British basketball journalist Dave Ryan looks back at GB's first seven summers back in the international game, with a certain amount of disappointment. With the dust now settled on the Olympics, there's time to look back on Great Britain's achievements in the basketball tournament.
I'll freely admit that I waited to write these words because I didn't want to mess up my gold medal ticket chances. That sounds paranoid, I know, but the reason I haven't worked for GB Basketball this summer is that I reported we stunk against Turkey at EuroBasket last summer. I actually quoted Chris Finch and Joel Freeland saying we stunk, and all hell was let loose. This isn't a rant about me not working for GB, while I could have used the money, I was actually relieved when they confirmed they wouldn't be using my services this summer because the level of grief would have ruined the tournament for me. I don't think their website has gained from the decision, much of the stuff over and above games reports - previews, reaction pieces and tournament round-ups (much of which I did for free) - has disappeared.
I wouldn't be arrogant enough to suggest that GB's non-employment of me is the biggest problem facing British basketball (if it is, there is no problem!) but some of what happened last summer shows how the bigger picture was ignored in favour of things that don't really matter. If the Performance Director needs to sit on the bench, he shouldn't be sending texts about what needs to appear in the game report - he really should have more important things to worry about rather than ranting about me using the word "trey" in a report. The last six years haven't been a disaster. Far from it. Three of the four GB teams have achieved a level of success that couldn't have been dreamed of before London got the Games. As Chris Finch said in his final press conference, we took on every challenge and succeeded but ultimately came up short at the Olympics. It's the lack of legacy that concerns many people.
The main focus of GB was always going to be the Olympics and doing well at them. It had to be, if we didn't get there - and certainly for the women is was far from guaranteed - the funding would've ended instantly. If we stunk at the Olympics the funding was likely to disappear. If they drastically cut the funding now, and don't give us a chance of build on what's been achieved over the last six years, that money really was wasted. But more really could have been done to build towards the future.
The "GB Futures" programme was pretty big in 2010 running in tandem with an England programme and gave the next generation a lot of international experience. But, with our place in London confirmed in March 2011, the last two summers have seen it shrink to the point that it barely seems worthwhile. It should be a big part of the GB set-up, running alongside the U-20 team, preferably with the same coaching staff. As it was, Finch did the job for a year, GB made a big deal about development, then appeared to forget all about it because hthey'd been given the berths. Still, that's better than the women's development programme, that consisted of playing in the World Student Games and then forgetting all about it. The England programme that was supposed to form part of it, never happened, either.
The under-20 men have been poor throughout the six years, they haven't really progressed from the hastily recruited team that Jeff Jones put together when England Basketball ran the programme in the first year. Tim Lewis was given far longer than a coach of one of the senior sides would have been allowed with such failure. It's as if they didn't really care.
And, without raking up the whole Devon van Oostrum saga (and there's definitely more to that than we've heard) , to not even name him on the reserve list when GB were so top heavy with big men, didn't exactly show any forward thinking.
There's been little in the way of coaching development. By this summer - the key point in the programme - all four teams are coached by foreign coaches, with their lead assistant a non-Brit as well. Whatever happened to Tony Garbelotto? Shouldn't there have been a British assistant coach for the men being groomed for the big job when Finch moved on? Damian Jennings is the obvious candidate for the women, but there's still every chance next year that (at least) three of the four head coaches will be non-Brits. Although I'm beginning to turn into John Amaechi, that's a pretty damning indictment after six years.
There's been a lot written about the money spent on training camps and hotels etc. it's hard to judge whether it was spent well without having been there. The camp in Houston this year seems like a lot of money to spend, but with EuroBasket qualifying not starting until next week, it was the only way of getting decent opposition at that stage of the summer. We could probably have done with longer together as a team before the Olympics anyway, but if we'd stayed in England, there wouldn't have been anyone worth playing. But the amount of money spent on non-coaching personnel really needs looking at. There are three people on the GB website listed a having "performance" in their title - and that's not counting Tim Lewis because his real title should be video co-ordinator - seriously what are they all doing? Warwick Cann provides a link between the England junior teams and GB, he does get out a lot and watches a lot of games, but it's arguable whether it's a full-time job in November or December. Ron Wutella (who I have a lot of time for) has seen his role shrink, he's now part-time and dealing with the players in America. I don't know what his terms and conditions are, but that doesn't seem like a very big job and in the days of modern communication it's not as if he needs to be the States.
