YORICK, BLOOD BACK IN MK AS NEW ERA DAWNS

Milton Keynes Lions rookie coach Mike New believes his ‘new’ look squad can hit the ground running this weekend in their season debut.

The American, who stepped from being assistant in the summer, will take charge of his first competitive tie when the Lions meet Leicester Riders in the BBL Trophy at their temporary home at Stoke Mandeville.

New oversaw an overhaul that has seen the exit of several familiar faces including long-serving captain Dru Spinks. However the Lions have re-signed veteran Robert Youngblood – now the league’s oldest player – and former England international Yorick Williams to retain some degree of continuity.

“Our pre-season has gone very well,” said New.

“The guys had been on our conditioning program since mid-way through the summer and showed up to camp in really good condition. Everyone is comfortable with the style that we want to play and eager to get started.

“The new players are settling in as I would have expected, they are fast learners and are working hard get their timing and chemistry in sync.”

New watched Riders in their 80-70 victory against Essex Pirates last weekend and believes that his team face a tough game on Sunday.

“Riders are obviously working to build chemistry in game-play, as is every other team at the beginning of the season. One thing for sure is that Rob (Paternostro) will have them ready to play when it’s time for the jump ball. But similar to us here in MK, there have been quite a few player changes at Riders.”

Meanwhile, Lions owner Vince Macaulay is planning to create a multi-purpose facility that will give his club both a home court and a stream of revenue that can put them on a secure financial footing.

Work is already under way to convert a warehouse in the centre of Milton Keynes into a 1200-seater venue which will become the BBL team’s new base from next month.

Having signed a three-year lease, it all but ends hopes of a move into the mothballed MK:Arena building which sits next to MK Dons football stadium. However having rejected other options, including a move to the Planet Ice centre, Macaulay believes the chosen alternative could be the best switch of all.

“We’ll have two halls: one a court and the other which will have training facilities and a fitness room,” he revealed.

“We’ll also have a bar, a learning centre and some office space which can hopefully generate income for us which we can plough back into the club.

“The Arena is still a shell, it needs £1.5 million to finish it, and that money is not available. We’ve already made one move, from Bletchey to Middleton Hall, and we were let down there.

“So I just felt it was time to take control of our own situation. I think the days of BBL clubs renting has to come to an end and it’s about us doing what we feel is best for us.”

Read an exclusive interview with Yorick Williams – as you’ve never heard him before. In Issue 1 of MVP Magazine, out October 4.

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