Leeds force head coach Matt Newby has hailed his side’s three American imports for the positive impact they have had on the club.
Forward Jermaine Sanders, 24, and 25-year-old guards Robert Sandoval and Jack Isenbarger all arrived at the Carnegie Sports Arena in the summer.
It is the nature of basketball that British teams need an injection of American talent and nous to complement their homegrown players, but attracting the right imports can be a hit and miss affair. Newby is reliant on what he and his coaching staff see from video footage, plus what information he can glean from scouts in the United States.
For every Marek Klaasen who arrived last January and elevated the Force into the BBL play-offs in just their second season in the league before moving up to Worcester Wolves, there is a myriad number of players who come over to British clubs and are gone within a month.
However, the early signs are that Newby and his team have made sage choices this time around.
“They are humble guys who are all very hungry,” said Newby.
“We know where we are as a programme – these guys come over here to use as a platform to go on to either the bigger teams in the BBL, or the bigger teams in Europe. So we have to be diligent in who we sign.
“Sandoval has been great at the point guard position. He’s given us consistency at the position.
“Jack Isenbarger is a stud athlete and an excellent shooter. Not only that but he has brought such a positive attitude.
“And Jermaine Sanders has brought great pedigree as well. He’s very consistent and all three of them have brought with them great professionalism.”
Newby has been encouraged with how well they have integrated with existing members of the squad as well as the younger players who continue to make the most of Leeds’ talent pathway.
Local teenagers Micah Savery-Richards and Jaka Pandza continue to go from strength-to-strength after earning international schoolboy honours in the summer.
They have both broken into the first team this year and in the case of 17-year-old Savery-Richards, have been attracting the attentions of scouts from colleges and preparatory schools in the United States.
Their integration into the senior set-up, along with the strong starts of the American imports, has been timely given the injuries to a trio of senior players.
Force, who have begun the league season with a win and a loss, are without captain Armand Anebo (knee) and experienced Oliver Hylands (ankle) until mid-November, while Rob Marsden is also not fully fit.
“Those older heads bring balance to the squad,” said Newby, “so we’re missing them.”
Force face a stiff challenge at the Carnegie Sports Arena on Friday (7.30pm) when they welcome Leicester Riders, who are unbeaten after four games.
“We cannot be naive. We’ve got players out with injury so we will have to be at our very best if we are to win the game,” said Newby, whose Force side shocked the Riders en route to the play-offs late last season.
“It’s a good time to get a team like Leicester. They may not have found their identity yet and we might catch them out.”