Basketball: Riders face daunting task to preserve unbeaten run
Leicester Riders' unbeaten start to the season faces a stern test this weekend as they take on two of the BBL's leading contenders.
Riders play Plymouth Raiders at the John Sandford Centre tonight (7.30) before travelling to Surrey Heat tomorrow (3.0) – and both sides are in the top five having lost just one game each.
Despite topping the table and reaching the Cup semi-final, Riders' morale took a knock this week when it was confirmed that John Fraley was returning to America for knee surgery, ending his season which had started so brightly.
"We all feel bad for John, we feel it is unfair," said coach Rob Paternostro.
"In the first month-and-a-half, not only did he play well but he did everything you ask of a professional basketball player.
"We'll miss him as a person, he was very popular with the team and was a guy we all liked being around.
"I don't think it will change the way we compete this weekend, the guys have proven already this season that they are ready when the games come.
"In the future, we certainly have to look at our team a little differently than we did when we had John."
There can be fewer hard combinations of games than that which face Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders this weekend, with Plymouth widely tipped as title contenders during pre-season after accumulating a wealth of BBL talent.
Then it is a trip to Guildford tomorrow – with an earlier tip-off than any other team in the league and on the back of only 17 hours rest – to face a Heat side who have not played in seven days.
Paternostro said: "This will be our third back-to-back. If you look around at everyone's schedule, ours has been the most challenging – some of our guys think it's going to be like this every week!
"We approach it in the same way, we make sure we are ready physically, we concentrate on Saturday's game and, once that is out of the way, we turn our attention to Sunday."
He added: "Plymouth's Jeremy Bell was the MVP two years ago, everyone around the league knows he is one of the most explosive players in the BBL and he puts a lot of pressure on the defence.
"The other strength they have is experience. You look at Matthew Schneck, Andrew Lasker, Colin O'Reilly and Anthony Rowe, and they've all had some great seasons in the BBL. We've seen them all for a while and they all play very well.
"Surrey are playing good defence this season and it seems to me that they have a nice chemistry.
"They have some experience too, and it is always a difficult place to go to on a Sunday afternoon."
Riders: Okoro, Couisnard, Stewart, Sullivan, Calvo, Hopkins, Taylor, Anderson, Washington, Lamble, Haggith, Gould, Dawes, Maynard, Losonsky.
Raiders: Bell, Ojo,Hall, Barnett, Potter, O'Reilly, Lasker, Schneck, Rowe.
Heat: C Holmes, F Holmes, Margai, Cricelli, Raftopoulos, Simek, Joseph, Seipt, Adams, McLemore, Lewis-Parry, Hughes, Swaine.