And then there's the Performance Director - a man who's never played or coached basketball at any proper level. I've coached one EBL D1 game (I may have mentioned this in the past), that's one more than he'll ever do and I just can't see how someone with no background in basketball could be the best man for the job. Even if you ignore that, they appeared to have two and half men doing what is basically one job. He really can't be that busy if he's trying to write the game reports from the bench during games - and yes, there is obviously a bit of an issue between us, but that doesn't change the basic facts.
I could ignore the chronic waste of money but the farce about places in the Olympic Village and bench really tops it - and I'll admit to being seriously angry about this. After Poland 2009 there was serious consideration given to firing Finch and bringing someone else in. Maybe they couldn't get who they wanted or maybe they just didn't think they could justify it after what he'd done (and we had been placed in the group of death), but in the end the decision was made to stick with him and they appoint Paul Modeski as an assistant coach. He's good, I've talked to him and talked to people who've talked to him, and he knows his stuff. He's played and coached in the NBA and his role was much more than just being a big-man coach. So where was he during the Olympics? Staying in a hotel outside the Village and sitting ten rows back in the stand, rather than being on the bench.
Meanwhile, Damian Jennings was doing likewise for the women while Spice and Ron W sit on the bench. Unbelievable. I can just about understand Ron being there, he's coached at college level in the States and could conceivably bring something to a game situation - and the women had three coaches, even if they chose the wrong second assistant thanks to a Facebook campaign by people who think they should pick the team based on who wins the women's league. But to have only two coaches for the men, and leave arguably the most experienced of the three in the stand so a bloke who's never coached a game in his life beggars belief. The ego truly landed when it came to the crunch. The lack of interest in building a fan-base for OUR national was also clear. Whether it was the invitation-only games at Cobham when they should've been taking them to Guildford (or elsewhere). But it was just never there. I guess the money was irrelevant in the big scheme of things, and once again it comes back to the lack of any real wish to build a legacy. Let's be honest the GB Supporters' Club exists in spite rather than because of the efforts of GB Basketball. I'm not being unfair, here, look at the farce over tickets in Lithuania, it made their lack of interest in the fans pretty obvious. Which if you're going to grow the game - and get to a point where home game make money - is pretty short-sighted.
I'm not totally down on the whole GB programme. It's achieved a lot in its first seven summers. But if it's going to succeed it needs to be run by people who want to grow the game in the long-term. So much has been achieved, so much more could have been.
Manchester Giants (BBL) inked 21-year old center Luke Attfield (213-95). The last time (11-12) he played at Bognor Pirates in British EBL3. Attfield missed last season and had one year break from professional basketball. Attfield represented United Kingdom at the European Championships U16 Division B in Strumica (FYR Macedonia) five years ago. His team won Silver and his stats at that event were 4 games: 1.0ppg. Manchester Giants roster for 2016-2017: Yorick Williams Ingus Bankevics Us... [read more]
Manchester Giants (BBL) inked 21-year old center Luke Attfield (213-95). The last time (11-12) he played at Bognor Pirates in British EBL3. Attfield missed last season and had one year break from professional basketball. Attfield represented United Kingdom at the European Championships U16 Division B in Strumica (FYR Macedonia) five years ago. His team won Silver and his stats at that event were 4 games: 1.0ppg.
