Chema Buceta has called on FIBA to resolve the eligibility issues barring Kennedy Leonard from the Great Britain team.

The London Lions point guard was a notable omission from the squad which gathered in Manchester this week ahead of Thursday’s opening EuroBasket Women qualifier with Greece.

Despite her outstanding form and a need at point guard with Eilidh Simpson set to sit out this window due to injury, the American-born playmaker’s designated status as a naturalised – rather than native – player puts her in direct competition for a single permitted slot with WNBA guard Karlie Samuelson.

And it would have been a futile and potentially damaging move, Buceta claimed, to bring Leonard to camp when the rules would ultimately force her to be left off the roster.

But he said: “This is not focused all on this player. The situation firstly is not fair. Other players have this problem. For example, Samantha Roscoe is a very interesting player and she cannot come either. We have this problem.

“And then we have a player in Karlie Samuelson who, in my opinion, is the one who should be there in this moment. Considering that, the other players have no room. So there is no point to call them.

“Because the problem we have with the window is that we have only three or four days practice and is no time to trial who is better. It is not the moment to create competition among players. The competition among players should be done before in their clubs.

“I follow everybody. I see everybody playing, I compare. I know people from the past, I know what are the needs of the team and then we select the players. And the players who come here are the players who can play.

“It is not like in the past when we play in the summer, then maybe you have two weeks camp and part of the camp was to decide the selection, and then after that to prepare the team.

“Now we have to work to the point from the first moment, so we cannot bring players who are not eligible.”

As The Post Up newsletter revealed last month, Leonard – capped once in a friendly – has been left in unsatisfactory limbo.

Her case, she confirmed in that interview, was due to be pushed back to FIBA with a strengthened argument based on her British birthright and her contractual commitment to the WBBL – one which, officials hope, will bring a ruling to allow an exception to the world governing body’s regulation that a foreign-born player must acquire the passport of a country prior to the age of 16 in order to be considered native.

“We presented a case also with Samantha Roscoe,” Buceta revealed. “She’s not the only player of course. We have Karlie Samuelson and one of the men.

“These four cases were presented to FIBA. FIBA rejected them because they have the rule that is very unfair because they consider a naturalised player any player who was not born in the UK, and didn’t have passport before 16.

“And the problem is that if you are born, let’s say, in the United States, you probably you don’t have a passport before 16. Because you don’t need it.

“And that was a problem for Samantha also in Australia. Both parents are British, she’s British from birth. Same as the others.

“They are British from birth, but because they didn’t have a passport before 16, they are considered naturalised players … same as an American player who has a passport for North Macedonia or Bulgaria or wherever, and they don’t even know where those countries are.

“So it’s very unfair. But it’s the FIBA rule. And these cases were rejected. The case is now has been presented again, we don’t have answers from FIBA.”

FIBA have been asked for comment.

Buceta confirmed the door has been left ajar for Jo Leedham to return with the Lions forward, who had her first child earlier this year, rejecting a comeback to the international stage for personal reasons.

But there was no hesitation, he added, in offering a recall to Azania Stewart on her un-retirement following three years out.

“She’s 32. I’m quite happy that she came back. She’s doing quite well. So always, the door is open if the players are ready.”

The BBC, it has been announced, are to screen Thursday’s game live from 7.20pm on the BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website/app and via the Red Button.

Squad: Chantel Charles, Hannah Robb, Georgia Gayle, Renee Busch, Shequila Joseph, Cheridene Green,  Rachael Vanderwal, Azania Stewart, Temi Fagbenle, Chantelle Handy, Karlie Samuelson, Shanice Beckford-Norton, Holly Winterburn

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