London Lions captain Ikhimwin insists they will be ‘fired up’ when they return

Joe Ikhimwin attacks for London Lions at Leicester (pic Graham Hodges)

Joe Ikhimwin attacks for London Lions at Leicester (pic Graham Hodges) - Credit: Archant

London Lions captain Joe Ikhinmwin has insisted his team will be more ‘fired up’ to win BBL title next season after their current season was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The BBL said in a statement that clubs had “unanimously agreed” to the cancellation although the Lions were sat second in the league table just behind Glasgow Rocks as they looked to retain their title.

And the 32-year-old felt they would have captured another trophy to bring back to the Copper Box Arena in Stratford.

“There is no other mission for us, I think that’s what we was all about last season, and I feel like next season it will be even more to prove,” Ikhinmwin said.

“For us at the Lions, we’re going to come into this season very fired up, due to the fact we were the league champions.

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“We was in a position to retain the league title and make a run at the BBL play-off final, so I feel like winning the league, regardless of what Glasgow think we should have been three-time league champions.

“The only way to get that point across is to win the upcoming league title next season.”

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The small forward of course admitted he is eager to return to action but understands it may take time due to the current situation.

“I’m eager to get back to basketball, everyone is, but this is a process that can’t be rushed.”

He also feels they have unfinished business but was keen to put it out to the public that everyone’s health is way more important than them getting back out on the court.

“I feel like yes and no, obviously we feel like there was money left on the table as you say, but at the same time the reason this has happened is bigger than the sport of basketball and people’s health and safety is the most important thing.

“It’s just an interesting scenario to be in, I’m trying to deal with it as positively as possible, knowing how strong are team was and the position we were in while also being the defending league champions.

“I feel like this is going to give us an opportunity, well if it was in my hands I would think like this, as I would be trying to come up with new ways to bring more fans and things into the league to make it better.

“We’re having a long lay-off and it’s a good time to be looking at changes and things that we can implement to make up the amount of games missed from last season and providing a bigger and better product.”

During the pandemic one of the most watched series on Netflix has been ‘Last Dance’ based on the success of the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era.

Although the BBL will be hoping that could potentially bring in more fans, Ikhimwin knows they will most likely start following the NBA, but does hope it may inspire some more people to watch the sport in Britain.

“You would hope so, but I’m sure they’ll be leaning towards the NBA more than the BBL, but fingers crossed as any spotlight on British basketball is good.”

The former Newcastle Eagles player did admit it is hard for basketball players to train during the circumstances but is sure most will maintain their fitness.

“I can probably guarantee not everyone is going to have the ability to do so, it’s not like everyone is going to have access to a full court, but I’m sure players are staying in as good shape as possible for the circumstances we’re in.

“Everyone’s safety and health is way more important, but I am, and I’m sure my team-mates and players on other teams are being responsible on staying in shape to return to training camp or pre-season as you would.”

Lions will make changes to the team like any other off-season despite the season ending abruptly and the captain says that is just how it is, the only difference is no goodbyes or send-off this time round.

“I don’t see it being any different to how it usually is, obviously the season ended early, but for many teams there season was going to end early anyway.

“The transition of players coming and going is something that any professional basketball player should be used to, so it’s just part of the game, whether the season stops early or not.

Brandon Peel, a star player for the Lions during the last three seasons, has already left to join Lahti in the Finnish Korisliiga ahead of the upcoming season.

“We’ve had Brandon Peel one of our star players move on to a team in Finland, everyone is happy for him, and we support him and his decision.

“He’ll always be a Lion, but it’s part of the game, and it’s definitely what I expect.

“Obviously it’s sad you don’t get to give these players the send off that they potentially may have got, winning another trophy, or another two trophies.

“Unfortunately these are the cards we were dealt with this scenario.

“Even though I’ve been at the club a long time and have seen a lot of players come and go, it still hurts and gets you sometimes.

“Someone like Brandon has been with us for three seasons, I’ve seen his machination as a player, and I’m very happy to see him move on.

“At the same time it’s like seeing your little brother move out.”

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