London Lions will face Neptunas Klaipeda in the initial qualifying round of the Basketball Champions League.

As draws go, it was the worst case scenario for the still-reigning BBL champions, who are set to stage the first leg at their Copper Box home on September 15 after the Lithuanian outfit emerged from a pool of possible opponents that also included Groningen, Anwil Wloclawek and Fribourg.

If Vince Macaulay’s men lose the tie, they are expected to drop into the FIBA EuroCup as a consolation. The return leg in Klaipeda is on September 18.

Neptunas finished fourth in the Lithuanian League this season but were eliminated in the group stage of the BCL with a 6-8 record.

In the unlikely event London win over two legs, they would face off against the winner of Balkan Botevgrad vs Tsmoki-Minsk for a place in the competition proper, where the reward is a glamour group that incorporates AEK Athens (GRE), Brose Bamberg (GER), Cholet (FRA), Fortitudo Bologna (ITA), Hapoel Holon (ISR), Pinar Karsiyaka (TUR) and Bilbao (ESP).

In readiness for their European debut, the Lions have re-signed two-time BBL MVP Justin Robinson to a fresh two-year deal and agreed a new contract with team captain Joe Ikhinmwin for his eighth term at the club.

Macaulay said: “As Justin enters his fourth season with us, I can only really speak of his commitment to the game in this country, his desire for young Brits to see an opportunity at home and then his ability to be successful, whilst doing the right things.

“He is a true professional and the culture at the club is largely down to him and his work ethic. Having him in the side as we embark on this next historic step by the Club means we all know, we will be fine.”


Photo: MAP

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