Byron Mullens has pulled out of Great Britain’s Olympic team, ahead of the team’s opening friendly against Nigeria on Thursday.
The Charlotte Bobcats forward, who joins Ben Gordon on the stayaway list, has cited a lingering toe injury as his reason for withdrawing, according to team officials. However the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell confirmed that the Ohio-born player was working out on Thursday at the team’s practice facility and appeared to have no injury.
Like Gordon, Mullens has never previously played for GB but acquired a United Kingdom passport earlier this year, through his Middlesex-born mother. He was included in the initial pre-Olympic squad after expressing a wish to try out for the team although British Basketball management remained in negotiations with FIBA over his status as a non-naturalised recruit.
GB head coach Chris Finch said: “It is disappointing but we have a very strong squad in camp with us in Houston at the moment. Everyone here is focussed on the task at hand and we now turn our attention to our first warm up games of the summer this week.”
Before the confirmation from British Basketball, sources had told MVP that there was a sentiment among senior players to close the door to both NBA players due to their lack of committment and proceed onward with preparations to London. Detroit Pistons guard Gordon has not officially been excluded but NBA sources have confirmed he is unlikely to participate.
Meanwhile GB captain Drew Sullivan has admitted he is not taking his place on the final 12-man roster for granted.
The 64-times capped forward says he is out to impress coach Chris Finch all over again.
“What my place is, or what position I play, is out of my hands,” the Leicester Riders star said. “I just have to work to make the team, and I think I do that year in and year out.”
There will be plenty of internal competition. No bad thing, Sullivan states. And Britain will soon welcome the return of Pops Mensah-Bonsu who was forced to sit out last summer through injury. “That’s huge for us,” Sullivan declares.
Finch has 12 tune-up games to oil the machine. Time is of the essence.
While in Texas, GB will play also twice apiece against Lithuania and Russia after taking on Nigeria.
All three teams are bound for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month. They will, says Sullivan, provide GB with just the kind of initial tests they need to get ready for London.
“They’ll be tough games,” he states. “They’re all good teams.” But, he adds: “So are we.”
Devon van Oostrum will miss the Nigeria game after picking up an injury in training on Wednesday.
Squad to face Nigeria
|Adegboye, Ogo||APOEL, CYP|
|Archibald, Robert||Zaragoza, ESP|
|Bryan-Amaning, Matthew||Hacettepe, TUR|
|Clark, Dan||Estudiantes, ESP|
|Freeland, Joel||Unicaja, ESP|
|Hesson, Myles||Mersey Tigers|
|Johnson, Kyle||APOEL, CYP|
|Lawrence, Andrew||College of Charleston, USA|
|Lenzly, Mike||Nymburk, CZE|
|Mensah-Bonsu, Pops||Besiktas, TUR|
|Reinking, Nate||Sheffield Sharks|
|Sullivan, Andrew||Leicester Riders|
|van Oostrum, Devon||Baskonia, ESP|
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