Laurent’s looking to become a proud Lion

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 20:29 15 August 2013

Local lad Laurent Irish leaps for the basket for London Lions, who made their debut at the Copper Box Arena on Wednesday night

Local lad Laurent Irish leaps for the basket for London Lions, who made their debut at the Copper Box Arena on Wednesday night

@JEYFlash Photography 2013 | #JustEnjoyYourself

East end lad set to make history

It was a proud moment for Laurent Irish when he stepped out on to court at the Copper Box Arena on Wednesday night for the London Lions, as the 34-year-old was making history as a member of the first legacy team to take residence at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Born and raised in Forest Gate, Irish almost hung up his high tops after 11 years as a professional had seen him feature for the Milton Keynes Lions, London Leopards, London United and a spell in Italy.

But during the finals of the annual Midnight Madness – a tournament which kick starts each season – he crossed paths with Vince Macaulay, his former boss at Milton Keynes Lions, once again.

And with the opportunity to play for the London Lions at the Copper Box Arena in the East End, his old stomping ground, he decided to sign a contract.

Reunited with his old team-mates, Irish and the London Lions played their last match in 2012 at Crystal Palace before making the British Basketball League play-offs and packing up their gear to head to their new home at the Copper Box Arena, which is now being operated by the charitable social enterprise, GLL.

On Wednesday he stepped out as a forward for the London Lions when they hosted Iowa University in friendly and although living and playing in the USA and Europe were dreams he realised, to play in front of his home crowd “will top it all”.

“My career has come full circle and I’m so excited to be playing not just in London, but in the East End, where my family and friends can come and see me in this amazing arena,” said Irish.

“This is what I’ve always dreamed of doing, especially as we just had London 2012 Olympics where basketball had featured – the place was jumping!”

Irish will combine his playing role with coaching within the community and he is keen to give something back to the area where he grew up.

“This new contract gives me the opportunity to work with local children once more, and that means a great deal to me,” he added.

“So I’ll be going into community centres and local schools talking to children about staying away from drugs and alcohol and staying off the streets and setting goals.

“It’s important to support them and they seem to respond well to me coming in to talk to them.

“Even if it helps just one child make a good decision then I’m doing a worthwhile job.

“Sport helped me and can help others and with the Olympics recently held in the East End it has left a real legacy for the community.

“Thanks to the GLL, the charitable social enterprise managing the arena, it has been transformed into one of London’s premier sport and entertainment venues.

“There are now lots of opportunities at the Copper Box Arena, including the chance to train and compete where Olympians have performed.”

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