GB Men prepare for Olympic opener
By Dave Ryan
Great Britain men start their 2012 Olympic Games campaign this evening as they face a Russian team predicted to do well in the competition.
Led by former NBA star Andrei Kirilenko the Russians finished third in last summer’s EuroBasket, before recording four straight wins in the Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela to qualify for London 2012.
The two teams have already met this summer in a pair of games in Texas, with 2007 EuroBasket champions Russia winning 87-51 and 76-54 against a GB side without talisman Luol Deng.
GB were given a boost on Friday when Dan Clark and Mike Lenzly passed final fitness tests on Injuries which had threatened t rule them out of the tournament. Starting guard Lenzly suffered a calf tear during last week’s friendly against USA, while Clark suffered an ankle sprain playing against Tunisia in GB’s penultimate warm-up game.
GB assistant coach Nick Nurse – who coached in the BBL with Derby Storm, Manchester Giants and London Towers- believes that this is the best team that British Basketball has ever put together, however says that the role players must stand up and make significant contributions.
"Luol is obviously going to be a focal point, offensively and defensively. He's a world-class player. He'll have the ball. But we've played a number of games without him, trying to get our guys experience.
"When he's not out there, they've got to do a little more, as do the experienced guys. But when the games come on, I'd imagine he's going to take a fair amount of shots. He's going to make a fair number of plays for his teammates. That's his biggest strength. He's a playmaker and when he draws so much attention, it leaves openings for other players," Nurse added.
Deng is ready for the biggest test to ever face GB: "The warm-ups have been good for us. We've played against the top teams and competed against them well. Coach has used different rotations and systems so that we got a good team chemistry and going into our first Olympic Games, everything is good."
Stirling-born Kieron Achara said: "We're gelling now. We know each other. We know what to expect. And the fact we had to qualify for our own Olympics proves that we're not taken lightly. We have a little chip on our shoulders and we want to prove ourselves."