Deng: 'It's an ideal sport for 2012 with its emphasis on youth culture'
Sunday 18 September 2011
Luol Deng. Barak Obama's favourite player, the best-known sporting Briton in the United States, at 6ft 9in bigger than Beckham in every sense. The Sudanese-born refugee, 26, plays for Chicago Bulls and when it comes to dunking the ball, "Lu" can certainly bend it like Beckham. Team GB's greatest asset – when available. An avid Arsenal fan, he was selected for the England Under-15 football squad but his height was already sending out messages that basketball was his real calling. "There is so much talent in Britain and if only basketball could get the attention it deserves we could be one of the most powerful nations in the game," he says. "Also, it's an ideal sport for 2012, with its emphasis on youth culture." GB team-mate Dan Clark adds: "Most players can do something well; he does everything exceptionally well. He's unselfish, he has no ego and he makes the players around him better."
Chris Finch. The Florida-born American has been at the helm of the British men's programme since its relaunch in 2006. He is also assistant coach of the Houston Rockets in the NBA. "We have put the game on a professional footing here, which it wasn't always before," he says. "We've got a good mix now, with some high-level guys, and we are now finding out what they can do."
The 12,000-capacity temporary arena was the first venue to hold a test event in the new Olympic Park when Team GB played Australia, China, Croatia, France and Serbia – with mixed results. It will host the Olympic tournament until the quarter-final stage, when the sport will transfer to the larger O2 Arena (which will be renamed the Greenwich Arena for the occasion) and will then be re-configured to stage the handball finals.
Not brilliant, with crack opposition like the US, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Greece, Lithuania and Turkey in the medal chase. In Eurobasket, the recent European Championships, Britain improved on their winless performance in 2009 but were eliminated after losing their first three games against the top seeds in the group. However, they finished with successive victories against Portugal and Poland. 2012 will be the first Olympic appearance by a British basketball team since London in 1948, having been granted a touch-and-go wildcard place, and they will do well to qualify from their group.
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