Coach Bucknall speaks about path to promotion
England U18 Men head coach Steve Bucknall says the promotion-earning performance of his team at the European Championship in Sarajevo was a case of all pieces falling into place in a carefully designed plan.
Bucknall coached his team to a bronze medal after defeating Finland 73-59
in England’s final game of the tournament on Sunday. The winner of that game would get promoted under FIBA Europe’s recent ruling that sees the top three teams being promoted to Division A rather than only the top two.
"This year’s U18 Men’s team vision was outlined and clear from the very beginning of the programme,” he said. “It started with assembling a support staff that would complement each other and benefit the boys.”
Bucknall mentioned the importance of recruiting players who moved on after helping England’s U16 Men to a second place finish in Division B in 2011:
“Then the goal was to build a winning squad based around the silver medal 1995 [born] group of players who were successful at the U16 level last campaign,” he said.
“Once the staff was chosen, the only key issues were getting the balance right of ‘94 born players and also identifying ’95 born who were ready to play at this level.
“Lastly we had to implement a system that would complement their skill sets and build the foundations of a team. This journey was the fun part as we started to evaluate individuals and build a team philosophy,” said Bucknall, a former North Carolina Tarheel and Los Angeles Laker player.
Once Bucknall and his coaching staff had an established roster to work with, it was time to work on the strengths of that particular squad as he relates:
“This group of players developed over time into a strong unit who excelled in the rebounding and defensive phases of the game.”
England’s 7-foot centre Kingsley Okoroh was one of the hearts of this defensive and rebounding presence, as he averaged a fifth-best 10.8 boards per game and was third overall in blocks, swatting away 2.7 shots per game. Rowell Graham also shone defensively with his 2 steals per game average (7th overall in the Championship).
“Lastly, all credit goes to the boys for their hard work. A special mention must go out to the support staff that were all brilliant and the ‘94 born players who played their hearts out to win us the bronze medal and qualify for Division A next year!”
Luke Nelson was England’s leader in scoring (16.7 points per game, 7th in Championship) and he also finished in the tournament top ten in free throw percentage (83.9%, 3rd), minutes played (32.8, 8th) and assists (3.4, 9th). One of Nelson’s best games was in the semi-final where he scored 33 points off nearly 62% shooting and pulled in 10 rebounds.
Photo courtesy Alan Mousley