Basketball: First home encounter for Force set to rock

Matt Newby.
Matt Newby.
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Eight years on from their first game as a university programme, Leeds Force host their first fixture as a fully-fledged member of the British basketball elite tonight.

Leeds Force host Glasgow Rocks in the BBL at the Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett University, their home throughout their rise up the national league pyramid and now the venue they need to transform into a BBL stronghold.

For it is on the court and off the court that they will be judged after being invited to be one of two expansion teams to join the top tier of the sport in this country.

That welcome was extended late last year, since when the club formerly known as Leeds Carnegie has been planning for this night.

But in truth, Matt Newby, the club’s director of basketball, has been planning for an occasion like this since the club’s inception in 2006.

Now they are here, the man whose responsibility it is to put a competitive team out on the court, appreciates that a balance has to be struck tonight between marking the occasion and winning the game.

“Tonight’s game will hopefully be a celebration about what’s been achieved over the last few years,” said Newby, who was there on the very first day of the journey.

“The outcome is important, but to be playing a home game in the British Basketball League is really a significant achievement in itself.

“If we can take a result off a pedigree side like Glasgow it would be absolutely fantastic.

“But let’s not forget, that just the fact that we are here, that we are in our second game and that we are making moves like a proper professional club should, is something to be really proud of.”

This is the second time Leeds have hosted a BBL standard game.

Back in January they welcomed Glasgow in the BBL Trophy, a competition they were entered in that proved a testing ground for their capacity to stage a match of that magnitude.

A crowd in excess of 500 – an increase of nearly 200 on their National League attendance –were treated to an entertaining, if one-sided game, while children and families were given plenty of off-the-court entertainment to ensure the game was as much an occasion as it was a sporting contest.

That full court press on and off the floor is important if they are to cement their status among the elite.

Ultimately though, it is in the four quarters of basketball that a squad made up of local lads, North American exports and promising British players will be judged.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the camp in terms of us putting on an event,” said Newby, whose side were beaten 80-46 at Durham Wildcats in their first game of the season last Sunday.

“But on the court, there’s a lot of the guys want to prove that Sunday was a blip.

“We have said all along that we want to be competitive and that scoreline doesn’t reflect that.

“To lose by 34 points was unacceptable.

“I don’t think you can put it down to nerves.

“We were well prepared but we were poor when it came to executing offensively.

“That was our undoing. We also turned the ball over too often and they converted on those opportunities.

“The scoreline doesn’t reflect the game properly, but we certainly learned a few lessons.

“It was an eye-opener for us, one that makes us realise what it’s going to take at this level to compete.

“I still genuinely feel we can take games off the likes of Durham Wildcats if we’re at our best.

“From our point of view in terms of work ethic we have to match the intensity that comes from the opposition.”

Tip-off tonight is at 7.30pm at the Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett Univerity.

Tickets are available on the door.

Danny Nelson.

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