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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 11:15 UK

Toney keen to learn from GB stars

By Rob Dugdale

Tafari Toney (photo by Mansoor Ahmed)
Tafari Toney's athleticism has created problems for BBL opponents this season

GB's newest recruit Tafari Toney is eager to test himself at the next level after his first professional season.

Head coach Chris Finch named the 22-year-old, who won three titles with the Newcastle Eagles this season, in his squad for the summer European campaign.

"I'm excited to see how NBA and pro European-level players play and how they exercise," said Toney.

"That is a total jump and it's going to be a really good experience finding out what it takes to get in there."

Toney is not expecting to make the final 12-man Great Britain squad for the EuroBasket tournament in Poland in September, but he knows his selection is a sign that he has made progress.

I can be tired, just wake up and go on court and have energy

Tafari Toney

And the 6ft 8in forward could get a chance to make his debut during the four-team tournament at London's O2 Arena in August.

Toney was born in Brooklyn, New York, but qualifies as a British national through his mother, who was born in Peckham and moved to the US as a teenager.

"She's real British - she has the accent and all!" said Toney.

As Toney left Houston University last year, Newcastle coach Fab Flournoy liked what he saw on video and offered him a contract.

Newcastle got a forward with boundless energy and enormous athleticism, the latter bringing comparisons with current GB stalwart and NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

Like Pops, Toney also has a useful jump-shot out to around 15 feet.

"It's just an energy thing that I have," said Toney, who claims to have not seen Mensah-Bonsu play yet. "I can be tired, just wake up and go on court and have energy."

Toney's debut season in the BBL also attracted the attention of Everton Tigers coach Tony Garbelotto, an assistant coach with GB.

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Garbelotto noticed that although Newcastle lost starting centre Lynard Stewart, a former league Most Valuable Player, to an ongoing knee problem, their results arguably improved.

"I wasn't playing much the first half of the season and then 'L' got hurt," said Toney. "Darius Defoe and I just had to pick it up from where he was."

Even though he contributed 9.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 20 minutes on court, Toney - known as "Tap" by his Eagles team-mates - was not expecting a GB to show an interest.

"One day I was in the office and I saw a DVD that had my name on it and I was like, 'Oh this must be mine', but they said 'No, that's for GB,'" he recalled

Toney's all-round athleticism could come in useful for GB, however, if only from the standpoint of him being able to take on defensive assignments.

"I just go out there and give it all," he says. "No matter if the guy is two hundred, three hundred pounds or if he's seven foot, eight foot tall."



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see also
Three NBA stars named in GB squad
24 Apr 09 |  Basketball
Pops returns to NBA with Toronto
06 Mar 09 |  Basketball
Deng injury puts season in doubt
24 Mar 09 |  Basketball
London-bound Deng eyes 2012 glory
25 Mar 09 |  Basketball
Gordon missing from Britain squad
12 Aug 08 |  Basketball
British basketball back at The O2
27 Mar 09 |  Basketball


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