1995 – Budweiser League play-offs
Quarter-finals – game 3
Leopards 73 London Towers 91
2012 – Hat-trick for Leopards
LEOPARDS completed a treble as England Basketball announced their Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year awards for Division One.
The Big Cats excellent form which saw them with the Division One regular season title and National Cup has seen guard Vernon Teel win the MVP and Dejan Mihevc take the coach’s award.
Teel edged team-mate Ousman Krubally into second place as the Big Cats completed a one-two in the MVPaward. The Leopards point guard is leading the league in points (25.9ppg) and assists (7.78apg) as well as averaging an impressive 9.1 rebounds per game which is likely to see him finish in the top ten at the season’s end. He also posted an impressive ten triple-doubles.
For Krubally, it’s a second successive runner-up spot, but he looks set to get some consolation by winning the rebounding award, having finished second in that last season. He goes into the play-offs averaging 13.9 boards and is fourth in scoring with 20.3 points per game.
Coach Mihevc’s award will come as little surprise to anyone. Since the Leopards lost at Medway Park in early December, the Leopards have reeled off 20 straight Division One wins to take the regular season title and qualify for the Final Fours at the end of April. In the process they won the National Cup final, and have suffered only one loss in their last 24 games.
Mihevc had praise for his team and assistant coach Ozbej Stane: “I believe that this represent a lot more than just me. It is everything and everybody in our team, in our organization and I really want to share it with all of those that helped me and especially with my assistant coach and my players.
“When I think of the players and how hard they have worked the whole season and how committed they have been from the start, not only playing together but for each other, I am flattered to have the privilege of coaching them. They are not just talented players, but they are players of high character and what is the most important great human beings and good friends.
“I am very honoured to receive this award and would like to thank the rest of the coaches for giving me the opportunity to receive it. They all deserved it! We all work hard every day and we all love this game! I would also like to thank to all the people at Leopards and Barking Abbey who worked really hard throughout the whole season to help us to be where we are.”
Leopards’ general manager Dave Ryan had praise for the club’s award recipients: “It’s a tremendous achievement for us. I doubt many sides have ever had the top two in the MVP vote, certainly no one has in the eight years we’ve played in Division One, and both Vernon and Ousman deserve our congratulations.
“After a shaky start Dejan has moulded Leopards into a great team, we’re truly 15 deep and there’s competition just to sit on the bench. It’s not just been Ous and Vernon, it’s been an all-round effort. If there was a sixth man award, David Buchberger would have got it, and I doubt a any team has ever won the title starting three teenagers for the majority of the season. Hopefully there’s one more piece of silverware to come.”
After guiding the BA Leopards women’s team to third place in Division One, Mark Clark completed a treble for the Big Cats. They finished with a 13-8 record, losing only two games against sides outside the top two. They will face City of Sheffield Hatters in the play-off semi-finals at the Amaechi Centre on April 28.
Clark was understandably delighted with his award: “I’m obviously very pleased to be recognised by my peers. The team performances this year are the result of a team of coaches who work with the players every day without that support we would not have achieved the performances we have. So I need to thank the whole coaching team here.
“It would be impossible to develop teams and players without resources, the support that Barking Abbey School and Tuta our technical partner provide is exceptional and enables me to provide the right environment. It has been a great year for Barking Abbey and the Leopards organisation the last two years have been exceptional.”