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.
Our line-up this week includes the 2017 BBL Cup Final MVP, as well as our season leader who ran him close for the accolade with a double-double. Rahmon Fletcher (Esh Group Eagles Newcastle) The reigning BBL MVP showed his qualities yet again with an unprecedented third successive MVP gong in the BBL Cup Final as he helped the Eagles land a historic three consecutive Cups. After his team went down early, Fletcher wrestled the initiative away from Glasgow and eventually finished with 29 po... [read more]
Our line-up this week includes the 2017 BBL Cup Final MVP, as well as our season leader who ran him close for the accolade with a double-double.
Rahmon Fletcher (Esh Group Eagles Newcastle) The reigning BBL MVP showed his qualities yet again with an unprecedented third successive MVP gong in the BBL Cup Final as he helped the Eagles land a historic three consecutive Cups. After his team went down early, Fletcher wrestled the initiative away from Glasgow and eventually finished with 29 points and six assists to wow the near 9,000 crowd at the Barclaycard Arena and many more watching worldwide on BBC Sport.
Tyler Bernardini (Leicester Riders) It's a third appearance of the season in our line-up for the Leicester guard, who was pivotal in his team clinging on to a hard-fought and precious BBL Championship victory against DBL Sharks Sheffield. Bernardini showed his usual shooting prowess for Riders with a terrific 20-point haul, as he dropped four triples on his opponents. He also handed out seven assists to showcase how he's' a whole lot more than a deadly shooter.
Scott Martin (Esh Group Eagles Newcastle) While his Eagles' colleague edged the MVP award, the forward was not that far away from taking the accolade either. Martin finished with 17 points via an excellent shooting performance against the Rocks and registered a double-double after pulling down 10 rebounds. He also blocked three shots and had two steals and an assist, as he becomes the first player this season to seal five starting appearances in our line-up.
Leslee Smith (203-F-90, college: Nebraska) (Bristol Flyers) The south-west club have found a really nice rhythm of late and the forward has been a key part in Flyers turning around their season. Smith helped to catapult his team to a valuable success against Worcester Wolves as they moved into seventh spot. His athleticism caused his opponents all kinds of problems as he garnered a fine double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds - as well as coming up with three blocked shots.
Will Neighbour (208-PF-90, college: UALR) (Surrey Scorchers) It was an incredible weekend for Neighbour and the Scorchers as they claimed a last-gasp win in the BBL Trophy at London Lions which followed on from another buzzer-beating win in the league against Giants 24 hours earlier. That is when British centre posted the best performance of the entire weekend as he tormented Manchester with a magnificent double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a scintillating six steals and three assists.
Off the bench - Mike Ochereobia (Surrey Scorchers), Navid Niktash (London Lions), Kieron Achara (Glasgow Rocks), Michael Creppy (Manchester Giants), Deondre Parks (Esh Group Eagles Newcastle), Taylor King (Leicester Riders), Malcolm Riley (DBL Sharks Sheffield).
Surrey Scorchers (BBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 23-year old American forward Gabe McCray (201-91kg-94, college: South Carolina State). He supposed to play at SC Rasta Vechta in German BBL league. McCray played in the final of MEAC Tournament. He received All-MDJUCO 1st Team award back in 2014 at his college time. McCray graduated from South Carolina State in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball. By Eurobasket Data Center Check also Complete Transfers List... [read more]
Surrey Scorchers (BBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 23-year old American forward Gabe McCray (201-91kg-94, college: South Carolina State). He supposed to play at SC Rasta Vechta in German BBL league. McCray played in the final of MEAC Tournament. He received All-MDJUCO 1st Team award back in 2014 at his college time. McCray graduated from South Carolina State in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball.
Esh Group Eagles claimed their third consecutive BBL Cup title after defeating Glasgow Rocks 91-83 in front of a large crowd at the Barclaycard Arena. Rahmon Fletcher (177-PG-88, college: Green Bay) netted 29 points and dished out six assists to claim his third successive MVP award with Deondre Parks adding 25 points. The Eagles led by as many as 23 points in the contest and held off a valiant late run from Glasgow to secure another BBL piece of silverware. Neil Watson made a hot start... [read more]
Esh Group Eagles claimed their third consecutive BBL Cup title after defeating Glasgow Rocks 91-83 in front of a large crowd at the Barclaycard Arena.
Rahmon Fletcher (177-PG-88, college: Green Bay) netted 29 points and dished out six assists to claim his third successive MVP award with Deondre Parks adding 25 points.
The Eagles led by as many as 23 points in the contest and held off a valiant late run from Glasgow to secure another BBL piece of silverware.
Neil Watson made a hot start with two triples in a 10-0 start before Fletcher got the Eagles going with seven points to close within a point.
Another triple from Watson followed as the duel continued with both players up to nine points by the end of the first with the Rocks up by one.
The Eagles went on 13-1 run as Fletcher moved to 15 points to help the Eagles open up a nine-point gap.
The advantage doubled as Newcastle closed the half with a 10-0 run including a corner three from Drew Lasker and a pull-up triple from Deondre Parks before the buzzer.
Gareth Murray netted back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third, but the Eagles went on another run to further increase their lead with Scott Martin making it a 20-point game.
Parks ended the third with another triple to make it 72-49 with the Eagles already seemingly out of reach.
However, the Rocks did not give up and mounted a determined late surge with Watson moving to 28 points as the gap was cut to just seven points in the final minute.
The damage had been done and Newcastle were able to celebrate a historic success.
Fab Flournoy equalled a BBL Cup Final record by finishing with five steals in the win to tie Tony Holley's 2005 record.
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