London Lions announced four more signings this week before heading out to Poland to begin pre-season training.
30-year-old former Great Britain international Paulin Guede was the first of the daily announcements. He previously suited up for the Lions in the opening three games of the 2013/14 season, shortly after receiving his first senior GB call-up following a season with BC Göttingen in Germany’s second tier ProA league. However, the Lions weren’t able to convince him to stay as he instead returned to BC Prievidza in Slovakia’s top-flight Extraliga, where he previously won the Finals in his first stint in 2011-12.
The Lions made another play for him a year later, but he again turned down their advances. He instead joined the Worcester Wolves just before Christmas 2014, where he played 22 games in the BBL and averaged 29 minutes on court, 10.45 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.18 assists and 1.77 from 5.18 (34%) 3-point attempts per game. He received his last GB call-up following the 2014/15 season, before going on to spend two years at Cognac in the French fourth tier NM2, a level below the NM1 where the likes of Zaire Taylor and Demond Watt have played in recent years and Rashad Hassan will spend the forthcoming season with RAC.
Now with business interests in London, Guede has finally agreed to return to his hometown. At around 6’5″, the swingman is more likely to be utilised at small forward than in the back court where there are other guard options.
Coach Mariusz Karol said: “He is a multi-dimensional player, for us he will be a strong defensive forward but he can handle the ball, he can shoot and he knows where to be on the court, I like the effort he plays with.”
26-year-old 6’7″ power forward Will Hall was the next pick-up announced. 26 and born in Sheffield, he played for the Reading Rockets and London Greenhouse Pioneers in the EBL before making his BBL entrance with the Leeds Force in 2014, averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in his rookie season. He switched a year later to the Glasgow Rocks where he started every game of their BBL campaign, averaging 13.12 points and 6.88 rebounds.
A year ago he moved to Carrefour “El Bulevar” de Ávila who would finish the season 5th in the 16-team LEB Plata, the third tier in Spain, and lose in the first round of the play-offs.
Brandon Peel was announced as the final import player on the roster. The 6’7″ American big man has spent a year in the minor leagues after graduating. He is said to have a 7’2″ wingspan and will be ‘a blitz on the backboards’, though his highlights reel shows more of his post moves and mid-range shooting than aggression at the rim.
Finally, Andre Lockhart was announced as returning on Thursday in a dual role at the Epping Forest College Basketball Academy. He played an increased part in his second season in London, averaging 14 minutes per game as backup guard.
Outgoing is Zak Wells, who was announced by Plymouth Raiders on Tuesday. He was a mid-season free agent signing for the Lions after losing Derek Hall and Jamal Williams. He made all of his 23 appearances off the bench, averaging 10 minutes per game.
It represents the biggest player turnover since 2015 with just Joe Ikhinmwin and Lockhart returning from last season’s squad. They joined the eight new signings as well as three unnamed players, whose prospects remain a mystery, in flying out to Poland for pre-season.
10 senior pros indicates more depth to the Lions’ roster than last season, when an 8-man rotation was normally used with rookie Kevin Moyo making cameos as 9th man.
Andre Lockhart could be bumped down to 4th choice guard. All four are listed as combo guards, though Justin Robinson is likely to spend more time as the team’s main playmaker running the point and Jack Isenbarger – as the league’s leading 3-point shooter last season – will be best utilised at the 2.
Paul Guede, Momcilo Latinovic and Joe Ikhinmwin can also cover at shooting guard, but they are more likely to be competing for the small forward role. Guede looks like the natural starter, with Latinovic offering his energy and 3-point shooting as a role player off the bench.
It remains to be seen whether the more powerful Demonte Flannigan or Brandon Peel with his long reach is seen as Coach Karol’s starting centre. They are likely to share minutes in that role, as well as at power forward where Will Hall is also an option. Ikhinmwin – 6th man on the roster last season – also provides backup, and will be seeking minutes wherever he can get them faced with added competition.
Guard – Justin Robinson, Jack Isenbarger, Moritz Lanegger, Andre Lockhart
Small Forward – Paul Guede, Momcilo Latinovic, (Joe Ikhinmwin)
Power Forward/Centre – Demonte Flannigan, Brandon Peel, Will Hall, Joe Ikhinmwin
— London Lions (@London_Lions) September 8, 2017