Nuruzade praises Rockets ahead of play-offs
HEAD coach Samit Nuruzade has heaped praise on his young Reading Rockets squad ahead of Saturday's crunch English Basketball League quarter-finals play-off at Bristol Academy Flyers.
Nuruzade, however, admits Bristol will be 'very tough' opposition after finishing runners-up in all three competitions to date this season including in EBL Division One.
"I'm pleased with how we've done this season because we've had a lot to contend with," Nuruzade told the Chronicle, "But we've done so very well and come out of the 24 games with a positive record.
"We've had a very young team who've done exceptionally well and to think we were only a handful of points away from third place is in fact a good achievement for us.
"We dropped three games by one point this season and lost a crucial game last weekend which would have propelled us up the league."
Reading lost 77-73 against Bradford on Saturday before narrowly beating Leeds 59-58 to end the regualr season in seventh with a very respectable record of 14 wins and 10 losses.
Nuruzade continued: "Our goal has been to reach the post- season which we've done with a great run recently and I'm certainly very pleased about that.
"Going into Saturday's game with that in mind and the fact we've beaten Bristol recently, is good for us in terms of confidence.
"This week is about making sure we get our preparation spot on and making some tweaks and additions on the practice floor.
"One thing for sure about the team this year is their commitment to playing for forty minutes, my team has always played with heart, effort, and enthusiasm, and I feel this puts us in a decent position for Saturday's game against very tough opposition who will be looking to win their first trophy of the season.
"It will be a tough challenge for me and my team but one we must feel confident about conquering."
Bristol finished with a record of 18 wins and six losses as they parted with their Division One trophy to newly-crowned champions London Leopards.
Saturday's meeting will be the third time the two team's have met this term, with the Bristol outfit winning the first game comfortably by 68 points to 54, although the Rockets will be buoyed by the most recent game which they won by three points.
Saturday's victors will go on to face the winner of the Derby v Bradford clash in the semi-finals at the Amaechi Basketball Centre where the end of season final fours will take place for the fourth consecutive year.
Reading captain Ryan Lohfink is confident the Rockets can cause a big upset on Saturday and has been delighted with how preparations are going.
Lohfink said: "It's been a tough season with all the comings and goings, the injuries and illnesses, and the competitiveness of the league.
"But despite all this I feel we've done a really good job of competiting and getting in a position where we can go into any game feeling that we can win it, and I think it's important that we take this confidence into Saturday's game against Bristol.
"It has been a different season for me because I've had to take a lead role in scoring and rebounding and helping our younger players, but it's something I've found challenging which I feel has pushed my leadership skills to another level.
"Bristol will be a tough opposition for sure."