Meet the new Lions back court

London Lions announced the signing of guard Moritz Laneggar today to help coach Mariusz Karol’s new-look team start to take shape.

The 27-year-old spent his career in his native Austria before joining the Manchester Giants on a short-term deal in October last year. The Giants had lost their opening five games by heavy margins but, after losing his first game off the bench, 6’3″ Laneggar came into the team to give them their first victory against the Surrey Scorchers. They followed that with a memorable win against the Worcester Wolves, overturning a 7-point deficit in the final 40 seconds with Laneggar’s buzzer-beating 3.

That then became three wins on the spin with an overtime victory against the Bristol Flyers.

He was then picked up by Danish team FOG Naestved, playing out defeats for the Giants against the Lions at the Copper Box Arena and against the Leeds Force. In his 6 BBL games, he averaged 11 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2.67 turnovers. He made all of his 9 free throws, and shot 6/11 from beyond the arc for 40%. Giants won just twice more all season without him.

Næstved finished 4th out of 8 in Denmark’s top league, losing in the first round of the playoffs. However, prior to that, they became the first team from Næstved to win a major sporting competition, winning the Cup in January.

He’s currently starting for the Austria national team in their successful pre-qualification for the 32-team 1st round of the European qualifiers to make it to the 2019 World Cup in China. They’ve beaten Albania twice to progress but need to overturn their earlier defeat to the Netherlands with a win in Amsterdam tomorrow in order to claim top spot. Once his national team commitments are complete for the summer, he said he’ll be very excited to focus on the new campaign playing for the Lions.

He previously described himself: “I am a combo guard. I was defensive player of the year in Austria (2015), so I think I am a good defender. Offensively I am an aggressive player who likes to attack the basket.”

‘Mo’ is likely to start at the point for the Lions, who announced the trade of Jack Isenbarger from the Leeds Force earlier this month.

Isenbarger arrives having made an impression on the Lions fans already during his BBL rookie season with the Force. Most notably, in his 25 BBL championship games, he averaged 1 from 2 beyond the arc. His 8/10 made at the Copper Box in March helped the Force stun the Lions on their own patch.

He averaged 3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 turnovers in 27 games in all competitions, and 16 points.

The Lions were able to capture the 6’2″ 26-year-old thanks to him commencing studying at the University of East London.

Both guards arrive with the pedigree of standout players in the league’s bottom two sides. Their desire to make the step up in a team perennially finishing 6th and on the verge of final appearances could significantly refresh the Lions’ back court.

33-year-old Alex Owumi made 65 appearances over the last two seasons but failed to reach the heights of his earlier BBL success at Worcester. He’s moved on to neighbouring Surrey Scorchers in a move so obvious, even he could have written it.

The bigger surprise was Zaire Taylor moving a rung below the BBL, signing for the Worthing Thunder, who finished 3rd from bottom in the NBL Division 1 with a 7-19 record and narrowly avoiding relegation.

It seemed like success just wasn’t going to come in either of the 2014 BBL MVP’s two spells in London and moving on doesn’t come as such a shock. However, having managed to finish 2nd in the league’s leaders in average assists and steals, a drop down to the NBL for the 30-year-old wasn’t a move anyone would have anticipated.

Laneggar and Isenbarger will be backed up by Joe Ikhinmwin, returning to retain the captaincy in his fifth season at the club.

Should Coach Karol decide to retain Andre Lockhart and Kevin Moyo, he’ll have three very useful role players to back up an exciting starting 1 and 2.

6’8″ forward Demonte Flannigan is the Lions’ only other announced signing. He arrives with big ambitions for what his energy and enthusiasm can bring to the table.

“Although I am only months removed from college, I plan to come over to London and lead my team to a championship. I plan to be one of the top players in the league both offensively and defensively,” he said.

Flannigan and Isenbarger take up two of the Lions’ permit spots. Following the signing of Laneggar, the Lions can add two further over-18 non-British players, one of whom can take the final American permit place.

Outgoing, Kai Williams has joined the Newcastle Eagles after a stellar season for the Lions. His brother and fellow ex-Lion, Jamal, is on course for full fitness by the new year, offering an interesting mid-season pick-up for any BBL team.

Rashad Hassan enters the Queensland Basketball League finals on Saturday following his season with the Rockhampton Rockets, where he once again followed in the big footsteps of Demond Watt.

The new-look Lions begin pre-season with a trip to Poland on September 5th, before the new season curtain-raiser at The O2 on the 24th. Ticket and travel details for the Lions’ opening games can be found here.

About Andy 106 Articles
London Lions season ticket holder and frequent away follower. Also followed my football team up and down the country and the leagues for 20 years. Sixers fan but sadly from afar.

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