Basketball: Force to be reckoned with in the pro’ league

Leeds Force director of basketball Matt Newby.
Leeds Force director of basketball Matt Newby.
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Leeds Force say they are ready to take the biggest leap in their history as their first season in the professional BBL draws ever closer.

The National League play-off champions have been elevated to the elite ranks of the sport in this country just eight years after their inception.

Their first game in the BBL is next Sunday at Durham Wildcats, with the historic first home game at the Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett Univesity now just two weeks away tonight.

That date with Glasgow Rocks on Friday, October 3, has been in the minds of everyone involved in a programme that has ballooned this summer as the club formerly known as Leeds Carnegie prepare to take the BBL by Force.

“Everything we have done has felt that little bit more significant because of the leap we are making and the changes that are happening,” said Matt Newby, Leeds Force’s director of basketball.

“It’s our first season in the professional ranks of the biggest league in the country, we are a new identity and part of our responsibility is to showcase basketball to the educated and the un-educated.

“Throughout the club and business, we’ve had to develop and expand and ramp up what we do because this is a big step for us. So it’s a huge undertaking, but an exciting one.”

Newby has been with the club since its inception in 2006,and has been at the forefront of the dramatic changes throughout the organisation.

Through all the expansion of playing staff, academy and office personnel, he has attempted to retain control of his No 1 priority – being the team’s head coach.

“For me in terms of my role as director of basketball, I’ve got to be visible at every level, from professionals to the juniors,” said Newby, speaking from an academy camp run by the Force just a week and a half from the start of the season.

“I love doing that, and I have the coaching staff in place that supports me.”

He added: “Pre-season has been a little more intense than we’ve known in the past.

“We’ve recruited far and wide as we have done in each of the last eight seasons, and that brings the challenges of the players getting to know you, their surroundings, the team and the city.

“There’s certainly been a difference to our preparations across the board because we are stepping up to the professional ranks and that’s going to be a test.

“But we’re almost at the starting gate now.

“We’ve been pleased with how our recruitment has gone. I’d like to think we’ve made the additions that will help us be competitive, which is our aim for our first season.

“We are still to see our full complement of players on the floor at one time, we’re carrying a few niggles as any team is. Will Hall, for instance, one of our new recruits is still two weeks away from full fitness.

“When you ramp up the intensity of pre-season – and we’ve had a full-on schedule – then injuries are part and parcel, but we’ve had to make our preparations physically demanding because of the challenge that lies ahead.”

Leeds Force conclude their pre-season schedule against Sheffield Sharks tomorrow, their rivals from south of the county who are one if the more established franchises they will be sharing the court with in the new 15-team BBL.

Tip-off is 4pm at the sports arena at Leeds Beckett University and tickets are available on the door.