December 19 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Friday, October 4, 2013
London Lions will travel Durham Wildcats tomorrow still without their three American imports – though their eventual arrival will only strengthen a squad that got their British Basketball League season off to a flyer.
The futures of Ben Smith, Kramer Knutson and Nick Freer are tied up in work permit bureaucracy and the latter, who is the only player yet in the country, was forced to watch the capital club’s Copper Box curtain-raiser from the stands as they saw off a Manchester Giants fightback to win 80-75 on Friday.
Adrien Sturt dunked the final basket to round off a perfect week for the forward in which he became a father for the first time, while Joe Ikhinmwin and Rod Brown shared the top scoring honour with 22 each.
The squad, which contained seven Londoners, then beat Plymouth Raiders 79-70 in Devon on Sunday to assert themselves as one of the early season pacesetters and point to their closed-season claims of the crown – a position of strength that head coach Vince Macaulay expects will grow as his American signings get the green light to play.
“We have no import players right now so to keep winning whilst we wait to strengthen is great,” he said.
“Unfortunately we still don’t have our licence, so we’ve still got to play without them.
“It’s on a day-to-day basis now but we are on the phone all the time, emailing people and trying to get it through for us because we need them right here.
“It just takes a lot of time and you don’t have individuals you can talk to, it’s more of a process.
“If you get something wrong in the process you have to go right back to the beginning and nobody talks to you, you just have to start again.
“We are just trying to break that cycle.
“I think we are soon to get information that we are a week away and then they can come.”
Fans got a glimpse of Freer in the pre-season friendly against Iowa Hawkeyes but former Portland Pilots centre Knutson and former Witchita State shooting guard Smith are still yet to set foot in the UK.
Macaulay said: “They are climbing up the walls and will have watched the Statcast [the International Basketball Federation online live match statistic feed] thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no.’
“They are desperate to get over here. Nick [Freer] was in the audience [on Friday] and he couldn’t even sit on the bench with us.”
In the meantime, Macaulay has drafted in swing man Paul Guede and the 26-year-old Londoner fired a second highest Lions total of 19 points in the win against Plymouth.
Macaulay said: “He’s here on a week-to-week contract because we need to build support around here.
“We’ll see how that goes but he’s a high-level player. He played in Germany with Leipzig last year so whether we can hold on to him or not I don’t know.
“At the moment it’s a stop-gap but let’s see things go because if we can keep him as well as the Americans we will try to.
“He’s a big, strong, athletic guys who is able to work hard defensively.”
Indeed, the coach was full of praise for his side’s rearguard efforts over the first weekend of BBL action which sees them joint top of the league table with Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks.
“We have decided that this season will see us as a defensive force, we will not bow down to any teams and we will make it as tough as possible for them, get in their faces and work extremely hard.
“Perry Lawson, Paul Guede and Joe Ikhinmwin were at the fore with that on Sunday, stopping Plymouth getting any sort of rhythm.”
On his side’s first win in their new home 48 hours earlier, Macaulay added: “The London Lions won their first game at the Olympic venue and that’s what we all wanted to say.
“It’s just the beginning of the platform.
“I’m just delighted for the fans and the players because out of those guys on the floor there were seven guys from London. That’s phenomenal.”