Photo credit: Graham Hodges
Photo: Graham Hodges

London Lions coach Vince Macaulay believes that having two British Basketball League teams in the capital will further heighten the interest of the sport in the country.

Despite not having a national TV deal, the BBL is still available on popular streaming service again this season.

The league has made the jump into Europe with Leicester Riders competing in the FIBA Europe Cup this season following an exit in the Basketball Champions League qualifiers.

The BBL has also seen the introduction of the newly formed London City Royals, who have made some big off-season signings, headlined by University of Washington alumni Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who returns home following many years playing abroad.

Macaulay’s Lions though have certainly got firepower in their own right with Great Britain international Justin Robinson leading the charge along with a walking double-double in Brandon Peel and the athletic Ladarius Tabb.

It also sees two teams based in the capital in the BBL for the first time since 2003 during the iconic London Towers and London Leopards days, and even though the Lions and Royals don’t meet until December 7 at the Copperbox Arena, the anticipation is already building.

“It’s important because it increases awareness of basketball games in London, now they have two teams, we hope more media will be interested,” Macaulay said.

“I think the two London clubs boast some of the best British players with Justin Robinson and Matthew Bryan-Amaning and that’s going to be good for basketball enthusiasts and London has some of the best home-grown players around period so Lions against Royals games I think will be highly anticipated and good for the BBL.”

Justin Robinson (left) and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (center) had a great deal of success as juniors. Now, as leaders of the Lions and Royals, respectively they will face off in the BBL. Photo: Greg Tanner

There is no doubting that the two London teams boast strong rosters for this season and they have both started positively.

The Royals began their BBL odyssey with an impressive 78-73 road win against Bristol Flyers while the Lions have split their first two games of the new camapign with a win over Glasgow followed by a narrow loss away to Plymouth.

“As a team, there is still work to be done,” Macaulay admits. “But after our solid finish in the league last season, and being runners up in the play-off final, the guys returning feel that they have a bit of unfinished business.

The majority of last season’s Lions squad have returned this term as Robinson and Peel are joined by Joe Ikhinmwin, Jerelle Okoro, Andre Lockhart and Flo Larkai, with Paul Guede due to return to the side in roughly three weeks as he recovers from ankle surgery.

And Macaulay believes that the returning glue along with newcomers Tabb and defensive specialist Kervin Bristol can go one better than last season.

“We want to go one stage higher than last season, and why not, we have the players to do it and we have recruited very well, we have the talent to certainly win trophies this season.”