SHAUN Durant hopes his return to action can add to Essex Leopards’ chances of success this season.
The experienced centre has come back into the game after a two-year break to focus on his accountancy career.
But he is now relishing teaming up with the Big Cats and helped them beat both Worthing Thunder and Tees Valley Mohawks at the weekend.
“I didn’t realise how much I had missed playing until I got back out there again, so it’s been very interesting,” said Durant, 32. “I hadn’t played since being with Guildford but I’ve already been impressed by Leopards.
“We have a lot of good players here, the organisation is good and I’m looking forward to try to help the team win the league because I do think it’s possible.”
The double victory pushed Leopards up to third in Division One of the English Basketball League.
They saw off Worthing Thunder 89-72 on Saturday night before beating the Mohawks 93-81 in front of a big crowd at Southend’s Garon Park.
At Worthing, Robert Youngblood’s side never looked back after a 12-0 run to start the game. Howard Crawford led five Leopards in double figures with 22 points and eight rebounds in just 25 minutes of action.
Kris Clark had seven boards, five assists and four steals to go with his 15 points, while Andre Lockhart marked his debut with 12 points before fouling out early in the fourth period.
Carl Josey and Courtney Van Beest each had 11 points.
The following day, Crawford again led the Big Cats for the third successive game and the fifth time in six, finishing with a 22-point, 12 rebound double-double.
Durant also recorded a double-double, hitting 18 points and pulling down as many boards.
Clark had seven assists and five steals to go with his 18 points, with Lockhart adding 12 points.
Josey and Van Beest finished with 10 points apiece, the latter pulling down nine boards as the hosts out-rebounded Mo-hawks 49-31.
The Middlesbrough side started well, leading by as many as seven and going into the first break 21-18 ahead.
But Leopards took control in the second period, holding the visitors scoreless for four minutes to take a 26-25 lead at the five-minute mark and then closing out the half on a 16-5 run. The lead ballooned to 18 at the mid-stage of the third period before Leopards went into the final break 73-55 ahead.
The Big Cats’ lead grew to 22 points early in the fourth period, and although Mo-hawks fought back to make it an eight-point game heading into the final two minutes, some good defence saw Leopards wrap the win up.
In a change of fixture, Leopards travel to strugglers Medway Park Crusaders on Saturday before returning to Brentwood on Sunday, March 2, to face Manchester Magic, tip off 4pm.