Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng is ready to put two years of frustration behind him and help Great Britain qualify for next summer's European Championships, according to the national team's captain Drew Sullivan.
Chris Finch's side begin their campaign tonight against Hungary in Szolnok with their most formidable asset back in the ranks after missing last summer through injury. With a number of seasoned performers suffering a similar fate this time, his return provides a massive boost to Britain's chances of featuring in the 2011 finals in Lithuania – and, in turn, persuading the sport's governing body FIBA to confirm their place in the London Olympics.
“I'm glad Luol's back,” said Sullivan. “Last summer he was around the team as much as he could and you could see how upset he was that he couldn't play at the Eurobasket finals, which is something we'd spent two years working towards. He was devastated that he'd helped us qualify and then, unfortunately, got hurt with the Bulls and didn't recover in time. From our perspective, we need him. We're a much better team with him.”
With Deng barred from featuring in any of GB's warm-up games due to an issue with his NBA-sponsored insurance, Finch has been forced to take an extended look at a number of younger faces with the Spanish-based centre Dan Clark and American collegiate prospect Matthew Bryan-Amaning seizing their opportunity to stake a claim.
“Potentially, if they do well, it will benefit us because it shows that we have depth,” Sullivan stated. “If someone decides to pull out through injury, we now have guys who can step up and take their place at short notice. And it also puts pressure on the older guys, or players who might pull out for less than legitimate reasons. They'll now know that they won't necessarily get back in.”
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