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.
Orlan Jackman (201-F-88, college: Oklahoma City) former player of Worcester Wolves (BBL) gave an interview: Why you decided to be a pro player. I decided to become a pro player because it was the next step in my progression as a player, I had played at the College level then after that it was just natural progression. There are many players without a job fighting for the same spots, how hard is to wait for your ideal offer and not take the first that comes up considering that the next... [read more]
Orlan Jackman (201-F-88, college: Oklahoma City) former player of Worcester Wolves (BBL) gave an interview: Why you decided to be a pro player.
I decided to become a pro player because it was the next step in my progression as a player, I had played at the College level then after that it was just natural progression.
There are many players without a job fighting for the same spots, how hard is to wait for your ideal offer and not take the first that comes up considering that the next one may not come soon.
It is very tough, the supply outweighs the demand and most players/coaches/GMs know this and makes any offer look good, you just to have to have faith in your own abilities and that the right situation will come around.
Which was the best game you had in your career so far?
Best game I had was against CAB Madeira when I had 35 points and 15 rebounds and most importantly the win.
Tell us your strong point and your weakness in your game.
A strength in my game is my ability to to play on ball defence and get steals & a weakness of mine is my free throw % at the low 70s for my career, I need to work to get that higher.
Which player was the hardest opponent to play against?
Leicester Riders keep Washington for another season - 1 day ago
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Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders (BBL) re-signed 24-year old point guard Conner Washington (184-92). He has played there for the last four seasons. In 34 BBL games he recorded 6.8ppg, 3.1rpg and 2.4apg last season. Washington helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. They also played in the Cup final. A very good season in his career as he was voted to Eurobasket.com British BBL All-Defensive Team and All-Domestic Players Team. His team won British BBL Cup in 2014.... [read more]
Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders (BBL) re-signed 24-year old point guard Conner Washington (184-92). He has played there for the last four seasons. In 34 BBL games he recorded 6.8ppg, 3.1rpg and 2.4apg last season. Washington helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. They also played in the Cup final. A very good season in his career as he was voted to Eurobasket.com British BBL All-Defensive Team and All-Domestic Players Team. His team won British BBL Cup in 2014. Washington represented United Kingdom at the European Championships U20 Division B in Sofia (Bulgaria) four years ago. His stats at that event were 6 games: 7.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 33.3%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 83.3%. Washington has played previously for two other British teams: London Lions and Loughborough.
Great Britain under-20 z\q their promotion dreams end with a 69-53 loss against Croatia, on Friday.
Jules Dang-Akodo (188-G-96) led the way with 12 points and four steal but Andreas Kapolulas' side never recovered after falling 13-6 behind midway through the first period.
Bozic hit a trey to send Croatia into the first break with 20-15 lead and although Carey made it a three point game with the opening score of the second period, GB went into the locker room at half-time tra... [read more]
Great Britain under-20 z\q their promotion dreams end with a
69-53 loss against Croatia, on Friday.
Jules Dang-Akodo (188-G-96) led the way with 12 points and four steal but
Andreas Kapolulas' side never recovered after falling 13-6 behind midway
through the first period.
Bozic hit a trey to send Croatia into the first break
with20-15 lead and although Carey made
it a three point game with the opening score of the second period, GB went into
the locker room at half-time trailing 35-27.
The third period proved to be a disaster for Britain as the
Croats opened with a trey and outscored Kapoulas' team 19-10 to lead by 17 at
the final break and although GB shaded the fourth stanza 16-15 it was too
little, too late.
Deane Williams finished with nine points and seven rebounds
while Pharroh Gordon had nine boards to go with his three points.
Britain will face Poland on Saturday as they look to finish
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