Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan has launched a withering critique of British Basketball, accusing the governing body of wasting the legacy of London 2012 by leaving their top stars hanging in the wind.

The Leicester Riders forward, 35, becomes the first male to 100 caps in tonight’s friendly against New Zealand at London’s Copper Box Arena – nine years after making his debut when the national side had to start from the bottom of FIBA Europe’s pyramid.

NBA All Star Luol Deng and ex-Portland Trail Blazers centre Joel Freeland, who haven’t featured since the Olympics, have again opted out of turning out for their country with a cluster of other leading lights staying away.

And with National Teams Director Warwick Cann under pressure after a disastrous summer that saw GB’s women finish dead last in their European Championships and the Under-20 teams struggle in their campaigns – blowing any chance to getting their UK Sport funding axe reversed – Sullivan insists it is time for a re-think.

“We went through a period where we started out and went on this trip to make the Olympics in 2012,” he said. “We started at the bottom of the barrel and rapidly moved up. We were on a steep learning curve, FIBA changed the goalposts. We hit the target. And then we got to the Olympics.

“If I’m honest, we’ve taken some steps backwards. We’re not back to where we were in 2006 but we haven’t taken steps up from 2012.

“I won’t even say we levelled out. We’re on a downward spiral. It’s not freefall but it is disappointing. You can’t account for people like Luol and Joel not being here. But there are things that should be done to at least keep us on solid ground.”

Remaining in contact and managing the relationships with leading players has been an Achilles heel for British Basketball in recent years despite the efforts of Prunty and Under-20 coach Doug Leichner.

The finger of blame, inevitably, will point to Cann whose role in charge of the national teams puts him front and centre in securing the services of every player required.

“One of the things we talk about is communication through the whole programme,” Sullivan, who missed the start of camp due to a family holiday after being told incorrect dates, revealed. “It’s got better but not to the point where people like myself and Dan (Clark) would want. It’s not down to coach. I speak to coach quite regularly. Same for Dan and Kieron (Achara).

“But it’s great to know dates in advance. It helps you to plan out what you’re doing for the summer. Because, let’s be honest, this the youngest group we’ve had. In years past, it’s been grown men with families or partners. You have to make plans.

“I can appreciate things get done at a later date. But that should at worst be February. If you decide whatever you planned is more important and it can’t be changed, then so be it. The later something is communicated, it becomes harder to adjust to.”

Joe Prunty’s side are already out of the running to qualify for next summer’s Olympics with the Milwaukee Bucks associate head coach opting for seven new caps to face the Tall Blacks with one eye on reaching Tokyo 2020.

But there are calls to build up a greater sense of national pride in turning out for GB, a factor in the success of perennial powerhouses like the United States, Spain and France who are rarely below full-strength.

“I know I’m proud to play and that’s shown in my actions,” Sullivan added. “But if it’s not in you, it’s not in you. It has to be something, as a national governing body, that we hit as many guys as we can.

“They might not be the best guys or the most talented guys. But you have to start with the guys with the most pride and hope they develop – or you get others with pride. You have to start with everybody and then get the guys who want to be here.”

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

You must be logged in to post a comment Login