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Basketball: Essex Leopards look forward to Patrons Cup opener

PUBLISHED: 15:00 14 September 2017

Essex Leopards coach Tom Baker talks to his players

Essex Leopards coach Tom Baker talks to his players

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Levett Essex Leopards coach Thomas Baker is in confident mood ahead of their Patrons Cup season opener against Nottingham Hoods at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4pm).

AJ Roberts in action for Essex Leopards against ReadingAJ Roberts in action for Essex Leopards against Reading

The Big Cats go into the encounter on the back of a 90-80 victory against Division One title favourites Reading Rockets in their final pre-season game last weekend, which has given Baker plenty of food for thought ahead of this weekend’s first competitive fixture.

“There’s a great feeling amongst the guys and everyone is invested in getting better one step at a time,” said Baker.

“We are ready to go and we are really excited for this journey together this season and we know what is expected of us moving forward.

“Now it’s time to get down to business. We have spoken a lot as a team about how we want this season to go, now it’s time for us to deliver.

“We have shown at times that this year we will be the team to beat, but we have also shown at times that we are still growing and developing together. No one is going to hand us victories and that’s been proven, so we must be willing to out-work teams.

“The performance against Rockets pleased me a lot. The result itself was good but how the result came was the key. The game had everything and the growth we have shown in a week is just a snippet of how much we can still grow collectively.

“We showed that we can fight through adversity and also showed we can hurt teams in multiple ways.”

Sunday’s game sees Leopards’ debut in the Patrons Cup as the Big Cats begin life in the second tier of the NBL, and the format of the competition means there is no room for error as the Big Cats look to reach the final four.

With a side containing former England international David Watts, Hoods finished sixth in the 12-team Division Two last season, winning 10 of their 22 games, but went out of the play-offs at the first stage. They won their Patrons Cup group, but lost in the semi-final against eventual winners Newcastle University.

In Saturday’s surprise win against Rockets, AJ Roberts led the way with 24 points, while Ruben Saiz Colon added 15 and Shaq Lewis 14.

Brentwood-based guards Will Ashby (12) and Dougie Bennett (11) also finished in double figures as the Big Cats led from tip to buzzer.

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