What can you tell us about the new coaching staff?
First of all this is the first time in Lebanon and the region that any team acquires a coach at the level of Slobodan Subotic, we have seen some great coaches in Lebanon such as Elias Zouros, Tab Baldwin and some others, but Coach Subotic is one of a kind in coaching, his resume says it all.
I was appointed as the 1st assistant this year to try to help the Head Coach as much as possible while Coach Ahmad Farran is the new comer to the coaching staff and I know he is a very talented coach and will have a bright future in coaching.
Lets not forget about the new Physical Trainer of the team who happens to be for the first time an osteopathic doctor as well as Physical Trainer which is a great add up to us.
What about the management of the club we saw new young faces added is that positive for the team?
New faces were added but both President Hisham Jaroudi and Mr. Jawdat Shaker club manager are still with us and giving us a lot of their experience and to the new faces Mr. Tammam Jaroudi, Mr. Mazen Tabbara and Mr. Ahmad Shaker who all three of them have the great enthusiasm and new ideas to keep the club always up to date not compared to clubs in the region but to top clubs in Europe and thats why these new members can fit greatly with the coaching staff in making the club better but always under the guidance of the well experienced golden management of Pr. Jaroudi and Mr. Shaker.
Moving on to the preparations how did it start and what are the phases of preparations you will have?
Players who had a long season in terms of minutes played and that we relied on most of last season are having a rest from practices because we want them to come back fresh when our team practices are officially back but they are all still working out with personal trainers and at the gym as well as the participation of some of them with both the senior national team and the u18 national team.
As for other players especially youngsters who we believe will have a great impact on our upcoming rosters starting next year, we involved them in a 5 week training camp that was focusing on skills development and keeping them on the right track and preparing them to take the role we believe they can carry out. Training camp did not go over any team concepts and we benefited from it to try out some new players and see what the new comers can offer to Riyadi.
Our official season preparations will be resumed on August 15th starting with a closed camp in the city of Bologna in Lebanon and many friendly games some of them might take place in Europe hopefully knowing that our first competition will be the Asian Championship for clubs that is scheduled to start in October before taking on Houssam Din Harriri Championship and then the Lebanese League which puts us once again in front of a very busy schedule that needs a lot of preparation on all aspects of the game.
Time is not on our side specially that we will be missing the players participating with national teams but we will do our best to keep the team ready and by the time they are back hopefully we can get them back on the same page of other team members.
The team kept almost all Locals and added 3 players so far and replaced one import, are you satisfied with the new roster?
So far only local players not to be on next years roster are Abdullah Hijazi and Hasan Lakkis, while we added Ahmad Ibrahim, Miguel Martinez and Ralf Akl.
Defense wins Championships and thats one thing we will prove this year as many teams have done all around the world thats why we believe with the new additions we have the best defensive guards in the country and we have size on both the shooting guard and small forward positions with Jean Abdelnour and Ahmad Ibrahim in addition to the experience of Omar Turk and talent of Amir Saoud.
Our team is formed of players we know and believe in their capabilities from Joe Vogel to Billy Pharis, Ali Kanaan, the top point guard in the nation Ali Mahmoud and the great addition of Loren Woods who is the best center to ever play the game in the region and we kept the great Egyptian star that had dominated the league for years Ismail Ahmad.
With all that we can clearly see a winning team and a successful season ahead of us, of course any team can lose on any night but we will be tough to beat and we will do our best to prove it.
Talking about Ahmad Ibrahim everyone is saying he is the top prospect in the country if not in the Middle East, what do you expect from Ahmad and what can you tell us about him and the ongoing comparison between Ahmad and Fadi Al Khatib?
We are not asking Ahmad or any other player on our team to score 30 points every night, the top scorer in the Euroleague rarely scores more than 20 points per game, we do not rely on one player, we need everyones contribution even players coming off the bench and as I was saying earlier, we focus on the defensive role of every player before anything else our philosophy consists of having a huge defensive team that can make any offense suffer and then comes the offensive role, Ahmad is a scorer by nature and he can lead the nation in score but we are not pressuring him to do so because whether he scores 10 or 30 if did his defensive job and the points just came in from any player we would be satisfied. As for comparing him to Fadi thats one thing we cant do right now because Fadi is in a late stage of his shining career while Ahmad is just starting his own so lets just wait and see how things go knowing that I expect for Ahmad to be a great push to the Lebanese Basketball in general and the National Team and not only for our club all I can see in Ahmad right now is the future of the country in this player not only scoring wise but in every aspect of the game as well as in other young talents we have such as Amir Saoud and Miguel as well as the youngsters the league will witness soon.
