Sam Salter interview

Sam Salter will always be a key part of the second version of Leopards’ history as he hit the four key free-throws that sealed the 2005/6 National Cup for the Big Cats. His reward was to have a guinea pig named after him. Prior to the 2011/12 National Cup final, Tony Shorey caught up the guard to discuss his time with the Big Cats.

1. How did you end up playing for the Leopards?

The year before I signed with the Leopards I played with the Kingston Wildcats, we played against Leopards twice that year winning both games and in both games I played well.  I must have caught Jon Burnell’s eye and I became a player they were interested in signing. I ran into Adrian Jones who at the time was an assistant coach with Leopards, that summer at a Hosana basketball event at Crystal Palace and he expressed some interest so I passed my number onto him.  Dave Ryan called and we came to an agreement.

2. How did you enjoy your time at the Leopards?

I played for Leopards for 3 seasons, they were one of the most professional teams I have ever played for and consider myself part of the Leopards family.  I really enjoyed my time with the organization!

3. Thinking back to the Cup Final, how did the team plan the defeat of Reading?

We had played Reading once before we met them in the Cup Final, I seem to remember we wanted to dictate to them and try and control the tempo of the game.  We really wanted to push the ball so that they were on the back foot, also wanted to keep the ball out of EJ Harrisons hands and force someone else to be their catalyst.  I think we had a well balanced team that season, everyone knew their roles and we played well together plus everyone liked each other.  This made it really easy to play hard for your teammates. It was unfortunate Demetrius left that season, we could have made a serious push in the playoffs.

4. Can you remember much of the game?

It was a tough game, very close throughout and went to the wire.  A very intense game, it felt like every possession was the most important of the game but that’s how finals are.  I remember we got in foul trouble, both Troy and Demetrius fouled out but we had a strong bench and they came up big for us.  I remember how loud the crowd was it felt like a Euroleague game, great atmosphere.  That game was definitely a highlight in my career and I’m very proud to be part of the win and more importantly part of that team.

When the final buzzer went everyone came running out on the court, pandemonium!!!  I remember coming out of the showers and Fred, Vince and Dave had the beer and it flowed throughout the night.  I never came back on the bus, upset I missed that, because I heard it was a riot but my Aunt lives in a little village just outside of Birmingham.  Kayla and I ended up at the village pub, they were not ready for me!!  Great game, great win and a great night!!!

5. Describe how you felt as you walked up to take those free throws at the end of the game?

I’ve taken thousands and thousands of free throws in my career, I am very confident shooting free throws.  It was a big moment in the game and I was able to keep my composure and hit those shots.  I wanted to be the one to shoot those shots as I knew I was going to make them, I’ve always been that type of player.  I don’t think nerves can come into it, if your not relaxed you’re not going to shoot the same way as you usually would.  Kayla was more nervous than me, she told me afterwards she had to watch through her fingers.

6. Do you keep in touch with any Leopards teammates?

I still speak to some of the guys, not necessarily from that team, but still speak to Roger Lloyd, Gareth Laws, Carl Latham-Henry, current Leopard Lukas Volskis and Fred.  Most of the guys I played with at Leopards made it out to my wedding a few years after that game which was special for me.

7. Where did you go next after your time at the Leopards?

After Leopards I took a few years off, I came back last season with the Brixton Topcats who I was also able to help win the cup. This season I was playing with Medway Park Crusaders but I have had to stop playing unfortunately.

8. What are you up to now?

I’ve just finished playing with Medway and I am coaching at a local high school.  I really do miss playing but at 36 don’t have the knees to keep up with these young guys.  Still living in London though and am looking forward to coming to a Leopards game soon.

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