Signing of Baker to boost improving Palace line-up

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace will build on their first Budweiser League victory of the season, Saturday's 72-70 win at Worthing Bears, by today signing the England international playmaker Ronnie Baker on a free transfer from London Leopards.

Baker could soon be playing alongside another international as Palace's Barry Gooch is in line for a call-up to England's European Championship squad for the series of three games starting next month.

The Palace coach, Alton Byrd, praised Gooch and another young guard, Michael Hosannah, after the win at Worthing, where Palace scored the last five points to snatch victory. "They were excellent," Byrd said, "especially Michael."

Baker is England's second-most experienced current international, with 84 caps. His proposed move to the German League fell through and Leopards no longer had a place for him in their squad.

Palace stunned Worthing in the final quarter after benching their two Canadian players, the 6ft 9in and the 6ft 10in brothers Eric and Dave Johnson, to finish the game with a quartet of English players plus the Nigerian Solomon Ayinla.

Richard Scantlebury led Palace's scorers with 23 points, while Hosannah scored the basket which gave Palace a 71-70 lead and Gooch made the game safe from the free-throw line.

There was good news for the England coach, Laszlo Nemeth, yesterday when the London Towers' international Karl Brown returned ahead of schedule following a broken ankle to score 16 points in their 122-82 win over Hemel and Watford Royals.

Chester Jets have lost their 100 per cent record following last night's 92-84 home defeat by Manchester Giants.