Tom Maher will treat Sunday like any other friendly. But with decision time approaching, Great Britain’s meeting with the Atlanta Dream in Manchester represents a last chance to impress in the heat of battle.

Just 12 players will make the cut for the Eurobasket finals in Poland, Maher confirms. A number have assured themselves a spot through solid showings in Guildford and Antalya over the past fortnight. Natalie Stafford, currently back in Australia, still seems a lock. Then there are the injured, Jo Leedham included. And those who hover on the bubble.

“I’m not going to get tied down to the 12 just yet,” the man who controls their fate states. It would be improbable if the permutations were not yet rolling around in his mind.

Facing Atlanta – in the WNBA side’s only pre-season tie – will test their progress once more. Maher contends his team is not ready to match the Americans. Without Angel McCoughtry, their undoubted star, the odds may have narrowed just a little.

Victory is not the primary objective at the MEN Arena, the Olympic medal winner underlines.

“I’m not looking for magic on Sunday,” he states. “It’ll be good for us to play a team which is quicker, which has athletes with longer arms, who are faster, stronger, etc. That’s going to help us against the Czech Republic and Belarus who are in that same kind of mould.”

Two wins in three games in Turkey has given GB some further hope of European advancement. There are just two more warm-up games left, against Latvia, before the real action begins. Plus another week of practice, during which the GB coaching staff will filter down their options to a dozen once the medical staff have had their say.

In Manchester, he will demand more accomplishment. There are still weaknesses to minimise, he confirms.

“It’s like a ladder – we step up one rung,” Maher outlines. “We’d like to be stepping up ten but we have to be happy that we’ve stepped up one. I’d like to see us a little better defensively than we were in transition. Our defensive rotations got exposed a bit here (in Turkey).“

Miller: Reunion Time (NBAE/Getty)

Offensively too, the finished article remains incomplete, he adds. “We’re taking time to understand when we can score, when it’s time to shoot and when it’s time to continue the offense. So we just want to take extra steps in those areas and above all, show that we can play consistently and play hard, regardless of the circumstances.”

Atlanta has objectives of its own. The first time a WNBA team has travelled to Europe, there have been outreach clinics to do, appointments with the Lord Mayor and sightseeing trips as part of the league’s awareness building in the UK. The game will be televised on ESPN – as well as back in the United States. But with another trip back to the Finals as their mission, they will wear their game face on Sunday.

In their ranks, they possess one player who can provide some kind of advance scouting report on Maher’s plans. Coco Miller was a rookie with the Washington Mystics during the Australian’s sole season as coach in the USA.

“He was a great coach for my first year,” the Dream guard recalls. “He helped me a lot. He was very easy-going which made it a lot of fun to play for him. Every coach has a different style. He was pretty laid back which is a little different.”

Maher recounts: “She was very quiet but a good kid. I haven’t really followed the league at all but she was a terrific shooter. I suspect she still is.”

He might wish for such proven performers. He must make do with what he has while Leedham continues her brave bid to rebound from her ailments. Losing the former WNBA Draftee has hurt, Maher admits. But he has constructed a patch over the wound.

“We’re not being effective as a group because of star players,” he confirms. “We’re effective as a group, being gritty, being tenacious and just working as a team. That’s how we’re able to stay on terms. Croatia had more stars than we did but we defended them better than they defended us.”

The Dream will challenge Britain again. As Poland nears closer, there is every incentive to rise to meet his call.

Great Britain’s women face the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream at the MEN Arena this Sunday. Tickets are available from, or 0844 847 8000.

Main Image:


Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login