Love feels his new-look Raiders will need time to gel for new BBL season
Gavin Love says it will take time for Plymouth University Raiders to find their feet this season.
The Raiders coach has recruited six new faces in a seven-strong roster that has only retained starting centre Andreas Schreiber from 2012-13.
Schreiber himself only joined Raiders mid-season in January, so Love knows his new-look line-up is unlikely to gel immediately.
"I don't think we're going to come bursting out the gates this year," said Love, whose team tip off the 2013-14 campaign at home to London Lions on September 29. "But I think we'll improve as the season goes on and at the end of the day it's about how you finish, not how you start."
Love is beginning his fourth year in charge of Raiders, after finishing fifth, fourth and sixth respectively in the BBL previously under him.
Last season, progress was made under Love when Raiders reached the semi-finals of the play-offs following back-to-back first-round exits before.
Raiders were neck and neck with treble winners Leicester Riders after 60 of the 80 minutes of the two-leg contest before falling away.
Injuries to starting guards Drew Lasker, who has joined rivals Newcastle Eagles this summer, and leading scorer Michael Ojo, who remains a free agent, hardly helped.
Love, whose team completed the 2012-13 regular season with a 21-12 record in sixth spot in the 12-strong division, said: "I don't think people realise what horrific problems with injuries – and we were 20 minutes away from making the final of the play-offs for the first time in our history.
"We played 12 games in the last month and lost six of them because we didn't have a backcourt – 50 per cent of our entire losses for the season.
"I still thought we had a good season, but unfortunately some people don't see it like that. We were just unlucky."
After the Lions' opening visit, Raiders visit Sheffield Sharks in the League on Friday, October 4 before perennial powerhouses the Eagles visit on Sunday, October 6.
It does not get any easier when Raiders then visit Glasgow Rocks on Sunday, October 13.
Love has partly recruited new faces this summer because he realistically could not afford to retain established stars like Ojo, Lasker and big-man Matt Schneck, who too remains unsigned.
"I think the fans are excited to see new players," said Love. "No, we don't have Jeremy Bells or Matt Schnecks this year, but that just couldn't happen.
"It's a shame we lost guys like Drew, but I wish all those guys all the luck in the world. They're good people.
"They've gone on to things that are better for them. Why wouldn't you?"
Love envisages adding three players from the club's quickly blossoming Academy, now at Ivybridge Community College, to give Raiders a ten-strong squad for home games this season. Even then, it is unlikely his seven senior men will be knocking on Love's door Monday morning complaining about a lack of game-time at the weekend.
If Raiders are to succeed in 2013-14, they will all have to play – and play well.
Love said: "We will certainly have young guys from the Academy on the team this year, but obviously the majority of minutes will go to the pros.
"They will all play major minutes and can all have a huge impact for us. I think that shared responsibility will enhance their dedication here even further."
Love could have diluted his playing budget and recruited ten professionals this summer, but he says that was never an option – not if Raiders want to seriously contend for only a second BBL title in their history. Their first, the BBL Trophy, was won in 2007, six years ago.
"We could've gone for ten pros, but if we had we wouldn't have had the quality and wouldn't have had a chance to win games," said Love.
"We have that quality now, so at least with seven pros we have a chance."
Love added: "I think we'll be turning back the clock two years this season to when we had a high-octane offence."