Despite players and coaching staff playing down the chances of Leicester Riders defending last season’s silverware treble, Rob Paternostro’s team has started the season in winning style, heading into this weekend’s game against Cheshire Jets at 6-1.
Last weekend’s 74-62 win over fellow pace-setters Worcester Wolves also saw the Riders head into the semi-finals of the BBL Cup, with Paternostro’s battling side the better of the two teams down the stretch.
Boasting strength in depth, the Riders roster includes 11 players who have all been playing regular minutes whilst making valuable contributions to games. Defence has again been the Riders’ calling card, but one player continues to transcend the stats collated in games’ box scores – Drew Sullivan.
Perhaps not a surprise, considering his vast experience and versatility of basketball in the BBL, Sullivan has performed in various roles on the floor and, in the opinion of his head coach, has become a player incredibly difficult to plan for.
“From watching Drew over the years, he has so many ways that he can impact a game,” said Riders’ head coach Rob Paternostro.
“I think that there are players out there – great players – who, if they don’t impact a game in certain areas, you could consider it an off-night.
“With Drew, he finds ways to impact a game, not only on how his particular night is going, but how the team’s night is going. It’s very interesting to watch him figure out what the team needs and impact the game that way.
“Both games last weekend were evident of that,” Rob continued.
“On Saturday night, he became an interior defender for us and at other times he was a facilitator. On Sunday afternoon, when we needed a bucket, he was able to do it. Just watching him figure out ways to impact a game has been nice to see. It’s almost hard to game plan for a player like that, because if one thing is concentrated on, he will find another way to beat you.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game against Cheshire Phoenix, who take on the Riders on Saturday before welcoming London Lions to Northgate on Sunday, Paternostro admits that the side is different to the one faced earlier in the season.
Phoenix head coach John Lavery’s acquisition of forwards Gerald Robinson and Victor Moses, in addition to British guard Devan Bailey; have provided a signal of intent. However, Paternostro admits that his focus will largely be on Leicester, as opposed to Saturday’s opponents.
“When you watch them, you can clearly see the talent that they have in different areas all over the court,” he said.
“When they start to flow and get into a rhythm, they’re as talented a group as we’ll be playing against this season.
“We’ll go about this game in the same way that we approach any team,” Paternostro added.
“We will look at individuals and how they play, but we want to play our style of basketball. That will mean that we play a lot of players and make everything difficult. We understand that teams will make shots against us, but I feel that we’re at our best when we’re making things difficult for opposing teams.”