- National Teams
London Lions opened their 2014-15 league campaign at the weekend with a win over Surrey United despite the absence of reigning league MVP Zaire Taylor.
The American, who will also combine his playing duties with a reported assistant coach role, joined the club back in June, but is still awaiting his visa in order to return to the country.
Head Coach Vince Macaulay told Hoopsfix that although the visa had been issued on 5th September, it has still not been sent out to Taylor. They received a call late on Monday to suggest the wait may soon be over, but Macaulay accepts there is nothing more they can do than wait.
“We’ve had a number of people get involved to help, but it’s out of our hands,” he said. “We have no control over the situation and have given up trying to anticipate what will happen.”
“There is no reason for the delay on our part. It was the first visa that we applied for and they were supposed to send it out but they haven’t.”
However, Macaulay did reveal that Lovell Cook – a graduate of the University of New Orleans – ‘is on his way’ and should be available this weekend after his delayed arrival.
Last season, the Lions had similar problems with the delayed arrivals of import trio Nick Freer, Ben Smith and Kramer Knutson although on that occasion the issue regarded the club waiting to obtain their licence.
Without Taylor and Cook, the capital side kicked off their campaign with an 89-73 success against Surrey after being led by their third American Makal Stibbins’ 27 points.
“You have to be happy with any win,” Macaulay stated. “It was our first game and we didn’t look great, but we were very competitive and it gives us something to build upon.
Last week, Taylor posted this message to fans on his Facebook page:
“I want to start by saying that it is not due to any fault of myself or Vince. I began my visa application process in August, and have yet to receive my visa. I applied for my visa before the rest of the Americans on our team that are currently in the country. We have paid extra fees for priority service and express shipping. I received an email weeks ago that my visa was issued and I would receive my passport back within 7 days.”
Macaulay is eager to get his final two players into the country and settled as quickly as possible with the Lions expected to make a strong challenge for silverware this season.
“We have our core nucleus back and one of the best point guards in the country, in Rod Brown. It’s important we get our new guys integrated quickly so that we can push on and be very strong.”
London Lions take on the high-flying debutants Bristol Flyers at the Copper Box Arena in their first home game on Friday, and whilst fans may get a glimpse of Cook they may have to wait a little while longer to see Taylor take to the floor.
Here’s a reminder of why Taylor was named Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 season: