‘Every game’s like a play-off final, teams will come for us’
WOUNDED RIDERS AIM TO BOUNCE BACK AGAINST A ‘HUNGRY’ MANCHESTER GIANTS
LEICESTER Riders travel to Manchester to take on the Giants for the third and final time in the BBL Championship tomorrow afternoon (5pm) at the National Basketball Centre.
Riders have beaten the Giants twice so far – at home in overtime, 116-109 – and away in Manchester five weeks ago, 91-77.
The Giants have since changed their head coach, bringing in the experienced Lloyd Gardner to replace Danny Byrne, notwithstanding the strides made this season by a relatively young and inexperienced squad.
Garner was previously head coach at London City Royals.
The team itself has also been chopped and changed with the very talented centre Breaon Brady a big miss, after he left four weeks into the new year.
In his place has come Stockportborn 7ft centre Aaron Geramipoor.
The 28 year-old is a product of the Manchester Magic junior programme and returns after a decade of a globe-trotting career.
Geramipoor represents the Iranian
national team, most prominently during a breakout World Cup 2019 campaign in which he averaged 10 points and six rebounds, shooting 70 per cent.
That included five games against opponents such as Spain – the number two ranked nation that went on to win the World Cup – as well as Puerto Rico, Tunisia and Angola.
Geramipoor is averaging over 17 points and five rebounds per game for the Giants.
The Giants’ mid-season was interrupted by Covid, which caused them to forfeit their place in the semifinals of the BBL Cup, and since then their form has been up and down.
But they remain in the hunt for a play-off spot which would be a big improvement on last season.
Americans Sam Cassell and Donovan Marshall-Johnson have been consistent performers all season, with Cassell one of the best pull-up shooters in the BBL.
Cassell is averaging over 14 points and four assists per game, while Marshall-Johnson is contributing 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game.
The other recent recruit is American forward Justin Satchell who provides a steady 11 points and eight rebounds per game.
Manchester have lots of firepower, and like to play a high tempo game, with some talented one-on-one players.
Their challenges tend to be at the defensive end of the floor – in their last home game they conceded 101 points to an in-form Plymouth Raiders.
Riders head coach Rob Paternostro knows they will have their work cut out against a team desperate to keep their play-off hopes alive.
“They will be well rested and very hungry,” he said.
“They have a lot of guys who can score the ball, and the first time we played them in Leicester they shot the lights out.
“So, our defence will again be the key, and we really must look after the ball.
“They have a new coach with a new philosophy, so it will take a little time for their guys to adjust, but we also will be facing something of an unknown.
“But we have some harsh lessons to learn from Tuesday night and the most important thing will be to be well rested and bring a lot of energy.
“Every game in the BBL is like a play-off final and we are top of the league and know teams will come after us.
“We have had to make adjustments without Geno Crandall because he was such a dominant player, but we need more guys to step up.
“There are no must-win games yet, but we want to bounce back from Tuesday’s heavy loss.”
Leicester Riders: Corey Johnson, Jamell Anderson, Geno Crandall, Zach Jackson, Darien Nelson-Henry, William Lee, Conner Washington, Ali Fraser, Aaron Falzon, Greg Wild, Kyle Jimenez, Justin Hedley, Mo Walker.
Manchester Giants: Sam Cassell Jr, Zak Powell, Alex Quandie, Donovan Marshall-Johnson, Justin Satchell, Tyrell Brown, Joe Heyes, David Ulph, Jordan Whelan, Franklin Agu, Aaron Geramipoor, Jack Hudson.