Sam Dekker, exjugador del Bahcesehir, es una de las estrellas de los London Lions.

London Lions, the English oasis

The Euroleague has never made a secret of how convenient it is for your business to have teams based in major European cities within your competition. The German market has consolidated with the installation in the elite of Alba Berlin and Bayern Munich, the absence of Rome in the last decade has been covered by other Italian clubs, notably Armani Milan, as well as Parisian make-up, among others, Asvel Villeurbanne or Monaco. But there is a territory that seems historically impervious to the advancement of basketball: Great Britain. Having a competitive England team in the top flight, notably based in London, would be a marketing dream. Far is this experience of the London Towers, coached among others by Nick Nurse, now coach of the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, playing the highest continental competition of the beginning of this century and the London Lions could approach this level in the future. For now, next year they will be competing in the Eurocup with the most recognizable squad an English team has ever assembled.

Ahead of their debut in the Euroleague subsidiary, the Lions will have two players with NBA experience in recent years under their belt (Sam Dekker, with a notable line-up also in Europe, and Kosta Koufos, recently in the doldrums after his stays at CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos), seven with a past in the Endesa League (Ovie Soko, in Murcia from 2016 to 2019; Kareem Queeley, in Burgos from 2019 to 2022; Josh Sharma, in Fuenlabrada in 2021; Morayo Soluade, at Unicaja and Gipuzkoa Basket between 2014 and 2018; Luke Nelson, at Betis and Manresa from 2017 to 2020; Tomislav Zubcic, at Manresa in 2019; and Tarik Phillip, who finished last season in Burgos). In addition, they have incorporated Czech striker Vojtech Hruban, top scorer in the history of the Basketball Champions League and with a decade of experience at Nymburk and, out of curiosity, since 2020 they have Joshua Ward-Hibbert, who is became a promise of European tennis a decade ago, winning the junior Australian Open in doubles in 2012 and still holding the record for the fastest serve for a player in this category at Wimbledon: 214 kilometers per hour.

Obviously this is not a team to aspire to great achievement in an increasingly powerful Eurocup, but it is an oasis of hope for the growth of club basketball in England, a starting point which has the financial support from its owner, the American investment fund 777 Partners, part of Seville’s shareholding, owner of other football clubs such as Genoa or Standard de Liège and also holder of 45% of the British Basketball League since 2020, acquired for seven million pounds. According to its vice-chairman, Adam Weiss, the company sees huge business potential in both the club and in English basketball. “There is a fertile environment of talent hanging around London, just as there was in Toronto 30 years ago and which is now producing as much talent for the NBA as any city in the United States. is to develop this talent. In most countries of the world, if someone sees a teenager who is two meters tall, he immediately puts a basketball in his hand; it is not done here yet”, assured recently Weiss, also putting on the table the need to attract foreign talent: “Agents are beginning to see London as a place to accelerate their players’ careers and propel them to the highest levels in Europe or return to the NBA. is that not attractive in London? There is no reason for a player to go to any other country in Europe or places like Australia or New Zealand. Obviously, money will be the key to everything.

For now, the London Lions, born as Hemel Hempstead Lakers in 1977 and in the English capital for a decade – they play at the Copper Box Arena, inside the 2012 Olympic Park – have a long way to go. Last year they lost the league final to Leicester Riders, but in the FIBA ​​Europe Cup, after losing in the BCL playoffs, they made it through to the first group stage, a continental stage for English basketball. he

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