Leeds Force have always taken great pride in pointing out the progress they have made on their journey into the British Basketball League.
One win every four games last year was a respectable return in their rookie season in the professional ranks while a victory over Manchester Giants last Sunday saw them climb into the BBL’s top eight and the play-off places.
But ahead of a trip to Leicester Riders tonight, their marginal gains received a glowing endorsement from guard Tyler Bernardini, who has helped Leicester climb to second in a season in which they have been beaten only once.
“Leeds are a confident group,” said Bernardini. “They have some talent, their big guys are really tough and they have good guards that are tough and dynamic. They have done a good job of improving their roster, we know they’re going to be coached well and they are going to be coming here ready to play us, ready to fight.”
Such a strong reference is music to the ears of Matt Newby, the Force’s director of basketball, who dragged the club from a university programme into the top flight of British basketball within a decade.
“It’s nice to have the respect of your peers,” said Newby. “If these comments are coming from players and coaches from the top teams then that’s a nice place to be.
“It shows we have travelled a bit further down the path.
“It gives me confidence in what we are trying to do as a programme and confidence in the players we have recruited and a bit of self-belief in the basketball we are trying to play.
“We have got a little bit more depth this season and a little bit more potential in relation to the ‘what’s next’ players that we are developing.”
On the challenge facing his side tonight, Newby added: “We see this as an opportunity. Ultimately for me it’s a challenge when we meet the top teams and I’ve been trying to hammer that point home to the boys this week.”