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Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 16:49 UK

GB face Euro inquest

EUROBASKET 2009, POLAND
Dates: 7-20 September
Coverage: Daily highlights on the BBC Sport website (UK only)

GB's Pops Mensah-Bonsu is challenged by Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica

Highlights - Serbia end GB's Euro challenge

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport at EuroBasket in Poland

The absence of star players, commitment and motivation for the rest of the squad and the position of coach Chris Finch are all likely to come under review as Great Britain consider their early exit from the European Championships in Poland.

GB surprised many last year as they became the first home nation to qualify for the EuroBasket tournament since England did so in 1981.

But - aside from the night when they led world champions Spain in the fourth quarter - this summer has been an anticlimax, ending in three defeats in the group stages in Warsaw.

Mensah-Bonsu
Mensah-Bonsu arrived late after NBA contract negotiations

Performance director Chris Spice, who was involved with England's rugby union team in the run-up to the 2003 World Cup triumph, will lead a root-and-branch review of the season.

Everything, he told BBC Sport, will be under discussion in a bid to determine what can be learned from a difficult summer in which the team won a single game from 12 in four tournaments.

They were already without Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng, still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, which ended his NBA season early.

Ben Gordon raised hopes of joining the country of his birth having moved from the Bulls to the Detroit Pistons, but then opted to give all his energies to settling into his new surroundings.

Some of the young players stood up and made a difference and that's a good sign for the long term

Chris Spice
GB performance director

At least Londoner Pops Mensah-Bonsu, made himself available for EuroBasket, but only after missing all of the warm-up fixtures while he negotiated new NBA deal, with the Houston Rockets.

"We had a very difficult preparation - Pops not coming in till late affected our ability to prepare," said Spice.

"Not having Ben made a difference but in the end some of the young players stood up and made a difference and that's a good sign for the long term."

GB might have stolen either of the games against Spain or Serbia if the rapidly-improving Joel Freeland had not been reduced largely to the the role of spectator by a back injury.

Dan Clark, given his debut at 20, did not get on court in Poland but showed great promise in the warm-up games as a big man who can shoot the ball.

GB were hugely improved in Poland after bombing out of a tournament in Ankara, Turkey with three defeats, two of them heavy and one described by coach Chris Finch at the time as "embarrassing".

"We were more settled after we'd had four or five days back in London before the tournament," said Spice.

From opinions canvassed during the summer, GB's policy of keeping an enlarged squad - 16 featured in the tournament at London's O2 Arena, while 14 travelled to Turkey but only 12 were allowed to take part in EuroBasket - is likely to fall in sharp focus at the review on 5 October.

"From the programme's point of view, we need to have player commitment as early as possible and not have players dipping in and out of the programme," said Spice.

"But that's difficult with players being the USA. We have to make everyone aware that we don't have much time."

Finch and his coaching team
It's kind of disturbing to think the tournament is going on and we have had to come home, it doesn't feel right

Coach Chris Finch

Mensah-Bonsu made the observation after EuroBasket that GB may have simply lacked experience in a tournament rated by many as the toughest in world basketball.

The other three teams in their group - Slovenia, Serbia and Spain - are all heading for the quarter-finals, which start on Thursday.

"We have to put 40 minutes together and we haven't been able to do that in this tournament," said Mensah-Bonsu.

"I feel we've been playing well for 30 minutes but if you're up against Spain or Slovenia, they'll play tough for 40 minutes.

"We've got to make sure that we pick this up straight away instead of two or three weeks into the summer."

His words were echoed by coach Chris Finch, who said: "This [EuroBasket] will have been invaluable.

"I've no doubt that it will pay dividends at some point down the line to have been there now, as opposed to 2011, which is when most people thought we'd make it."

Spice would not comment on Finch's status but the coach clearly felt the pain of elimination as clearly as anyone with the programme.

"It's hard to be anything but disappointed because we had chances in all the games to go through," said Finch.

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"It's kind of disturbing to think the tournament is going on and we have had to come home, it doesn't feel right."

Great Britain are still not clear on what will happen next.

Because they are hosting the Olympics in 2012 - although their qualification has still not officially been confirmed - world governing body Fiba could give them a wild-card entry for next year's World Championships in Turkey.

Three wild cards are likely to be available to European nations, although one has probably already been earmarked for Olympic semi-finalists Lithuania, who crashed out of EuroBasket in the second phase.

Most of the young kids [in basketball] you talk to want to play in the NBA - in rugby they all want to play for England

Chris Spice

"I don't want to speculate on that - we just have to go about our business," said Spice. "Finishing in the bottom four [at EuroBasket] has not helped our wild card chances.

"It was unfortunate the draw we got - all those teams from our group are heading for the last eight in Poland."

That decision will be made in December and if GB are not to get a wild card, they will instead play in the EuroBasket 2011 qualifying tournament, the draw for which will be made early in the New Year.

GB's performances in the last two years are likely to see them placed in the second rank of seeds in that draw.

In the meantime, six years after his part in the rugby team's triumph, Spice will continue developing a programme that is very different to the one Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson and others rode to triumph.

"We never had problems with players - they got paid a lot of money to play for their country and that's unfortunately not the case with GB," said Spice.

"The motivation levels are different. Most of the young kids [in basketball] you talk to want to play in the NBA - in rugby they all want to play for England.

"That's what we're up against. We've still got to build an awareness of what the Great Britain programme is all about."



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see also
Serbia defeat ends GB challenge
09 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Gordon committed to British cause
10 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Brave GB scare world champs Spain
08 Sep 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer loss in European opener
07 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Pops return strengthens GB hopes
02 Sep 09 |  Basketball
GB 'embarrassing' in latest loss
28 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB positive despite defeats
17 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB begin tough summer
13 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB without star NBA duo for Euros
27 Jul 09 |  Basketball


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