Leeds StannardHead coach Matt Newby has described the next few months as hugely important for Leeds Carnegie as his side prepares for life in the BBL.

The club was established back in 2006 and will compete in the top-flight for the first time, marking an historic achievement for the Yorkshire based side.

“This summer is huge,” Newby claimed. “On the court, it’s about finding the right guys and continuing to develop our players. Then off the court, we have to make sure that everything is right and remain committed to what we are trying to do.”

He added: “It means a great deal to the club and for the people that have been involved from the start. Moving on to the BBL from a University based programme in eight years is an endorsement of the work ethic of the programme.”

While last season saw one of the most competitive starts to a BBL season, the struggles at the bottom left an unfavourably familiar sight. Birmingham Knights, in what was their first season, emulated the infamous 0-33 record of the Mersey Tigers meaning for the second consecutive season, the bottom placed team failed to register a single victory.

There will be fears of repeat failures given the strength of the teams at the top, but Newby remains positive and believes his side are capable of holding their own in the BBL.

“It’s never easy for a new team and the legacy of recent teams isn’t great but we have to be competitive right away. We believe in what we do and we want to be competing with the best teams in the league with aspirations of being contenders over time. It comes down to the level of commitment in understanding the demands of the league.”

Plymouth Raiders have set an early marker by signing four players for next season and Carnegie boss Newby has also wasted little time in beginning to assemble his own roster. Austrian guard Matthias Weissl is the first to be confirmed after agreeing on a two-year-deal in conjunction with a Masters degree at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Speaking of his new recruit, Newby said: “He fits the mould of what we’re trying to do. It’s a big decision from him, using basketball as a vehicle to further his education. On the court, he’s a threat from the arc and has a high basketball I.Q with a well-rounded game. He’s a mature guy that wants to get better and will fit into the style of team basketball that we want.”

“The two-year-deal is great because it works both ways. We get continuity and consistency in our personnel and they get to study over an extended period of time. That takes the pressure off the players, which is extremely important for us.”

Newby revealed that the club are set to confirm another signing on Friday and there will be further announcements in due course. The aim is to be competitive and Leeds’ head-coach hasn’t ruled out utilising the available import slots whilst continuing to develop young British talent within the system.

“We’ve gone East (Europe) and West (America) before, but it’s not about nationality, it’s about finding players with the right skillset that compliment the direction of the club. We’ll know more about our current crop of players in the next few weeks as some will be moving on whereas others, that are young and in the system, will continue to develop with us.”

The link with Leeds Met has been in place from the start for Carnegie and is expected to be a strong lure for players as they are given the opportunity to further their education whilst playing basketball at a high-level.

“The value of education goes beyond cash in the bank as it presents players with another life they can step into after basketball. I believe that University based programmes are integral to developing the sport in this country.

Newby added: “The likes of Durham and Worcester have benefited from their programmes and then there’s Leicester and Newcastle doing well with links to Loughborough and Northumbria so it’s definitely something we want to continue.”

Leeds are joined by fellow new entrants Bristol Academy Flyers, in making the step up from Division One, raising the number of teams in the BBL to 14 – the most since fifteen teams competed in the inaugural 1987-88 season. And Newby believes the new additions can continue to help the growth and development of the league.

He said: “Two new models with strong pedigrees is very healthy for the league as both programmes have developed over time. There will be the added bonus of a few rivalries for us with the Yorkshire derby against Sheffield, the Roses derby with Manchester and Bristol will bring more of a local rivalry to Plymouth.”

Carnegie have enjoyed plenty of success as they climbed the EBL ladder and fittingly ended their time in Division 1 with victory in the Play-offs, beating the league champions Reading 75-71 in last month’s final. Newby was delighted his side were able to bow out with a trophy and his attention now turns to the new job in hand.

“I’m really happy with the way the season ended in Division 1. It’s now the start of a new journey, and time to focus on new challenges. We’ll have an increased schedule and will have to learn to deal with new opposition and coaches that have different philosophies.”

“We feel like we’re coming in at the right time. The BBL is making strong moves going forward and it will take commitment to ensure we get a number of aspects right on and off the court.

“We want to make sure that the entertainment is of value and that the fans coming in, understand that the brand has strength and can enjoy the spectacle.”

Carnegie had a taster for life in the BBL in January, when they took on the Glasgow Rocks in the first round of the BBL Trophy. The team will play their home games at the Leeds Metropolitan Sports Centre when the season begins in September.

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