Lauren Thomas-Johnson played just 15 minutes during EuroBasket 2011. She’s counting on a whole lot more PT in China this week.

June’s odyssey in Poland was a lesson in the art of patience for the Stockport-born guard, riding the bench during games, often observing from the sideline in practice, generally pondering when her turn would come.

“It was a strange feeling, being part of the team but not feeling quite in it,” she reflects. “It’s the first time in my career that I’ve not played very much. I’m not used to that.”

Two months later, the time to take her turn has arrived. Great Britain’s women – with a core nucleus of the senior line-up – begin their quest at the World University Games on Sunday.

The biennial gathering, which takes place amid lavish facilities in the city of Shenzhen, has always been a curious beast, taken more seriously by some countries than others, tucked awkwardly between FIBA’s own age-group championships and the Olympics that it has often pretended to be.

Tom Maher will be evaluating from the bench (Map Photos/BB)

For Thomas-Johnson, along with her eleven team-mates, the event – starting with a first round group that includes initial opponents Slovakia, as well as Brazil and the mighty USA – brings one thing: opportunity. Because although Damian Jennings is the designated head coach, his assistant is Tom Maher. And the Australian will be open to positive impressions when he sits down to ponder the squad which he will lead into next year’s Olympic Games.

“I’ve picked up a lot from Tom,” Thomas-Johnson confirms. “Individually he’s taught me a lot.” There were also lessons taken from merely observing from the best seat in the house in Poland. “I just had to learn as much as possible by watching great players up close. You watch Russia play, even the girls from Israel, and you learn things.”

Maher took her aside afterwards. One year out of Marquette University, and with a stop-start rookie year in Gran Canaria, there were things to work on in the Australia’s seasoned analysis. “He’s said I have to do more where I drive and kick,” she confirms. “So I’ll want to show I’ve listened and taken it on board in my game, and that I want to get better.”

There will inevitably be additional scrutiny of the senior figures in the Chinese squad: Chantelle Handy, Rose Anderson and Thomas-Johnson. Mairi Buchan, who was forced out of EuroBasket by injury, is another who has a second chance to press her case for 2012. Others, many emerging through Jennings’ successful Under-20 programme, will not want to miss the boat.

“We are now settling into village life in Shenzhen,” the GB head coach said. “The players are acclimatising well, but the humidity is certainly testing those countries from less extreme climates.”

Thomas-Johnson is better acclimatised than most. Three years ago, she went to Beijing as part of London 2012’s in-house Futures programme, designed to present the faces of the future while giving them valuable insight into what an Olympics involves within the safe confines of Team GB.

It was an experience that lived long in the memory, she admits. “It was great to see how the holding camp works, how the athletes prepared themselves to be at their absolute best at the Olympics. Seeing the way it all worked, seeing the different teams and sports, it definitely will be a big help come 2012. It makes me want to be there even more.

“Seeing it, I think, will take away a little of the intimidation. I’d know what to expect. But it also makes me a little nervous because I know what it does involve and how big it is.”

For now, this is the last dress rehearsal she, and Maher, gets before the real Games come around. It will be a tough test, attempting to progress in an event where Britain, as elsewhere, has little pedigree.

“Our expectations are just to do our best,” Thomas-Johnson states. “We play Slovakia, Brazil and the USA so we’ll have to learn about them as we go along.

“It’s always good to play against the USA. I’ve played against a few of them and it’s going to be special.”

If patience is a virtue, her reward – if she chooses to seize it – is now within reach.

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