BEIRUT, Lebanon (23rd FIBA Asia Champions Cup): Loren Woods calmed a lot of anxious nerves down with a performance that not only helped the team, but also enhanced his reputation as a player who puts the interest of his team before his own.
Woods’ initial charge it was which set the tone for Al Riyadi’s massive triumph against Belent Asgabat. The the more relieving factor for Riyadi coach Slobodan Subotic was the fact that the American player was on court for the entire first quarter without any signs of pain or discomfort and was substituted in only the team’s rotation.
“I am feeling a lot better that I felt yesterday,” Woods said about his hamstring. “Basically, I mean I’m getting fitter and healthier every day.”
“It was probably the change in weather. And the way we train at Riyadi – it’s like war. All of us giving all we have. I’m not complaining about our training. Just that coming from off season, my body might have been shocked,” the 34-year-old added.
“But then the charm of playing for Riyadi can work wonders for your motivation. I always feel welcome at Riyadi – the players, the management, the fans all make me feel important. And it’s a very nice feeling,” the 218-cm former Houston Rockets center said.
Talking about his move back and forth between clubs from Lebanon and Iran – in 2009 Woods played for Mahram followed by a stint with Riyadi and then moved to Iranian outfit Zob Ahan last season before returning to Riyadi for this year – Woods said: “It was a conscious decision last year, when I explained to Riyadi that I didn’t want to corner the budget of five younger players.
“This year though it’s an altogether different scenario.”
“Of course playing for Zob Ahan was a different kind of experience altogether. Here (in Riyadi) I need to play only my role in the team. I don’t have to spend all my time on court.
“With Zob, I was their main player and had to be the leader. For example, today (against Belent Asgabat), I could sit on the bench after doing my part in the first quarter. If it was Zob, I would have had to play more, even all the 40 minutes.
“It was a certainly a different learning experience at this stage in my career,” Woods explained.
How does he the season panning ahead with Riyadi.
“Well I have made a good start coming back from the injury. We have a great coach. And as a team we were always a very committed lot. I can’t see why Riyadi can’t come back to where we deserve to be. Right on top.”
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia