Leeds force chief Matt Newby believes the BBL rookies have made huge strides over the last fortnight, writes Nick Westby.
Force claimed their long-awaited first league win over Surrey United on Friday night before running established club Leicester Riders close on Sunday in a 71-62 defeat that will be screened on British Eurosport 2 tomorrow night.
All this after they matched Newcastle Eagles – the Liverpool of British basketball – the week before in the quarter-final of the BBL Cup.
Newby, the club’s director of professional basketball and first-team head coach, said: “We have made some big strides in the last couple of weeks and that is down to the dedication of the players, the diligence of the coaching staff and the local support coming through the door.
“When we needed a lift against Surrey, they were there to give us that lift, and that made a big difference to us.”
Leeds took charge from the first minute against Surrey and never looked back in a game they had to win.
The Force sat bottom of the 13-team BBL after defeats in their opening six games, and knew another defeat to a Surrey side that sat just one place and one win above them could cause irreperable damage to their reputation and morale.
“If we want to be considered as being competitive in the league then we had to take that game, and we did,” added Newby.
“We needed to prove a point and hopefully we did.
“The emotion at the end was a little bit of relief, but also a reassurance that we are going in the right direction.
“The confidence all stemmed from the cup game at Newcastle; that gave us a bit of a boost. Although we lost, we came off the court knowing that in terms of the level of performance, we had improved again.
“And that has to be the starting point for us.”
Leeds host their fellow BBL inductees Bristol Flyers on Friday night at Leeds Beckett University, before a trip to the capital on Sunday to face London Lions.
Before that, fans of the developing club can watch the game at Leicester – in which James McCann top scored with 16 points – on British Eurosport 2 at 6.45pm tomorrow.
Newby said: “Being given the opportunity this early in the season to be shown on television is a nice nod from the league that we deserve to be playing at this level.”