NEW KIDS ON THE (LOW) BLOCK

With Chris Finch’s fresh-faced line-up bidding to go 5-0 against Hungary on Tuesday in Birmingham, the torch now belongs to Great Britain’s new generation.

Andy Betts sat courtside on Saturday to watch Great Britain defeat Ukraine, fully content to be playing the role of spectator – and devoted Dad – rather than pushing his 33-year-old body through the mill of another summer of international basketball.

The Midlands lad – who has yet to find a club for next term – has not ruled out a return to international duty next summer. Nor have his fellow absentees Rob Archibald and Joel Freeland. But the team that will aim to go 5-0 in this year’s qualifiers when they host Hungary on Tuesday at the NIA is barely recognisable from 12 months ago.

We have, in truth, witnessed a changing of the guard.

That competition for places, should everyone declare themselves available for Lithuania 2011, will be fascinating. 15 or more into 12 will not go. Cases are being made and strengthened with every game. Who knew that Ogo Adegboye would grasp the opportunity to become the starting point guard, having barely found his feet at St. Bonaventure’s University?

“When he plays, every game out there is the highest level of basketball he’s ever played in his life,” points out GB coach Chris Finch. “Every day is a learning experience. We’ve challenged him to be even better because he was just happy to be out there. And he can be better.”

The Nigerian-born guard has surprised himself with his rapid progress. Defensively a pest, he has struggled to make shots and Luol Deng remains the main playmaker. Averaging 17.3 minutes and 5 points per game, the experience has proved invaluable and the improvements incessant.

“I’ve become tougher and got much more knowledge about the game, more than I had before,” he admits. “I’ve had to adjust from the American game to the European game. And the process has really pushed up my basketball IQ.”

Matthew Bryan-Amaning has remained largely in reserve

Others have had to wait their turn. Eric Boateng, who is sitting on an offer to attend the Denver Nuggets training camp, has been stuck behind Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Kieron Achara. Matthew Bryan-Amaning has been on the periphery as well, cutting a frustrated presence on the bench. A star at the University of Washington, he has been told by the coaching staff to avoid the trap of trying to do too much and let the game come to him.

“Matthew’s got a way to go at the moment,” states GB assistant coach, Nick Nurse. “He’s got to learn. But he just needs that European experience, the strength, the physicality. I don’t care what anyone in the NCAA says: this is a huge leap from college basketball. He’s just got to get used to that but he has the ability and the skill. It’s just experience.”

Try as he might, his time has not yet arrived – but it will. So too for Devan Bailey, the only man on the GB roster not to play a single competitive minute but who has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to learn every day in practice.

“All those guys are going to play a role at some point in time,” Finch cautions. “We are young and it’s not always fair to put those guys in difficult positions.”

However, more than personnel, GB’s in-house style has undergone a makeover. Faster, leaner and athletic without the Twin Towers of Archibald and Betts, the side has been given the freedom to run in transition like never before.

It is, as one player put it, “more American”. It is, perhaps, more British.

“This team suits the people we have now,” declares GB captain Drew Sullivan. “More athletic, up and down, in your face defensively. Chris has always preached defence and this group is doing that. In the past we had to adjust for guys who weren’t as athletic.”

Not any more. In 2010, Britain has traded for a new, fresher model. And with results illustrating its effectiveness, there appears little sentiment for what has been left on the shelf.

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