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.
A competitive pool of 22 players will battle it out to represent Great Britain at the U20 European Championship Division B in Greece this summer. There are some particularly prominent returnees from last year's U20 campaign on the initial list which could offer Head Coach, Andreas Kapoulas the benefit of continuity. They include the likes of Jules Dang Akodo, who has been playing professionally in the Slovenia Telemach League, while there is also a spot for Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye who h... [read more]
A competitive pool of 22 players will battle it out to represent Great Britain at the U20 European Championship Division B in Greece this summer.
There are some particularly prominent returnees from last year's U20 campaign on the initial list which could offer Head Coach, Andreas Kapoulas the benefit of continuity.
They include the likes of Jules Dang Akodo, who has been playing professionally in the Slovenia Telemach League, while there is also a spot for Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye who has previously worked with Coach Kapoulas at Bristol Flyers in the British Basketball League (BBL). He comes into the camp off the back of an impressive Freshman year in the States where he top scored and secured All-Team honours in his Conference at Bradley University.
Meanwhile Deane Williams was also on board last year and he recently helped his College side Augusta University reach their Tournament Final, with Pharroh Gordon also excelling and posting a great season at St Rose College.
Of those players searching for a potential GB debut at the U20 level, the exciting Kyle Carey has made people sit up and take notice with Lancashire Spinners. Elsewhere on a list packed with so many talented performers, Andre Arissol of Leicester Riders also led Charnwood College to the Elite Academy Basketball League (EABL) title and Shaquille Walters provided the main thrust behind Peckham Pride conquering the U18s National League Final Four.
The invitees will all attend a preparation camp at the University of Essex in Colchester on 27 June as Coach Kapoulas puts the candidates through their paces. He will be joined by Assistant Coach, James Vear who has fulfilled the same role in recent years - with Josh Merrington also joining the coaching line-up as an Assistant, having worked with Charnwood College and Leicester Riders last season.
Prior to heading to Greece for the FIBA U20 European Championship Division B, the team will compete in a warm-up tournament in Portugal between Friday 01 July and Monday 04 July, when they will also face Sweden and Belarus. They will then step out for further friendlies against host nation Greece and Portugal prior to the start of the U20 tournament in Chalkida.
GB have been pitched into Group C, where they will play Albania (15/07), Ireland (16/07), Kosovo (17/07), Netherlands (19/07) and Greece (20/07) during the first phase.
The 22-player candidate list is as follows:
Andre Arissol - Charnwood College / Leicester Riders (GBR) Harvey Barr - Solent Kestrels (GBR) Moses Byekwaso - Preston College Titans (GBR) Kyle Carey - Myerscough / Lancashire Spinners (GBR) Liam Carpenter - Crailsheim Merlins (GER) Jules Dang Akodo - LTH Castings Skofja Loka (SLO) Malik Eichler - MacDuffie Prep School (USA) Pharroh Gordon - College of St Rose (USA) Sedale Hanson-Young - Cheshire Phoenix (GBR) Selby Hind-Wills - Solent Kestrels (GBR) Boban Jacdonmi - Chattanooga State Community College (USA) Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye - Bradley University (USA) Callum Lawson - Western Wyoming Community College (USA) Fraser Malcolm - Black Hills State University (USA) Sam Newman - Ipswich Basketball Club (GBR) Kingsley Nwagboso - Connors State College (USA) Theo Oghide - Southwest Baptist University (USA) Earl Russell - Western Wyoming Community College (USA) Joshua Steel - University of Duquesne (USA) Shaquille Walters - Peckham Pride (GBR) Deane Williams - Augusta University (USA) Findlay Wood - University of Essex (GBR)
Reading Rockets add Marzette to their roster - May 20, 2016
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Reading Rockets (EBL D1) added to their roster American guard Alex Marzette (196-84kg, college: Robert Morris). He played last summer at Pontiac 66ers (MPBA) in the U.S.. He helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Marzette's college team won GLVC Tournament in 2014. He was also voted All-CCAC 1st Team in 2015. Marzette graduated from Robert Morris College in 2015 and it is his second season as a profes... [read more]
Reading Rockets (EBL D1) added to their roster American guard Alex Marzette (196-84kg, college: Robert Morris). He played last summer at Pontiac 66ers (MPBA) in the U.S.. He helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Marzette's college team won GLVC Tournament in 2014. He was also voted All-CCAC 1st Team in 2015. Marzette graduated from Robert Morris College in 2015 and it is his second season as a professional player.
Manchester Giants are bringing back at least four players from last season's squad. And talks are under way to increase that number. Supporters' player of the year Ingus Bankevics(195-G/F-85, agency: Players Group) will return for the second year of his two-year contract. And player-coach Yorick Williams has moved to re-sign Jerelle Okoro, Barry Webster and Reiss Haggith. Guard Okoro had a breakout year last season forcing himself into the Giants' starting line-up with some energetic,... [read more]
Manchester Giants are bringing back at least four players from last season's squad.
And talks are under way to increase that number.
Supporters' player of the year Ingus Bankevics (195-G/F-85, agency: Players Group) will return for the second year of his two-year contract.
And player-coach Yorick Williams has moved to re-sign Jerelle Okoro, Barry Webster and Reiss Haggith.
Guard Okoro had a breakout year last season forcing himself into the Giants' starting line-up with some energetic, committed displays and typifying the kind of defensive intensity Williams values.
Webster and Haggith both played bit-part roles with Giants chiefs hopeful of further development from the pair.
Williams is currently in talks with senior Giants players from last season's squad while pursuing potential new signings.
Giants CEO John Dwan said: 'We've moved quickly to re-sign these three young players.
'We believe they have the potential to do even better next season.
'Yorick is talking to the other players from last season's group and has already started identifying potential new players.'
The Giants have also been working to expand their youth set-up with recent trials for next season's National League teams drawing around 350 youngsters to Wright Robinson.
'It has been really encouraging,' added Dwan. 'We hope it will mean a bigger and better junior section in the new season.'
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