Avila lands William Hall, ex Glasgow Rocks - 20 hours ago
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Carrefour El Bulevar de Avila (LEB Silver) landed 25-year old British small forward William Hall (201-91, agency: Dynamics Global Management). He played most recently at Glasgow Rocks in British BBL league. In 36 games he averaged 12.7ppg, 7.0rpg and 2.9apg last season. Hall helped them to make it to the semifinals. It was a very successful season in his career as he was selected to Eurobasket.com All-British BBL Honorable Mention. The previous (14-15) season Hall played at Leeds Force (a... [read more]
Carrefour El Bulevar de Avila (LEB Silver) landed 25-year old British small forward William Hall (201-91, agency: Dynamics Global Management). He played most recently at Glasgow Rocks in British BBL league. In 36 games he averaged 12.7ppg, 7.0rpg and 2.9apg last season. Hall helped them to make it to the semifinals. It was a very successful season in his career as he was selected to Eurobasket.com All-British BBL Honorable Mention. The previous (14-15) season Hall played at Leeds Force (also in BBL) where in 27 games he had 14.2ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.6apg and 1.1spg. Hall played in the final of British EBL Division One in 2011. He represented United Kingdom at the European Championships U20 Division B in Sarajevo (Bosnia) five years ago. His stats at that event were 8 games: 2.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.4apg. Hall has played also professionally for other British teams like Sheffield Sharks, Reading Rockets and London Greenhouse Pioneers.
Carrefour El Bulevar de Avila roster for 2016-2017:
The opening weekend of the new season concluded with five games on Sunday evening. Leicester Riders became the first team to record two wins after holding off Worcester Wolves 77-66, while Esh Group Eagles Newcastle started their campaign with an 85-99 victory over Cheshire Phoenix, behind 28 points from Scott Martin (203-G-88, college: Notre Dame, agency: HMS) Plymouth Raiders bounced back from an opening loss on Saturday to defeat Surrey Scorchers 87-63 with all five starters reaching... [read more]
The opening weekend of the new season concluded with five games on Sunday evening.
Leicester Riders became the first team to record two wins after holding off Worcester Wolves 77-66, while Esh Group Eagles Newcastle started their campaign with an 85-99 victory over Cheshire Phoenix, behind 28 points from Scott Martin (203-G-88, college: Notre Dame, agency: HMS)
Plymouth Raiders bounced back from an opening loss on Saturday to defeat Surrey Scorchers 87-63 with all five starters reaching double figures, while Jack Isenbarger netted 28 points to inspire Leeds Force to a 79-58 success over DBL Sharks Sheffield.
Also, Glasgow Rocks claimed their first win after recording a convincing 56-90 success away at Manchester Giants as Neil Watson led five scorers in double figures with 21 points on debut.
BBL Championship Leeds Force 79 (21,38,57) (Isenbarger 28, Marsden 12, Sanders/Matthew 8) DBL Sharks Sheffield 58 (19,33,47) (Poole 14, S Davis 13, Wroblicky 8)
Leeds Force opened their account for the new season with a 79-58 win over DBL Sharks Sheffield, thanks in large to an impressive shooting display from Jack Isenbarger.
The American went 8-of-11 from beyond the arc including a perfect 7/7 in the second half on his way to a 28-point haul.
It was Rob Marsden (200-PF-88, college: Findlay, OH) who made a strong start with eight of his 12 points in the first period as he edged the home side into a narrow advantage.
Two triples from Eddie Matthew pushed Leeds up by nine, but the Sharks levelled at 38-38 early in the second half.
However, Isenbarger began to heat up with a trio of 3-pointers in quick succession to help Leeds establish a 10-point cushion ahead of the final quarter. Two more followed to cap an 8-0 run to put the game beyond doubt.
Isenbarger netted his eighth in the final minute to complete a fine performance on his BBL debut as Leeds start 1-0 in the league.
The defeat sees the Sharks fall to 0-2 in a disappointing start to the campaign. BBL Championship Plymouth Raiders 87 (24,47,66) (Grady 18, Nicholas/Dixon 16) Surrey Scorchers 63 (10,26,43) (Neighbour 25, Ogedengbe 12, Margai/Rollins 6)
Plymouth Raiders bounced back from their opening loss with a comfortable 87-63 victory at home to Surrey Scorchers.
