- National Teams
London Lions have formalised their partnership with the University of East London (UEL) that began last season, enabling both the team’s players to access a first class education, and UEL students to gain valuable work experience.
The idea for the collaboration, announced in October, was born last year from conversations between the Lion’s Head Coach Vince Macaulay and the team’s then captain Joe Ikhimwin, who was also a UEL student at the time.
Talks between the Lions and UELSports progressed over the next 12 months, securing a basic agreement for 2017/18, before agreeing on the more comprehensive performance pathway for current and future UEL students.
It now means that UEL feels they can provide a fully integrated player pathway into the professional game, supporting current professional players through their dual career aspirations, achieving both on the court and in the classroom. The Lions will in turn provide work placements for students to work with them in the areas of media, events and sponsorship.
“It’s important for us as London’s professional basketball club to create a pathway that anyone can follow – to have the opportunity to get their education and to be able to play sport attached to a professional team as often as is necessary to reach the top,” Lions Head Coach Vince Macaulay said.
“I think it’s important that UEL establishes itself as the top university that players want to go to. Most of our players are London born, and we don’t want them to go to America or Spain, we want them to stay in London and give them here what they could get over there.”
UEL is now an accredited TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) site for dual career athletes – meaning they are one of top six sites that provide support for athletes to develop in their sport and a professional career.
UEL’s Head of Sport Matt Tansley added:
“Only a handful of universities have partnerships of this type, and we are the only one in London running a scheme like this, providing opportunities for students to not only play at the highest level, but also to get practical experience in a professional environment.
“Our elite athlete academic policy also enables us to tailor their study around their sporting commitments which means that students don’t have to choose between the two.”
Four London Lions players are currently enrolled on courses at UEL, and this relationship between the Lions and UEL was one of the things that brought veteran player Dzaflo Larkai back home to the UK.
“The over-seas grind was getting to me,” admits Flo. “Agents were calling me about playing opportunities in France and Argentina. But when you’re in another country, it’s like your life is on pause.Because all you’re doing is playing ball. I’m 36 now, so I’m thinking ‘how long can I keep playing?’ I need something concrete, so when I hang up the sneakers I can jump into something else.”