Basketball: General manager Dave Ryan insists Essex Leopards will win promotion next season after relegation from NBL Division One
PUBLISHED: 13:00 20 March 2017
© 2013 Emma Marshall
A buzzer-beater on Sunday means Big Cats will be in NBL Division Two next season for first time in history
General manager Dave Ryan has vowed Essex Leopards will bounce back after a heart-breaking weekend saw them relegated from NBL Division One.
Saturday saw Leopards lead for 39 of the 40 minutes in regulation time at London Lituanica before losing 88-83 in double overtime.
The following day a buzzer-beater saw them go down 83-82 at Lancashire Spinners, which confirmed relegation.
The Big Cats now face their first season in Division Two in their 13-year history, but Ryan is determined that his side will make a swift return to the top flight:
“It’s absolutely shattering” he admitted. “I can’t fault the players for their effort in the last three games since we had to change coach, they gave everything, but we came up just short both times.
“The atmosphere in the locker room afterwards was unbelievable, it’s easy to exaggerate things, but it was like someone died.
“We’d already spent a lot of time building for next season, making changes we felt were necessary and trying to improve things on the court.
“It’s not arrogant to say we have had the best game-day experience in Division One this season.
“All the work a lot of people have put in has paid off in that respect with the biggest crowds in the league and reaching the point we had to turn kids away from the pre-game coaching because there was too many of them to fit on the court.
“Now we have to make sure that not only do we have the best club in Division Two, but we also have the best team and come straight back with silverware.
Ryan had praise for new coach Thomas Baker who stepped in after Leopards and Steve Ogunjimi agreed to part company a fortnight ago.
“Tom’s been great. Talk about being chucked in the deep end without armbands, but he’s been up to the challenge,” he added.
“Ultimately three season-ending injuries to players who would’ve been starting killed us.
“We’ll sit down and talk with Oaklands about next season, our partnership with them is vital to our club and will only make us better.”