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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 19:33 UK

GB positive despite defeats

By Rob Dugdale

Dan Clark
Dan Clark had an impressive first tournament with GB

In hindsight, showcasing the GB team that has started attracting considerable attention in a great setting like the O2 Arena and against three bona fide EuroBasket qualifiers was a good idea.

Unfortunately the timing (the original schedule put GB up against Michael Jackson's farewell tour) meant the team was playing its first games of the summer in front of expectant fans but, perhaps inevitably, was somewhat rusty.

To do it without five of the team's frontline players (Luol Deng, Robert Archibald, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Andy Betts and Flinder Boyd, the latter for most of the weekend) was doubly unfortunate, but coach Chris Finch does not accept that starting preparation for next month's EuroBasket finals in Poland with three home defeats is a setback.

"It didn't enter into my mindset in planning - I didn't think it added any pressure on us at all," he said flatly at the final press conference of the weekend.

"I wanted us to have training camp and then come and play right here. When you play in a venue like this you're somewhat locked into the available dates too."

If we wanted easy games we could have stayed in Division B. This is what we earned

GB coach Chris Finch

A stress fracture of the leg has ruled out Deng, Archibald is just short of a return from hernia surgery, Mensah-Bonsu is said to be on the point of signing an NBA contract for next season and Betts is back in Spain with his family for personal reasons.

"We have the players - we just don't have all of them here," said Finch. "But if we wanted easy games we could have stayed in Division B - this is what we wanted, this is what we earned. I expected us to come here, compete and play hard and get better and I think we did that."

Finch need not worry about there being too many easy games in the next warm-up tournament, which starts in Seville on Wednesday.

In addition to Olympic silver medallists Spain, GB will play Lithuania, who made it to the semi-finals in Beijing and Slovenia, a team boasting an abundance of NBA talent. Archibald, Boyd and possibly even Betts and Mensah-Bonsu could feature in that tournament

Once Deng was ruled out for the summer, the wide variety of offensive permutations GB could generate from his creativity were lost and Finch's squad spent much of the weekend in Greenwich examining the alternatives, with mixed degrees of success.

The bad news was that the passing and shooting of the guards produced little in the way of significant scoring contributions all weekend.

"I actually like our guard combination - we just have to find a way of getting them some shots," said Finch.

The best contribution was the 16 points against Israel from Mike Lenzly, who is back with the squad after missing last summer.

Chris Finch
Finch has plenty to think about as GB warm up for Poland

"Mike's back in the mix and he's much sharper right now," said Finch. "I told him I wanted him to be more aggressive. Having him back is big - it gives us another guard with experience who can make shots."

Another plus from the weekend were the first senior appearances for 20-year-old Dan Clark, whose mother played for England and whose father was, until recently, the GB women's coach.

Raw on Friday on debut against Poland, he made significant contributions in Saturday's second half against Turkey as the pedigree kicked in and looked comfortable for the whole of Sunday's game against Israel.

"With Dan, we're looking for a little bit of a breakout like Joel (Freeland) had last year," said Finch. "When he gets in game shape, a lot of his shots will fall for him. He probably hasn't played so many games back-to-back since he was in our under-18s."

Freeland, who found himself playing at centre in Betts' absence and carrying a lot of the scoring load, was GB's best player of the weekend, with the ever-energetic Nick George a close second.

Freeland's maturity and strength at the defensive end belied the fact that he is still only 22 years old. He will join Euroleague giants Malaga next season but his consistent development leaves little doubt he is destined for the NBA.

"It's been great for me from an experience standpoint," he said. "I haven't had that sort of pressure on me before but I enjoyed every minute of it.

"I feel like I'm going to grow, the team's going to grow and when Poland comes around we're going to be ready."



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see also
Wayward GB suffer third reverse
16 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Tough Turkey hand GB second loss
15 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Weakened GB suffer opening defeat
14 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB team hit by more withdrawals
13 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB begin tough summer
13 Aug 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB without star NBA duo for Euros
27 Jul 09 |  Basketball
Gordon's NBA move boosts GB hopes
09 Jul 09 |  Basketball
Toney keen to learn from GB stars
04 Jun 09 |  Basketball
Expansion proposal offers GB hope
22 May 09 |  Basketball
Three NBA stars named in GB squad
24 Apr 09 |  Basketball
British basketball back at The O2
27 Mar 09 |  Basketball
Gordon missing from Britain squad
12 Aug 08 |  Basketball


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