|Johannah Leedham was the leading scorer for Great Britain (12 ppg) at EuroBasket Women 2011 |
Road to EuroBasket Women 2013: Great Britain qualified for the tournament due to their status as host nation of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Keep an Eye On: Having looked like she may not play due to her WNBA ambitions, the return of Johannah Leedham to the roster is an immeasurable boost to the prospects of Great Britain. She has always been the one player with the extra little bit of class to make a difference in games. The shooting guard can score in bunches, has quick hands defensively and will be an even more rounded player after her exploits last season in helping a short-handed Bourges to third place at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight. Meanwhile forward Chantelle Handy also comes into the summer off the back of her best ever club season, having helped Mersin into a third-place finish in the highly competitive Turkish League. She must now assume greater responsibility for the national team and use her all-round skills to help out in several facets of the game. She needs to put points on the board and begin to lead by example alongside Leedham, since she can be a real force.
X Factors: There may be a new head coach in the shape of Damian Jennings at the helm, but as a former assistant and U20 coach, all-important continuity is assured. The retirement of veteran duo Natalie Stafford and Julie Page is a blow, as is the withdrawal due to injury of Harvard ace Temi Fagbenle. But, these disappointments have been counter-balanced by the return of Leedham to the fold and also the decision of veteran forward Kimberly Butler to postpone her retirement. Scoring will be the biggest problem for Great Britain and despite the change in play-caller, the emphasis will be the same. Victories can only be a possibility if they slug it out by keeping it ugly and low scoring - something former head coach Tom Maher regularly explained in typically phlegmatic fashion. Without Fagbenle or Page, Great Britain look inexperienced and under-cooked in the paint which is a concern and there will be an incredible amount of responsibility on veteran guard Stefanie Collins to produce in the backcourt alongside Leedham.
In Summary: This could be about avoiding post-Olympic blues for Great Britain who have quickly become accustomed to being written off. Nobody expected them to qualify for EuroBasket Women 2011 and they did. Nobody expected them to claim a single win in Poland and they did. Nobody expected them to make it past the first phase two years ago and they did. With veteran tactician Tom Maher departed, Jennings must start an integration of some new players, but maintain the siege mentality and fighting spirit. They will not be expected to advance from Group C, but this won't faze them in the slightest and will be happy to try and prove an army of doubters wrong.