Head coach Chris Finch and the British Basketball Federation today released a preliminary roster of 21 players to compete for spots on the host team’s 2012 Olympic team. Given the fairly short modern history of FIBA-level basketball on the ‘Isles, the claim from the federation that this is the “strongest-ever preliminary GB men’s squad” isn’t very debatable.
Said roster draws on quite an international reach, consisting as it does of NBA players Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls), Ben Gordon (Detroit Pistons) and Byron Mullens (Charlotte Bobcats); Liga Endesa’s Kieron Achara (Manresa), Robert Archibald (Zaragoza), Dan Clark (Asefa Estudiantes), Joel Freeland (Unicaja Malaga) and Devon van Oostrum (Tarragona); European professionals Ogo Adegboye and Kyle Johnson (Apoel Cyprus), Eric Boateng (Peristeri), Matthew Bryan-Amaning (Hacettepe), Mike Lenzly (CEZ Nymburk), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Besiktas Milangaz), Sullivan Phillips (Prievidza); the BBL’s Nate Reinking (Sheffield Sharks) and Andrew Sullivan (Leicester Riders); NCAA players Andrew Lawrence (College of Charleston), Alex Marcotullio (Northwestern), Ovie Soko (University of Alabama-Birmingham); and current free agent/San Antonio Spurs draftee Ryan Richards.
Official press release follows.
(British Basketball) – NBA stars Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens have all confirmed their availability and commitment to pull on the Great Britain jersey this summer.
Although it will be the first time Gordon and Mullens have been available to play for GB, Deng has long been a prominent and consistent figure in the squad since 2007 when he helped the side qualify for A Division basketball for the first time since 1981. In 2011 he provided a timely reminder of his talent at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania where he averaged a huge 24.6 points per game and 9.4 rebounds, coming second overall in the tournament for double-doubles.
Gordon has voiced his desire to be part of the British Basketball programme for a number of years, and visited the team during the 2011 EuroBasket qualifiers but has yet to step on court for his country, primarily as a result of some unfortunate injuries. Today’s announcement confirms his commitment to the side; Gordon commented: “I am very excited to pull on the GB jersey this summer and play for my country. To be invited into camp is the first step in that journey and I am immensely proud to have the opportunity.
“I am totally committed to playing with the Standard Life GB team this year and look forward to being part of the squad hoping to make 2012 a year to remember for British Basketball fans.”
Also returning to action for GB is power forward, Pops Mensah Bonsu who is having a brilliant season in Turkey with Besiktas. He is averaging a huge 30 minutes per game and 18.3 points. Pops has helped his team to National Cup glory as well as to the EuroChallenge final four. Joining him in the preliminary GB squad, and hoping to be part of the team’s training camp in Houston this summer are established national team players Joel Freeland and Robert Archibald who have also enjoyed fantastic seasons in Spain’s top flight and will be aiming for a final berth in Finch’s squad.
With today’s announcement, Finch has once again shown his belief in the wealth of young players that have been working their way up through GB’s performance pathway. 2011 alumni, Kyle Johnson, Andrew Lawrence, Alex Marcotullio, Ryan Richards, and Devon van Oostrum also make it into the preliminary squad and will want to demonstrate their credentials on the big stage.
British Basketball’s 2011 Emerging Athlete of the Year, Van Oostrum, played a tournament-high 23 minutes against Spain in the EuroBasket finals in Lithuania, and will be hoping to emulate this on the Olympic stage.
Former under-20 player Ovie Soko is also included in the preliminary squad. Sullivan Phillips who plays with Prievidza in Slovakia is a new addition to the roster; he has been twice Defensive Player of the Year in his stints with teams in both Hungary and Cyprus and could prove to be a fascinating prospect among the initial players invited into camp.
Standard Life GB head coach Finch commented: “The GB basketball programme has come a long way since 2006 and the blend we have now of experienced talent with the younger guys is fantastic to see. We have the potential for a world class team who will surprise a few people this summer. The commitment from all our players to the programme once again is great and it’s also good to see our strength and depth continuing to increase year on year.”
The preliminary squad of 21 players will be cut down to 16 at the beginning of May with two additional places available for Futures team players. The final roster of 12 players heading to the Olympic Games this summer will then be announced early in July when the team returns to the UK from preparation camp in the USA.