Basketball: Leicester Riders' new boys will be unleashed against Team USA
Leicester Riders fans will get their first look at the new faces in Rob Paternostro's squad this weekend.
The Jelson Homes DMU-backed team face a touring Team USA at the John Sandford Centre tonight (7.0), and the same teams meet again tomorrow evening (7.0) at Riders' home.
Paternostro has retained a core of Great Britain players, led by the returning GB captain Drew Sullivan.
Jamell Anderson, a member of the Great Britain Futures team, and Conor Washington, a GB Under-21 player, also return from last season's team, which achieved their highest-ever finish in the BBL Championship and were beaten play-off finalists.
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Another returnee is Riders' longest-serving player, England international Barry Lamble, who is back for his seventh season at the club.
With the retirement of charismatic point-guard Cameron Rundles and shooting-guard Bradd Wierzbicki also hanging up his boots, Paternostro has gone far and wide to find replacements.
Coming in from the Spanish League is athletic guard Jorge Calvo, who is a pass-first, shoot-second player and who will be tasked with keeping Riders' offence moving.
New point-guard Zaire Taylor had an exceptional time at Missouri University in the USA, followed by a rookie year in the pros in the Dutch League.
Last season, centre Brett Royster suffered a series of injuries and was not helped by continued foul trouble as he struggled to adjust to officiating in Britain, so Paternostro has gone for another rookie from the USA in 6ft 8in John Fraley to man the middle of his defence and command the boards.
Bolstering Fraley and Lamble will be another new entry to the BBL, and another 6ft 8in player, Slovakian international Pavel Losonsky.
With Riders unable to persuade the agent of last season's BBL MVP runner-up, Ayron Hardy, to even consider an offer from England, Paternostro had the biggest pair of boots to fill. He has gone with another first-timer to the pro ranks in forward Jay Couisnard, who has a pedigree as a top-class performer at both ends of the court and is tipped to be one of the top scorers in the BBL.
Emile Hopkins returns to Riders after a spell in the English National League, and guard Will Maynard is back from a year at college in the USA.
The link-up with Loughborough University has started to bear fruit with Riders' expanded squad this season including GB Under-20 player John Stewart, as well as up-and coming youngsters Jerelle Okoro, Reece Haggith, Remy Pold, Ramiah O'Neill, Damian Cope, John Gould and Jordan Dawes.
Paternostro is pleased with his summer's work and said: "We have an athletic team, with a lot of flexibility, and the competition for places will be intense.
"I have a lot of options on how I might want to play, and the team is coming together nicely. We have had to do a little team rebuilding, but I really like what we got."
The match against Team USA is the ideal preparation ahead of next weekend's BBL tip-off.
Paternostro added: "We know they will be competitive and they have a lot of guys looking to hook up with teams in Europe, so we will have a job on our hands."
Tomorrow's game is already a sell-out, but there are a handful of tickets available for tonight. Call the Riders office on 01162 558635, as none are expected to be available on the door.