Britain’s backcourt has been its Achilles heel ever since the team was formed in 2005. The GB staff have explored every possible avenue in order to solve the problem, trying everyone from BBL veterans (Julius Joseph, Germayne Forbes) to American-raised Brits playing in Europe (Flinder Boyd, Jarrett Hart) to youngsters playing in the NCAA (Devan Bailey, Justin Robinson). The result has been a steadily-growing pool of solid, if unspectacular, players to choose from.
But while Britain’s guard corps are now probably stronger than ever, they’re still a long way behind their counterparts on the world’s best teams – which made Finch’s decision to only name four in Britain’s final 12 all the more puzzling. If we don’t have the quality to compete with the elite, why not at least go for quantity and depth? And the case for a fifth guard was only strengthened when you looked at the players who had been left off the team.
At 19 years old and with only a year of professional experience, Devon van Oostrum perhaps isn’t the kind of player you want to rely heavily upon at the Olympics. But van Oostrum showed last summer – particularly in the narrow defeat to 2012 Group B rivals Australia, at the test event – that he can come off the bench and cause serious problems for an unprepared opponent.
Ogo Adegboye, who was a full-time starter for GB as recently as two summers ago, would have provided another dependable ballhander on a team lacking in that department.
Finch’s approach, though, was defensible – provided one of those four guards didn’t get injured. But then earlier this week came the news that Mike Lenzly may be ruled out of the Games due to a torn calf muscle.
Lenzly was passed fit for the squad yesterday, and is expected to “get minutes” in tomorrow’s opener against Russia according to the BBC’s Chris Mitchell, but the inescapable fact is that GB are going into the Games with only three healthy guards.
Finch must be confident that Lenzly will be recovered enough to play a major role in the must-win games against Australia and China. Because the Oxford native is going to be needed.
Experiments with Luol Deng moving to shooting guard and Dan Clark or Kieron Achara filling in at small forward were not successful in warm-ups. Nate Reinking and Kyle Johnson struggled to advance the ball against the USA after Lenzly limped off early. Lenzly’s injury means we’re likely to see a repeat of both those scenarios when the Games begin tomorrow.
Lenzly is an unassuming player. He doesn’t do anything extremely well, but he can bring the ball up, knock down open shots and defend competently. His ability to fill in at either guard position gives GB some much-needed flexibility.
If he can get close to full fitness by next weekend, then including him in the final 12 will likely prove to be the right decision. But if not, then Finch might end up wondering why he chose to leave his team so thin at its weakest position.
Comments are closed on this post.