THE new-look Levett Essex Leopards will be aiming to chalk up their first league win of the campaign when they make the short trip to Westminster Warriors, on Saturday evening (November 19). 

Following an indifferent start to the campaign, the Big Cats made sweeping changes, releasing guard/forward Ladi Brown and forward David Ajumobi, while guard Brian Nguru recently left the club due to work commitments.

In addition, point guard Bode Adeluola is unlikely to play against before Christmas as he continues to struggle with a knee injury picked up in the summer.

“We’d like to thank David. Ladi and Brian for their efforts this season” said general manager Dave Ryan.

“Unfortunately the season hasn’t started as we would have liked, and after a lot of consideration we have decided that we need to make changes now.

“We proved in 2011/12 that it’s possible to overcome a slow start, but with a 26-game season it’s important that we start to pick up some victories before Christmas. We hope that Bode will be back in the team after the Christmas break, and we’ll be already moving up the table by then.”

While the Big Cats are continuing to look for additions to their roster, they have moved quickly with the addition of experienced point guard Perry Lawson and they are in the process of signing forward Darrell Bethune for Leicester Warriors.

Former Great Britain and England international Lawson brings a wealth of experience to Steve Ogunjimi’s team.

The 34-year-old point guard played NCAA Division One basketball at South Georgia Tech and was a key part of the Newcastle Eagles 2006 team that won the clean sweep of BBL Championship, BBL Play-offs, BBL Cup and BBL Trophy. He was also part of the Mersey Tigers side who went agonisingly close to emulating Eagles in 2011, missing out in the Cup final, as well as playing alongside Mike Martin at Surrey Heat and more recently playing for London Lions.

27-year-old Bethune is a former Great Britain under-20 international and has BBL experience with the now defunct Everton Tigers and Leeds Carnegie. Having come through the Hackney Community College system , where Lawson also started his career, the Londoner has also played in Division One for Westminster.

After playing in a pre-season game for the Big Cats, has top scored for Leicester Warriors this season, and Leopards are hoping that his transfer will be cleared in time for the trip to Westminster.

Both sides will be looking to collect their first league victory of the campaign, with Warriors currently bottom of the table with an 0-6 record. The sides have already met at Capital City Academy with Leopards finishing the National Trophy tie strongly to win 69-64.

An excellent performance from a depleted Leopards' team wasn't enough as Reading Rockets finished strongly to win 90-73, on Friday.

With Lawson and Bethune unavailable, a Big Cats' side who were without Steve Ogunjimi who was serving a one-game suspension following his ejection at Kent Crusaders suffered further problems in the warm-up.

Forward Justin Hitchman aggravated a foot injury and played no part in the game, while Jamie Hayes suffered a cut to the head but did play in the game. And by the end of the third period the home side were down to seven fit players as Dominic Scott-Robinson suffered a broken nose.

But for all of that, led by veteran Mike Martin who finished with 26 points and eight rebounds the hosts battled throughout before running out of steam going down the stretch.

Hayes and Dougie Bennett each added 13 points while AJ Roberts was two rebounds short of the triple-double with ten points and 11 boards.

Richards opened the Leopards' scoring with a triple and the Big Cats dominated the first period to lead 28-16 at the opening break as Hayes drained a pair of threes.

That lead quickly evaporated as Ponder opened the second period with ten straight points in the first two minutes before his one-man scoring spree was ended by a pair of Martin free-throws before the new Leopards' captain added a jump shot off Scott-Robinson's assist.

But Ponder continued to keep his side in the game with another five points to give them their first lead since the early stages, 33-32 with 5:57 on the clock and the rest of the half proved to be nip-and-tuck before Scott Robinson hit a trey to send Leopards into the locker room with a 43-42 lead.

Hooper and Martin exchanged baskets to open the third period, and the quarter proved to be a tight one, with Roberts' lay-up giving his side a 53-50 lead at the mid-point and the American guard put his side up by five with three minutes left before a strong finish to the stanza saw Rocket go into the final break leading 64-58 as Ponder beat the buzzer with a long three.

Martin scored his side's first six points of the fourth period to keep them within three points but that was as good as it got for the Big Cats, and their tired legs showed as Rockets wrapped up the victory.

 The Big Cats return home on Saturday November 26 when Solent Kestrels are the visitors to Harlow Leisurezone while the following day they host Bradford Dragons at the Brentwood Centre.