Leeds Force head coach Matt Newby has warned Sheffield Sharks that the BBL rookies won’t be pushed around tonight in the first ever Yorkshire derby at the highest level.
Newcomers Force welcome the long-established and storied Sharks to Leeds Beckett University (7.30).
It is the first competitive meeting between the two White Rose clubs, but they did meet in a tasty pre-season game which Sheffield won.
There was a little needle between the two sets of players, with Newby admitting both clubs – while welcoming the competition for the good of the sport – are keen to demonstrate they are the best in Yorkshire.
“It’s safe to say it was like that,” said Newby, when asked about the physicality of the ‘friendly’ in September.
“It was a physical game with everybody out to prove that they wouldn’t back down.
“Sheffield wanted to prove that they had been around for a lot longer.
“They wanted to remind us that we were the new boys – and we don’t have a problem with that. So already it’s a game that has a bit of an edge.
“Plus, they’re only on three wins, so there’s that at stake as well, the chance for us to move alongside them and climb the ladder a bit.”
Leeds have two wins to their name from their 12 league games so far, and go into tonight’s game still smarting from the failure to make that three against London Lions last Friday.
“It was quite a tough one to take,” said Newby of the 64-61 defeat.
“We were great for a huge portion of the game and played strong defence. We negated the threat of their star players, two of the biggest names in the league.
“But once again we proved we can match the stronger teams and are competitive in this league. Unfortunately the things we are lacking in at the moment can only be improved upon through experience.
“The evidence is there, because we are in games and the lads have a lot to be proud of.
“What we don’t have is the years on court, but as long as we take lessons and identify the positives, then we’ll continue to improve.”
That experience they lack, Sheffield have in abundance.
Since forming in 1991, they have won the BBL league four times, the play-offs once, the Cup six times and the Trophy on another three occasions.
The Sharks have accelerated the growth of the game in Sheffield, just as Force have been doing in Leeds since the basketball programme started out of Leeds Beckett University in 2006.
Together, the hope is that they can grow the sport through their rivalry.
“Sheffield are one of the important markers for us,” said Newby, who has overseen a community and junior programme similar to the one in operation at the Sharks.
“They have been the leading team in basketball from Yorkshire for a long time.
“To prove ourselves against a team of such heritage and legacy will stand us in good stead.
“And it’s good for the region to have this rivalry to grow the game. It’s a great new rivalry for basketball and it’s great for the sport in Yorkshire. We’re hoping to get a decent turnout from both clubs.
“In terms of showing who we are and where we’ve come from, it doesn’t get any bigger.”
New signing Giordano Estrada is in line to make his debut tonight for Force.