December 10 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Thursday, September 26, 2013
As London Lions prepare to usher in a new era for professional basketball in the capital, head coach Vince Macaulay insists he’s assembled a core squad of homegrown stars that can instigate a serious bid on title glory this term.
The club get their British Basketball League campaign underway tomorrow night when they host Manchester Giants at their new home inside the Copper Box.
Their move this summer into the 7,000-seat Olympic venue has given the club a platform like no other in the top-flight division, and Macaulay has been busy in his summer recruitment drive to ensure that, not only does he have a talented group of players at his disposal, befitting the impressive arena, but that the majority of them have a connection to the city.
Highly-decorated captain Mike Martin will lead a side containing returning stars Laurent Irish and Perry Lawson, plus new boys Joe Ikhinmwin, Julius Joseph and Albert Margai - and they all have roots in the city.
“This is a London club,” Macaulay said. “We are out there, every day, talking to all the existing London clubs; junior clubs, boys and girls, the under-18 National League teams that are competing for titles across London.
“We want to make sure that the London Lions are relevant to them. We are just an extension of what they are doing at the grass roots level.
“So being able to bring London-based players into the team is great.
“Mike Martin is a legend in London basketball and as our captain he’s got a big reputation.
“All the kids are looking up to him and he’s the guy we want to see produce some silverware for London.
“Julius is the local guy done good. He’s played all over the world and is vastly experienced, playing in the England team in the Commonwealth Games. He’s played with the Great Britain team, played in Belgium and has so much experience.
“He’s in the twilight of his career but he’s bringing all of that experience to bear for us.
“If we are going to win titles this year it is going to come down to the last two minutes or last two seconds of a game and someone like him is going to absolutely critical. He might not start most of the games but he’ll definitely finish most of them.
“Joe Ikhinmwin, we’ve been able to sign from Newcastle and he’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s so exciting to watch, plays at 100 miles an hour all the time and he’s going to be a real fan favourite because everyone will relate to his work-rate.
“He’s a local lad from around the corner in Walthamstow, so he’ll have a big following.
“And Albert Margai; I think fans will love his no-nonsense style.
“We have added six new players to the team; three of them from abroad [Kramer Knutson, Ben Smith and Nick Freer] and three of them locally.
“I’m really excited about the young English players we’ve been able to bring in.”
Last season was their first year in London after rising from the ashes of the MK Lions and moving from Milton Keynes. After basing themselves in Crystal Palace for a season, but moving to the state-of-the-art arena in Stratford, everything appears in place in terms of infrastructure to propel the Lions to the top echelons of the BBL.
But Macaulay has lofty ambitions on the court too.
“We feel that, right now, we are building a team for a purpose,” he said. “It’s a deep team and one that is going to really challenge [for honours].
“The way we play is going to show that and I’m counting on the guys to go out there really fired up.”
Last term the Lions beat tomorrow’s opponents the Giants to reach the BBL play-offs, where they were beaten by eventual champions Leicester Riders, so the head coach insists the season opener will be an important benchmark.
“Manchester is a situation for us to see where we are, compared to where we were last year,” Macaulay said.
“I don’t think they’ve recruited massively in terms of bringing in import players. They’ll be a decent team but the kind of side that we will expect to beat.
“Our aims are high and we want to mix it with Leicester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Glasgow.
“That’s where we want to be because if we are taking points from those teams then we are going to be there or thereabouts.
“It’s going to be a huge night because, while we’ve already played at the Copper Box [in a pre-season game against Iowa], it’s the season opener.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how both clubs do because we came into London for the first time last year and they resurfaced in Manchester again last year.
“They’ve got a lot of local lads from Manchester who are going to be proud of that name and we know a lot of them because we’ve played them over the years, so it’s going to be a feisty encounter.”