Changes are always an option, warns Raiders coach Love
MARJON Plymouth Raiders coach Gavin Love has warned his players that if they don't step up, he will recruit someone else who will.
Raiders slipped to an opening 95-78 defeat against Surrey Heat in the BBL Championship at the Pavilions last Sunday.
Raiders' record encouragingly remains 3-1, ahead of tomorrow's trip to 3-3 Manchester Giants (7.30pm) – but Love knows his big-men were found worryingly wanting against Heat.
Heat outscored Raiders inside by 18 points, 62-44 and prevailed overall by 17 points.
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"Guys have to step up," said Love, whose team also revisit Heat in the BBL Cup quarter-finals on Saturday (7.30pm).
"I think we always know we're not going to carry passengers.
"If people don't contribute we'll have to look at what we're going to do."
Starting centre Matt Schneck carried Raiders inside against Heat with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Combined, starting power-forward Javarris Barnett and back-up big-men Anthony Rowe and Liam Potter added seven points and nine rebounds in 50 minutes.
"I think we have a decent team but we certainly have to improve inside," said Love.
"Seven points and nine rebounds in 50 minutes from three big guys isn't going to win you any games.
"Matt Schneck can't do it all on his own. Guys have to improve."
Love added: "Change is always an option for us, because we're here to win and I owe it to the fans to put the best team we can out on the floor.
"The players know that; I've told them myself.
"Guys have to give their all. They have the talent, no question, but they have to play harder."
Schneck said of Raiders' four big-men in an eight-strong rotation this season: "We have a skilled frontcourt.
"Everybody brings something different to the table – Liam with his size. He's just a physically imposing force for us. I struggle going against him every day in practice.
"Anthony Rowe's coming off an injury and Javarris is still young and going to start fulfilling his role here soon.
"I have a lot of faith in all those guys."
Power-forward Rowe only made his second appearance after six months out with a knee injury on Sunday.
That problem has seen American rookie Barnett, 22, thrown into Raiders' starting line-up perhaps ahead of schedule.
The University of Charlotte graduate has struggled, averaging 6.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.
He has shot a below-par 39 per cent from the field and a horrendous eight per cent from the three-point line.
Barnett arrived at Raiders this summer as a big-man who could step outside and shot 40 per cent from deep last season at Charlotte.
When asked if he believed Barnett would come good this season, Love said: "All I can do is give players opportunities – they have to take them.
"Javarris is a good player, but he has to do more. He knows that."
Love added: "It's a super long season; it's not panic stations after one loss. Sunday hurt more because it was at home, but it's no big deal.
"It was the nature of Sunday's loss that hurt more – we lost our heads. People were flustered."
Against Heat last Sunday the hole that Paul Williams – Raiders' starting centre last season and now playing in Japan – has left in Love's line-up was painfully apparent.
In the half-court, Raiders simply had no big-man making himself available on offence. That persuaded guards to overdribble and attack Heat's packed interior defence.
"We do need to fill a void in the middle, because we're not getting enough production in there," said Love.
"When you're getting a lot of pressure from defenders outside, you need that big-man to calmly hold the ball and relax everyone.
"Right now we don't have anyone doing that. We're lacking that option.
"Matt Schneck is spectacularly energetic and great, but he's not a true post player like that, and neither's Liam, neither's Anthony and neither's Javarris.
"If you can't put the ball inside on offence, you've got problems."
Schneck said of Sunday: "You can't blame any one particular player. We struggled as a team.
"We struggled against Heat's zone and they scored transition baskets off that."