20110708_GBR_LAT Damian Jennings 568

Great Britain head coach Damian Jennings says getting an early heads-up on his team’s second round opponents can be a major plus for their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of EuroBasket Women.

His side complete the opening phase tonight against France with their advancement already guaranteed after wins over Latvia and Serbia.

It means GB will take on Belarus, Croatia and the Czech Republic at Vendespace in the next stage which begins on Wednesday.

And Jennings has already begun the detailed process of scouting and analysis as the once-time 500-1 outsiders look ahead to what is a favourable crossover draw.

“It does help because from a preparation point of view, even though we’re one of the teams who will travel and then play the next day before it becomes day on, day off,” he said.

“But we can now get our performance analyst and our coaching team working on that strategically. That’s where being 2-0 has its benefits, not only getting to the second round but also being able to plan for the crossover.”

Jennings’ analyst in France is also one of his chief assets. Jamie Smith, an Englishman who has been on the video scouting team with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (where he worked under new GB men’s coach Joe Prunty) as well as the Boston Celtics, is responsible for cutting up tape of opponents and providing detailed scouting reports.

With little time between games, his output is invaluable, says Jennings, who is much readier to use such tools than his predecessor Tom Maher.

“Not only has Jamie worked in the NBA in a really tough situation with 82 games then play-offs but he’s worked with us before,” he asserted. “We’ve got a good relationship. He’s a workaholic. And that’s perfect for during tournament play.

“The other thing that’s special about Jamie is that he genuinely cares. He’s a very proud man with his presentation and what the girls receive. He’s a great asset to GB.”

There will be a few extra nuggets to learn about his own team about the French. But with little hope of a victory, there is no pressure to do anything other than take small chunks of benefit.

Les Bleues have an admirer in the British playcaller.

“France are getting better year on year,” he states. “They were good last year and they’re even better this year. Their size, their development over the last few years – and I’ve seen quite a few of them at a junior level – is immense.

“We can bring a physical game too. But they’ve got a deeper bench in that they can go to their tenth, eleventh 12th and get the same level of basketball. But we’re really looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile French star Celine Dumerc has called GB guard Jo Leedham the perfect team-mate but a nightmare opponent.

The pair spent last season in tandem with Bourges, leading their side to the semi-finals of Euroleague Women.

And Dumerc is now a firm fan of the Cheshire-born player.

“I love her. Before I met her, I hated her. But since she became my teammate, I love her,” she said.

“She’s exactly the kind of player I love to play with. She might not have an amazing shot. Look at mine: mine is terrible.  Butt she works so hard every days. She’s a fighter. And you’re sure with her she will give everything. She has your back.

“But as an opponent she’s hard, because you know that she will never give up.”

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