The London Lions have completed their pre-season matches and have four days left before the action tips off at the Copper Box this Friday.
It was a home-grown pre-season, rather like the Lions team, so far fielding nine London born players out of the eleven that have suited up.
A short trip to Brentwood Essex for the Essex Classic on the weekend of the 8th and 9th was the tonic to simply limber up after miles of work at the University of East London. The tournament consisted of Team USA Select, another US team in Vipers and the hosts, Essex Leopards.
It was largely small forwards and guards in the teams though Team USA had two big guys but a little out of their depth at this level. The blistering guard play of Justin Robinson and Jordan Spencer was always going to be too much before you contemplate the speedy Jonathan James and Andre Lockhart who is probably playing some of the best basketball of his career.
After dispatching Team USA, we faced a spirited Leopards team who will compete this season in NBL Division One. It is understood they have two US players to add to their youngsters who should be very competitive once the action starts. Victory there meant we played Vipers the following day. They were better organised as it appears they play together As a team back home, but again too small.
In the Final we faced the second of Team USA’s guys and came through unscathed with the main men getting run outs over the weekend, but sparingly.
Another week at UEL under the best of facilities on court as well as off court in the Strength and conditioning zone preparing us for the season.
Up next was another weekend double, this time on the road to the Worthing Thunder with their collection of ex-Lions led by Zaire Taylor.
Blistering quickness once again from the guards and from the now bedded in Ladarius Tabb blew the home side away as we rattled up 70 points in the first half ending any hopes of a contest. Tabb’s explosiveness something to behold especially on the end of passes from Jordan Spencer and Justin Robinson.
That outing was a step up from the Classic and we expected another step up on Sunday (yesterday) hosting Surrey Scorchers.
Coach Creon Raftopoulos and his men were missing two US players, fielding Demario Beck. There have been some Visa issues this season and we ourselves are still awaiting the arrival of Kervin Bristol.
Two quick baskets opened the scoring for the Scorchers as the experienced, Tayo Ogedengbe combined with the fast-rising Josh Steel. However once again the offence was relentless.
69 points were notched up at half time, 69-43, as the Lions experimented. Peel had his customary double double with 21 points and 16 rebounds whilst Tabb chipped in with 20 points and 8 rebounds.
Heavy legs ended the evening, but a lot was learnt as we caught up with Coach Vince Macaulay; “We are pleased with where we are right now, Joe (ikhinmwin) had a run out for the first time after a knock, we know things will only get harder as we enter BBL play, I think we can be more ruthless but our running game is going to be something we focus on this season with so many ball handlers and so many athletes. UEL have afforded us the best facilities in the country and we are working with good people. If we can get Bristol in here tomorrow, I’ll be pleased ahead of the weekend double coming up.”
Asked about Tabb and Spencer, Macaulay continued. “Tabb is just a bundle of energy, when you scout players you try to anticipate their fit into our League, I think he’s perfect, shots well, exhibits poise and is a gazelle on the floor, Spencer, well what can I say, so fundamentally sound, he will really blossom once the season starts and he realises the advantages he has.”
Overall, we asked what was one thing for Coach Macaulay to take away from pre-season, “ I am pleased we have returned so many players, my younger guys are showing signs of hunger to step up, I think this will make us so much deeper but also allow us to play aggressively on the ball, that’s what has been a delight to see, I mean this weekend Lamar Roberts picked up 26 rebounds!”
Lions; Peel 21pts & 16rbds, Tabb 20pts & 8rbds, Lockhart 18pts, Okoro 17pts & 5rbds,
Scorchers; Steel 23pts & 8rbds, Beck 18pts & 6rbds, Wilkins 17pts.
The Lions open up on Friday at the Copper Box at 7.30pm, the visitors are Glasgow Rocks and tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/londonlions.