Anton Grady contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Cory Dixon and Donte Nicholas added 16 points apiece with all five starters reaching double figures in the 24-point win.
The Raiders raced out of the blocks and used a 12-0 run to set the tone early in the first and they never looked back. Rhys Carter started the second with a three as the lead continued to be stretched.
Plymouth were up by 21 at the half with three players already in double figures. The visitors kept battling in the second half despite being in foul trouble and kept their opponents from completely running away with the game.
The gap hit 31 points late in the fourth, but the Scorchers closed with an 8-1 run and they now drop to 0-2 despite a game-high of 25 points from Will Neighbour. BBL Championship Leicester Riders 77 (23,39,55) (Clark 20, Bernardini 11, Thomson/Hampton 9) Worcester Wolves 66 (16,42,58) (Kennedy/Huffor 18, Setty 11)
Leicester Riders completed a perfect weekend after seeing off the challenge of Worcester Wolves with a 77-66 success.
Rob Paternostro's side trailed heading into the final quarter, but seized control and held off their opponents with a 10-0 close to the game.
Brandon Clark top scored with 20 points and also handed out seven assists as Riders' depth was evident once again.
A 10-0 run established early control as the Riders were up by 10 on a three from Eric Robertson, but the visitors hit back strongly in the second with a 23-3 run as Wolves made a 9-of-15 start from downtown to lead 32-42.
Danny Huffor moved to 16 points, but the Riders finished the half with the final seven points with Marek Klaasen picking up his fourth foul in the meantime.
Wolves managed to maintain their narrow advantage after an even third period before the defending champions opened the fourth with a 7-0 run.
A three from Trevor Setty cut the gap to one at 67-66 before five points from Pierre Hampton was followed by a big triple from Tyler Bernardini to make the game safe in the final minute.
Riders improve to 2-0, while the Wolves are now 1-1 having won their opener in overtime on Friday night. BBL Championship Manchester Giants 56 (9,31,43) (Y Williams 14, Webster 11, Goffen 9) Glasgow Rocks 90 (24,45,63) (Watson 21, Elechi 16, Lescault 12)
Glasgow Rocks made an impressive start to their league campaign after completing a 56-90 win away at Manchester Giants.
Neil Watson led five different scorers in double figures with 21 points on his Rocks debut, while Anthony Elechi added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rocks established their authority with a 15-2 close to the opening quarter as they opened up a commanding 9-24 cushion. Manchester began to settle and edged the second quarter 22-21 to narrowly close the gap heading into half-time.
However, the visitors maintained their control and a late three in the third from Jordan Clarke gave his side a 20-point advantage to take and the lead continued to grow in the final period.
A 15-4 run from the Rocks took the gap past 30 points as Sterling Davis' side secured a convincing victory with GB internationals Kieron Achara and Gareth Murray back amongst the squad.
Player-coach Yorick Williams led his side with 14 points as the Giants drop their home opener. BBL Championship Cheshire Phoenix 85 (18,35,59) (Brown 27, Anderson 21, Wilcher 12) Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 99 (20,42,72) (Martin 28, Defoe 16, Parks 15)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle pulled away from Cheshire Phoenix to record an 85-99 road victory, on Sunday evening.
Scott Martin led the way with a 28-point haul to help his team get off to a winning start as all nine players got onto the scoresheet.
After a tightly contested first period, the Eagles began to edge away, putting together a 16-2 run across quarters to lead by 12 at 22-34. Cheshire scored seven straight either side of half-time to close within three, but would not get closer.
Defoe scored six points in a 13-2 run as Newcastle re-gained a double-digit advantage and a further 10-1 burst in the fourth would make sure of the result with the visitors ahead by as many as 21 with three minutes to go.
Josh Fox scored consecutive baskets to end the game, but Cheshire drop to 0-2 despite 27 points from Earl Brown and a further 21 points from Jamell Anderson on 8-of-9 shooting.
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