The 2012 London Olympic Basketball legacy venue, Copper Box Arena, officially opened its impressive doors to usher in a new era in London basketball development, hosting the LSB Invitational exactly one year on from the Olympic games.
Copper Box Arena has finally been modified from the Olympic handball arena into an impressive multi-use facility with a heavy emphasis on basketball, and so it was fitting that the first competitive basketball competition at the ‘Box That Rocks’ belonged to the London School of Basketball – London’s leading grassroots development program.
The ‘LSB Invitational’ featured 4 teams from across the LSB network, Brent Ballers, Haringey Hawks and local teams Hackney Kings and Hackney Jedi’s battling it out for the first annual ‘LSB Invitational Cup‘.
The first semi-final saw North West London’s Brent Ballers match up against Coach Perry Lawson‘s Hackney Jedi’s. After a closely contested first half, the Jedi’s began to pull away behind strong all-around play from game MVP Dimeji Okanlawon – eventually running out winners 42-31.
The second semi-final pitched North London powerhouse Haringey Hawks against relative newcomers Hackney Kings. The Hawks were fresh off of their CBL playoff championship and looked like the stronger team from the jump ball. Featuring a number of players we’re sure to see playing a bigger role representing London in the future, Haringey are a deep and talented team and showed their strength on the glass with a 24-9 rebounding advantage. Athletic and quick, the Hawks also play well in transition and broke out for a number of uncontested fast break lay ups and dunks. When it was all said and done, the Hawks eased into the final with a comfortable 48-27 win. Game MVP went to 15 year old James Otesanya.
The first ever basketball final at the Copper Box Arena lived up to expectations with an exciting glimpse of what the future holds for London basketball. The form book suggested the Hawks would dominate the match up – but nobody told the Jedi’s! Hackney came out firing behind the continually impressive Okanlwaon, who was all over the court trying to will his team to the surprise win. Jedi’s jumped out to an early lead, only to see the Hawks swoop back into it behind the 3 point shooting of Javel Small and attacking play from Kyle Carey.
26-23 at the half – Haringey’s favour.
The second half swung back and forth until the 4th quarter where Small showed why he is regarded as one of the most talented u16 players in London, taking over the game with back to back 3 pointers and 2 decisive drives to the basket to seal the deal. Javel even through down a dunk for good measure, showing his full arsenal in claiming MVP honours for the tournament and leading the Hawks to yet another LSB related title, winning 47-41.
Copper Box Arena will now play host to the London Lions BBL professional team, who’s head coach Vince Macaulay was on hand to present awards and commented “What a great way to open the new home for London basketball! Four young teams from across London showing the great development work taking place at the grassroots level with some bright prospects from all different sides of the capital! Things certainly look good for the future. Who knows, we may see one of these players suiting up for the Lions one day, right here at the Copper Box Arena!”
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