Leopards get ready to roar as famous name in basketball get set for Oaklands debut

PUBLISHED: 07:48 30 October 2019

Kevin Moyo limps out of Leopards' game with Hemel Storm at Brentwood. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPS

Kevin Moyo limps out of Leopards' game with Hemel Storm at Brentwood. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPS

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Top flight men's basketball comes to St Albans for the first time on Saturday when Essex & Herts Leopards host Worthing Thunder at Oaklands College.

Jerrelle Okoro in action for Leopards against Hemel Storm. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPSJerrelle Okoro in action for Leopards against Hemel Storm. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPS

While Leopards have played a couple of international friendlies and a Division Two game at Oaklands, this season will see regular Division One games at the college where they are now based.

Leopards are one of the most famous names in British basketball with the original club playing in the British League for nine years, winning the title twice and the National Cup once.

The current Big Cats have spent 16 years in the England Basketball League with two title wins and two cup successes.

The two organisations previously worked together between 2015 and 2018 but a strengthened link has seen Oaklands' employee Thomas Baker take on the head coach role.

Hafeez Abdul top-scored for Leopards as they lost to Hemel Storm at Brentwood. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPSHafeez Abdul top-scored for Leopards as they lost to Hemel Storm at Brentwood. Picture: PAUL PHILLIPS

Oaklands' director of basketball Michael Ball said: "We are delighted to partner with Leopards for the 2019-20 season.

"We've worked closely with them in the past and players like Evan Walshe, Dom Scott Robinson and Jose Morais have developed by being stretched outside of their Oaklands academy environment."

June's fire at the college meant the team started their year on the road, something that has taken its toll with five straight defeats.

A growing injury list hasn't helped the Big Cats. After losing point guard Prince Lartey with an ankle injury in the narrow loss at Westminster, Baker signed Kevin Moyo as a replacement but he lasted only eight minutes against Hemel Storm on Sunday before limping out.

Leopards led 33-21 at that stage and it proved to be as good as it got for them as Storm took control after Moyo's departure and ran out 116-84 winners.

Hafeez Abdul again led Baker's men with 37 points, while Jerrelle Okoro finished with a 26 point, 10 rebound double-double.

It won't get any easier for them either, despite their Oaklands bow. Worthing won the National Trophy and were runners-up in both league and play-offs last season and have started this year with three wins from five.

The game starts at 5.45pm and tickets are available on the door or through www.leopardsbasketball.co.uk, priced at £5 adults, £3 children, £12 for a family of four or £14 for a family of five.

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