2012 Olympics And Beyond For Brits


British Basketball has taken huge steps forward in both men's and women's basketball the past few years to get ready for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The sport's bosses say they have no intention of slowing down once those Games have been played.

The Brits, with the men and women to take up spots reserved for host nations at the London Games,  are so ambitious that they want to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Great Britain Head Coach Chris Finch
Chris Finch is still in charge for Great Britain.

To help make this dream become a reality, British Basketball have created a program called ‘T16' (Towards 2016).

"Many people think that our only priority is 2012, and whilst it is a key focus, the real challenge is for British Basketball to secure a lasting legacy from the 2012 Games," British Basketball's performance director Chris Spice said.

"We aim to maximize our London Olympic performances so that they lay the foundation for regular world and Olympic participation, increasing the profile of our sport, hosting major basketball events, and further develop the standard of our national leagues and development programs.

"We plan to be in high performance basketball for the long-term and this was a major consideration in our original pitch for funding from UK Sport."

Investment Is Key

British and European fans have seen outstanding talents like Luol Deng, Robert Archibald and Joel Freeland, just to name a few, take the court in recent times.

It wouldn't happen, however, without the financial backing from UK Sport.

National team programs do not come cheap.

Insurance policies have to be paid, training camps have to be run.

Since the home unions merged as one and began playing as Great Britain following the awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London, the UK Sport money has given the national teams a great chance to compete.

Britain have been able to afford good preparation programs in their respective qualifying campaigns for the men's and women's EuroBaskets.

In the men's case last summer, the investment was there for Britain to have training camps and to play abroad in places like Turkey before taking part in EuroBasket 2009 in Poland.

Britain also hosted a warm-up tournament in London for the EuroBasket and squared off against Poland, Turkey and Israel.

While the games helped the players get ready for Final Round Group C in Warsaw, they also generated interest among the fans.

Proper funding also allows Britain to appointments of top coaches like American Chris Finch for the men and Australian Tom Maher for the women.

Focus On Development        

For the senior teams to be successful over the long haul, though, there must be concerted efforts at helping budding stars improve.

Britain have concrete plans to do so.

There are several new initiatives designed to develop elite players this year alone that are in line with the British Basketball high performance strategy, Game On.

The first of these was to have a select Great Britain men's futures team play in a four-nation tournament in Lille, France, which is primarily an under-23 tournament for men.

Finch, the boss of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the National Basketball Developmental League in America, will coach this team.

"We have always thought that we need to continue to develop our male talent beyond the under-20 team so we have taken this opportunity to participate in this tournament with our neighbors from France, Belgium and Luxembourg," Spice said.

"To have Chris coach the team is an obvious added bonus and reflects the high priority we are placing on this team."

This week, British Basketball announced the players for the GB Futures Team that will compete against France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

They are Ogo Adegboye  (Saint Bonaventure University, USA), Devan Bailey  (Central Connecticut State), Matthew Bryan-Amaning  (University of Washington, USA), Adrien Sturt (Dexia Mons-Hainaut, Belgium), Ben Eaves (Rhode Island University, USA), Matt Guymon (unattached), Ashley Hamilton (Loyola Maramount University, USA),  Liam Potter (Sacred Heart University, USA), Justin Jones Robinson (Rider University, USA) and Colin Sing (Essex Pirates, UK).

Paul James, a veteran coach in England who is now at the helm of England Senior Men's and BBL team Worcester Wolves is helping Finch coach the futures team.

This year will also see the introduction of several new high-performance development camps across Britain, including the under-20 combined camp for men and women in early June, two national team camps for boys and girls which will bring together for the first time the national team programs of Britain and the home nations of England, Scotland and Wales. 

Major Tournaments

While basketball events do not come much bigger than the Olympics, the Brits have an appetite to host even more tournaments.

"If we are to become a regular player on the world and European stage," Spice said, "then we must also look to stage major basketball events in the UK."

Hosting other major events is a very real possibility.

"We are delighted that we have recently obtained the go-ahead to pursue the prospect of hosting a major basketball event in the UK within the next six years," Spice said.

"Personally, I would love to bring the EuroBasket 2015 tournament to the UK - another great example of a London 2012 Olympic legacy.

"There is much work to be done before we get to bidding for any major tournament, but our partners at UK Sport are assisting us with preparing the ground via a feasibility study which we hope to complete this year."

The Cann-Do Spirit

Last summer saw England Basketball and British Basketball appoint Warwick Cann as their Performance Pathway Coordinator.

His job, according to Spice, is to bring the ‘T16' high performance strategy to life. 

"The activity on the ground since Warwick's appointment has been incredible," Spice said.

"England and British Basketball are working together to develop talent in new and exciting ways."

Cann chairs the Performance Management Group that provides strategic direction and coordination for UK's high performance programs and is responsible for the roll-out of basketball's regional institutes. 

The country's first regional institute pilot at Barking Abbey has just been reviewed after six months and the expectation is to spread these across Great Britain in the coming years.

"With a focus on technical development as well as appropriate competition, these talent centers will lay the foundations of future GB Olympic basketball stars," Spice said.

"We also plan to work with existing structures like the BBL (British Basketball League) and the EBL (English Basketball League) clubs so we are not reinventing the wheel.

"All of these regional programs will work to our new national development plan under Warwick's watchful eye."

"Fail to plan, plan to fail" is a well known saying.

It doesn't apply to British Basketball, judging by ‘T16'.

"We have no illusions about the hill we are about to climb but we have everyone pulling in the same direction and committed to the 2016 cause," Spice said.

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