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Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Saturday, 31 July 2010 13:16 UK

Luol Deng returns for GB's vital EuroBasket qualifiers

Luol Deng in action for the Chicago Bulls
Deng last played for Gb two years ago

Great Britain will have NBA star Luol Deng back in their line-up for Monday's opening European qualifying match, against Hungary in Szolnok.

Insurance problems have kept Deng out of the team's four warm-up games, but he has been training with the team.

GB play eight qualifiers as they bid to reach next year's finals in Lithuania and secure a host spot for London 2012.

"We're not afraid of our group and we think we have a chance to qualify," said coach Chris Finch.

In a tricky group, they face Ukraine, Macedonia, Hungary and Bosnia-Hercegovina at home and away.

Great Britain qualified for the last European finals, in Poland last year, and a second successive appearance would go a long way towards convincing world governing body Fiba that they are competitive enough to host in 2012.

Deng's former Chicago Bulls team-mate Ben Gordon is again missing, this time through injury, three of the team's most experienced big men -Andrew Betts, Robert Archibald and Joel Freeland - are also out.

But Finch's new team, without the talents of Deng, have looked competitive against Finland, Israel and Belgium.

"They played with a lot of excitement, they played with a lot to prove," said Finch. "I think they played fearless for the most part.

"We've got a young team and what's important for us is how quickly we grow up in an international basketball sense."

"Our group is tricky - we play all eastern European teams which is a unique style that we're going to have to adjust to and we're going to play in some intense, hostile environments," added Finch.

With the talent we have I definitely feel like we can win the group like we did two years ago

Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Also confident is Londoner Pops Mensah-Bonsu, the former NBA player who had two impressive games on the trip to Israel and who will be a vital foil for Deng.

"I think we'll be fine - with the talent we have I definitely feel like we can win the group like we did two years ago," he told BBC Sport.

"We've still got to go out and play but I definitely feel that we have the chance to be there when it comes to win it."

That belief is echoed by playmaker Flinder Boyd, who said he likes the extra pace injected by players like Ogo Adegboye and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.

"Now we really have a lot of really good guards and that's a change of pace," said Boyd.

"This year the young guys are really excited to be here and that brings a lot of youthful exuberance. The best thing for us to do is to qualify for the Euros and justify our place in 2012."

Finch has opted to go with tried-and-trusted veteran Nate Reinking as the team's one permitted naturalised player. This means that Glasgow's Rob Yanders will miss out after making his international debut this summer.

Full list of GB's European Championships qualifying fixtures:

Men

Hungary v GB, 2 August (Szolnok)
GB v Macedonia, 8 August at Northumbria University, Newcastle
Bosnia-Hercegovina v GB, 11 August (Sarajevo)
GB v Ukraine, 14 August at Birmingham NIA
GB v Hungary, 17 August at Birmingham NIA
Macedonia v GB, 23 August (Skopje)
GB v Bosnia-Hercegovina, 26 August at Liverpool Echo Arena
Ukraine v GB, 29 August (Dnipropetrovsk)

Women

GB v Slovakia, 14 August at Birmingham NIA
Germany v GB, 17 August (Wolfenbuettel)
GB v Ukraine, 20 August at Surrey University
Slovakia v GB, 23 August (Kosice)
GB v Germany, 26 August at Liverpool Echo Arena
Ukraine v GB, 29 August (Dnipropetrovsk)



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see also
GB 'must work harder' for 2012
30 Jul 10 |  Basketball
Superstar Deng spreads the basketball word
16 Aug 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Injury rules out Gordon GB debut
13 Jul 10 |  Basketball
Deng's Bulls exit NBA play-offs
28 Apr 10 |  Basketball
Finch confident of Deng's return
12 Apr 10 |  Basketball
Coach calls for GB trio to commit
14 Feb 10 |  Basketball


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