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 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 and we know they’re going to be coached well.”
Such a strong reference is music to the ears of Matt Newby, Force’s head coach, 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. “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.”
Sheffield Sharks host to Surrey Scorchers tomorrow (Sunday) looking to close the gap on the BBL Championship top four.
Sharks guard Mike Cook said: “We have been getting into a better rhythm defensively, our offence isn’t where we want it to be but we are able to get stops on defence now.”