s opponents, Glasgow Rocks, who head to the sports arena at Leeds Beckett University for the historic first home game for Leeds Force.

As much as being competitive on the court is a driver over the coming months, so is the need to retain a fanbase in excess of 300 and build on that.

“Away from the floor the aim is to attract to converts to basketball in our fanbase,” he said.

“At times during the season we’ll see new faces come through the door, and it’s our job to entertain them and give them a reason to come back. Basketball is a short, exciting game; there’s points being scored and a chance to cheer every 30 seconds.

“The pace of the game lends itself to a spectator sport.

“We demonstrated we can put on a show when we played Glasgow in January in the BBL Trophy. The feedback we got that night was positive.

“We now have to do that for every home game.”

Newby added: “This is a really exciting time for us, it’s been a long time coming and a lot of people have sacrificed a lot of hours to get us here.

“As long as we do that justice, I’ll be pleased.”

Tavarion Nix of Leeds Force goes to the basket against Surrey Scorchers (Picture: Alex Daniels)

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