Weve seen young players that became stars under your coaching and guidance we saw big players coming to work out individually with you and you took them to another level, we cant see the same at other clubs do you think we are facing a lack of talented coaches and highly basketball educated coaches and what is the solution if that was the case?
If we really want to build a basketball nation we need to stress on the importance of teaching basketball and not just have kids playing the game all around the country not knowing if what they are doing is right or wrong.
I was once having try outs for the youth national team, almost 100 players participated and less than 20 were to be considered ballers, therefore you can know we lack good coaches all around the country, coaches that can start teaching the game for young ages to have well educated players in terms of basketball coming from all over Lebanon.
I know Ive been investing in improving my knowledge with more than 14 of the top coaching clinics in the world from US, Turkey, Italy, Spain and all Europe with the best coaches in the world which led me last year to be in Regal Barcelonas preparations upon the request of the team, knowing that my team Al Riyadi was always supporting while we dont see that done by other clubs or coaches and before blaming them we should know that its also the responsibility of the federation to get high level coaches every year and have good coaching clinics to educate coaches specially those not supported financially by their clubs as well as naming some coaches every year to be sent from the federation to the top level clinics in the world.
Do you see the Lebanese basketball going to the end of an era in terms of the national team or can you see some young talents able to take us back to the world cup and even better achievements?
With some talents such as Ahmad Ibrahim, Amir Saoud, Daniel Faris, Charles Tabet, Ali Kanaan, Bilal Tabbara, Wael Arakji, Izzat Kaissi and a lot more, I believe we can have a better generation we are definitely improving, few years ago no one had a physical trainer nor two assistant coaches right now its a must for most of the clubs and aiming for giving them a bigger role, scouting programs, video sessions all those small details have their affect as well as the young talents generated these things were introduced to the top teams in Europe 10 years ago and now in Lebanon, things will take time but we will be at the high level and still we need the federation to be more involved we know a lot of members are there and want to improve the game and thats why we want to work with them to improve the game.
What do you think the federation should also add so we can reach the European level?
We should build generations, teams we need time but still people blame the federation for not having a youth championship for age groups, we need that of course but as I always say having a Championship where you can know the winner already and where a team will surely win 4 or 5 games with a 40 points margin and the final with 20 is not going to improve the game we need to educate coaches, help clubs to improve the level of their youngsters and not take the age group teams as only a way to gain money rather than the future of their club.
We already know the financial problems the federation is facing just like every other federation and thats a huge upset for us since they cannot help the game financially specially the youngsters as you know few days ago there were rumors that the U18 national team might not participate in Asian Championships because of a lack in the budget.
Moving on to the League, who do you think is the team that is ready to compete against Riyadi and who will compete on the final four?
Champville of course will try to defend their title and they have a good roster in addition to the renewed Sagesse team not to forget what both Muttahed and Anibal can do as I also see Amshit rising as one of the good teams in the league, its a tough question to answer specially teams did not acquire their imports yet but these 5 teams along with Riyadi will be competing for the top four spots.
Out of 10 teams in the league 6 are competing for the final four it can be a good year but still we can see 4 teams somehow away from the same level so far should we decrease the number of teams in the league or go for the other choice of increasing the number and by that increasing the number of games?
We need to keep on spreading the game all over Lebanon thats why we cannot afford to lose teams from different cities, we were glad to have teams from Byblos and we need more teams from all around Lebanon and this is a plus, as for the level we can with maybe offering the last 4 teams in the league the chance to acquire 3 imports instead of 2 or maybe 1 Arab player to play as local so imagine if those teams had some of the top Arab players in addition to 2 imports maybe having Michel Maadanly, Zaid Al Khas and other Egyptian, Tunisian and players from different Arab countries that wont just increase the level but also add audience to the league and maybe also get new sponsors.
Interviewed by Ahmad Kerdi