Essex Leopards add Okoro ahead of season opener with Kestrels

Jerelle Okoro keeps eyes on a rival (pic Graham Hodges)

Jerelle Okoro keeps eyes on a rival (pic Graham Hodges) - Credit: Archant

As Essex Leopards prepare for Saturday’s Division One opener at champions Solent Kestrels, coach Thomas Baker has added highly rated guard Jerelle Okoro to his squad.

An alumnus of Hackney Community College and a player who has experience of playing in BBL with Manchester Giants - where he was leading scorer - as well as London Lions, Okoro will add valuable experience to The Big Cats.

"It's exciting to be part of this franchise. Playing with my friends and coaching staff who understand my passion, I am looking forward to starting the season," Okoro said.

Coach Baker added: "First of Jerelle is a winner! Given that mindset, I am confident he is going to help us this year.

"In adding Jerelle to the squad is a massive coup for us, he is a player who has been around the NBL and BBL environments for a number of years now and he will add experience and leadership to the team in many ways. "Talking to Jerelle it is clear he is locked in to what we are trying to achieve and it is great to have conversations with him about the season ahead."

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Saturday's trip to Solent will see the Big Cats face a side who are favourites to retain their league title, and they have made some impressive signings.

American guard Ian Smith joins from Northern State University while Brendan Okoronkwo makes the switch from Division One rivals Worthing Thunder.

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Former GB under-20 forward Elliott Sentence also joins while ex-Lion Jonathan Lashley has also put pen to paper.

Leopards wrapped up a difficult pre-season campaign with a 97-74 loss at Division One rivals Rockets, on Sunday.

A poor first half defensively saw the Big Cats 67-41 going into the locker room down, and although they scored the final 15 points of the game, they never looked capable of collecting a win.

Hafeez Abdul led the Big Cats with 27 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes while Jerelle Okoro added 16 points and three boards, and captain Chuck Duru finished with nine points.

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