The cuts are coming. But Kieron Achara says Great Britain side must focus on the present rather than the near future when they face Sweden in Lublin tonight in their latest tune-up for next month’s EuroBasket.
Following heavy losses to Greece and Finland, GB head coach Joe Prunty gets two games in 24 hours to look for a confidence booster with a clash with Poland to follow in the same city on Saturday.
It could, of course, inflict more damage on a collective psyche which seems a little fragile.
And with just four games left before their European campaign begins, Achara admits that the leeway to make excuses is wearing thin.
“We have to respond,” the 30-year-old forward said. “There are guys still fighting for positions. We have to be more disciplined. Our focus has to be away from thinking about making the final roster and more about being accountable and responsible. The guys have to show they can fight. If we want to win games, we need that.”
Poland will bring back NBA centre Marcin Gortat into their squad in a boost to their own EuroBasket hopes but they have impressed in their own build-up. Sweden, too, have high hopes of taking steps forward.
And Prunty – who was named as the new assistant coach of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday – believes that taking on tough opponents will help bring the best out of his players when EuroBasket begins.
“We’ve talked about this a lot,” Prunty said. “We’re not going to face a team that’s not going to bring significant challenges. There’s a reason this is the toughest and best tournament in the world.”
Young prospect Ali Fraser has been backed to make Prunty’s final roster, despite only earning an eleventh hour call-up into the initial squad.
The 21-year-old rookie is in line to win his fourth cap, after plugging the gap left by the injured Dan Clark who is expected to formally withdraw from Slovenia next week.
“Ali’s been thrown into a tough situation,” Achara said. “He’s holding his own at times. But he has to learn it’s a little different in this kind of game. He’s going to have to guard taller quicker forwards. He’s played more inside so far in his career and now he needs to step out and defend shooters as well.
“It’s a learning curve for him. But he’s come up big, made some great plays and surprised a lot of people. He has a great work ethic and he’ll make things happen for himself.”
GB captain Drew Sullivan, who missed Sunday’s 95-62 loss to Greece, is set to return while Scottish guard Alex Marcotullio remains an injury doubt.
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