KADIRI Richard has no doubt in his mind that Worthing Thunder Basketball Club will win the EBL Division 1 play-off championship.
Thunder reached the Final Fours weekend on Saturday, with a 76-71 quarter-final victory at Bristol Academy Flyers and will now head to The Amaechi Centre, in Manchester, for the final showdown.
They will face Team Northumbria in the semi-finals on April 27, before the winners will face Reading Rockets or Essex Leopards in the final on April 28.
American Richard has confidence in his team that they will come away from Manchester with the play-off title. When asked what it would mean to him if Thunder were to win the championship, he said: “We are going to win it. Nobody can hang with us right now.
“We’ve come too far not to get it. It’s a respectful confidence that I have. But, if Team Northumbria do beat us in the semi-finals, then I will cheer them on in the championships.”
Thunder reaching the Final Fours is a remarkable story in itself. They were bottom of the table at Christmas and without a win after 10 successive league defeats.
But, fans’ favourite Richard answered a call from coach Daniel Hildreth just before Christmas to help out his former club – who he played for in the BBL in the 2009-10 season –and, in his first game back, in January, Thunder won at Bristol.
Including that game, Worthing have won 14 of their last 17 matches, including the last 11 in a row after the play-off win at Bristol.
This success is not a surprise for Richard, 32, who, shortly after returning to the club, delayed his flight home to South Carolina until after the Final Fours weekend.
He said: “After the first weekend I played against Bristol and Mersey, I knew we would be all right. Everything was going to be okay.
“Not to disrespect the level of the EBL, but there’s no Charles Smith, Joe Chapman, Shawn Myers, there’s no high-calibre players.
“Being a BBL all-star MVP in 2011, slam dunk champion and leading shot-blocker, I knew it would be important for me to come back as an impact player, not a role player like I was at Newcastle and in my first spell at Worthing.”
Full story in this week’s paper.