Monday, 2 August 2010

Pre-Game Notes from Szolnok

- Great Britain's players emerged from their final team lunch at their hotel clutching the points of emphasis to remember during tonight's opening European qualifier against Hungary.

In the sleepy provincial outpost, there has been little alternative but to study the scouting reports and sleep since they arrived 24 hours ago. But they have already had the chance to practice twice at an arena described by one staff member as “a complete hothouse”. Their advice to the handful of GB fans? “Leave your jacket and jumpers at home or you'll fry!” Intriguingly, entrance is free.

- It is also the first competitive outing for the new-look coaching staff of Chris Finch, Nick Nurse and fresh recruit, Paul Mokeski, the one-time Philadelphia 76ers centre who is now doubling as Finch's aide de corps for the national team as well as at D-League champions, Rio Grande.

“Paul is awesome,” declared Nurse. “He is a great experienced basketball mind. Defence is his thing. When he speaks, people listen because he can say 'hey, I played in the NBA for 10-12 years'. He pushes the little things. Plus he's a great guy. How he's not on a NBA bench is beyond me. He's got a knowledge and experience that is valuable. He coaches big guys. He understands scouting. It's been excellent.”

The switches on the bench have been that Tony Garbelotto and Tim Lewis are now on scouting duties, with the lack of a British presence roundly criticised by many in the UK coaching fraternity. However Nurse, who remains the head coach the D-League's Iowa Energy, thinks the dynamic is working with the addition of extra backroom staff.

“We've really improved,” he said. “I think our preparation is better. Tony did a great job with the scouting and he's now focusing on that. Same with Tim. Our new video guy is out of this world. He comes from the Philadephia 76ers and he gives us stuff as soon as we need it. If I go to him and say 'I need to see Pops' last ten post touches', I have it in a minute and I'm done watching it in ten minutes. It's crazy. It's so smooth.”

- With several players on the GB squad unsigned, the Euro campaign will, inevitably, be a showcase for those who are hoping for a solid deal for next season. Pops Mensah-Bonsu's agent is holding talks with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a move which the Londoner confirmed would be “an attractive option.” His representatives are also understood to have received an approach from ACB play-off champions Caja Laboral Baskonia.

Kieron Achara is thought to be on the radar of both San Sebastian and Menorca as a Spanish switch for the Scot looms large. While captain Drew Sullivan has had no further contact from Newcastle Eagles, despite being linked strongly with joining Everton.

- Let's play Fantasy Coach. Given the performances, I'd expect young point guard Ogo Adegboye to start against the Hungarians in the backcourt beside Nate Reinking. Luol Deng is an obvious lock at small forward, Dan Clark will likely be utilised as a pop-out four-man, leaving Mensah-Bonsu to man the middle on defence while continuing to post up offensively. That unit would see Drew Sullivan as a sixth man off the bench with Flinder Boyd as the main back-up guard and either Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Kieron Achara or Eric Boateng spelling the frontcourt after none of the trio made a sufficiently compelling case in the build-up. As always, let's see what Finch comes up with, come gametime.


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