December 8 2013 Latest news:
Exclusive by James Cunliffe
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
London Lions have finalised their squad ahead of Friday’s trip BBL Cup trip to Sheffield Sharks after American imports Kramer Knutson, Ben Smith and Nick Freer finally flew into the capital to join their new team-mates.
The club have however had to wave goodbye to short-term signing Matthew Bryan-Amaning who joined French Pro-A side Sharks Antibes hours after firing a game-high 28 points as the capital club came from behind in the final quarter to beat Glasgow Rocks 80-77 on Sunday.
It added a second successive victory after a 100-92 triumph over Plymouth Raiders 48 hours earlier to make their record for the season a more respectable 4-2, moving them up to fifth in the British Basketball League Championship.
Head coach Vince Macaulay said: “Right now it’s just about having our guys play the way we want them to play defensively and adding in our three Americans, who will be here this week for sure now.
“They’ve all got their visas and we’ll take another step forward, one at a time.”
It’s a welcome end to a protracted month-long work permit saga that has left the squad depleted for the first six games of the campaign, with Knutson and Smith left anxiously waiting back in America for the green light from the Home Office.
Macaulay said: “They’ll be straight into practice for two days and then we’ll play on Friday.
“Nick will be ready because he’s been training with us and the other two are smart players so they’ll fit in very quick.
“Ben Smith comes with a great pedigree and we expect him to elevate us to the next level.”
But Macaulay was quick to praise the other members of his squad, the majority of them London-born.
“What it says is that we’ve got the best English players in the league,” the coach said.
“They buy into what we’re trying to do and I’ve got a great backroom staff in Nigel [Lloyd –assistant coach], Junior [Williams – assistant coach] and Mario [Kaorl – assistant coach] and we are very comfortable where we are right now.”
On the weekend’s double success, the Lions boss added: “It very much gets us back on track. We look at the situation like we very much gave away the games against Durham and Worcester. We’ll have a little present for Worcester when we see them next.”
The Glasgow game proved an impressive farewell for Londoner Bryan-Amaning and Macaulay said: “He did a tremendous job [against Glasgow] for us.
“The sad thing is our referees in the last three games didn’t respect his game and he couldn’t get a free-throw for love nor money and I guess he just plays above the level of the referees.
“It was incredibly frustrating because he’s too quick for them, too strong for them and too big for them so they just guess and it’s awful when referees have to do that.”
The now departed Bryan-Amaning was ably assisted by 6ft 11in centre Adrien Sturt who nailed four huge three-point field goals as part of a 20-point personal haul, which saw London ride on the coattails of Glasgow until their fourth quarter resurgence.
“It makes me laugh because if I offered Adrien Sturt to any other teams in the BBL they wouldn’t take him, so I laugh my head off,” Macaulay said.
“I’m so delighted that he’s a Lion because he epitomises everything about our team. He tries to do his best and you can rest assured that whether it works or not he always gives his best and he’s always an offensive threat.
“He practically brought us back into that game, offensively.
“It’s a game of 40 minutes so we shouldn’t get carried away either way, in as much as we were up big on Plymouth and they came back and when Glasgow were up big on us we knew we could come back.
“The guys showed a lot of character and I really liked the way they came back together, gathered themselves and beat a very experienced [Glasgow] team that a lot of people had high hopes for this season.”
Gareth Murray (15) and Chez Marks (24) were the scourge of Lions early on, landing a series of long-range efforts in the first half before London got to grips with them.
“We had to make some adjustments and, in the end, Joe Ikhinmwin locked him up and he was done,” Macaulay said of Murray.
“We’ve got too many defence weapons. A lot of teams come forward with their offensive play but we’ve got 10 English guys here who just want to play defence.”