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Season so far: GB Bigs

Joel FreelandWith New Year approaching, thought it was time to reflect on how the players who are likely to be competing for spots on the Eurobasket squad are shaping up so far this season. This review will be split into three blogs: Centres/PFs, Forwards/Swingmen and Guards.

First up it’s the Bigs.

Going great guns…

Joel Freeland
It has been a breakout season for Freeland that started with his performances in the Eurobasket qualifiers. After two frustrating seasons at Gran Canaria, Coach Finch realised that Freeland was trying too hard to impress. Once he’d got the NBA draft pick to settle down and play to his strengths, Freeland duly delivered for Britain off the bench and provided the highlight reel of the campaign with his monster dunk against Bosnia in Birmingham.

In the last year of his contract in the Canary Islands, Freeland has moved from 12th man to a major part of the rotation and has continued to do the same job for Gran Canaria as he did for the national team. So far he is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes per game, in a team that is on target to reach the Copa del Rey and make the knock-out stages of the Eurocup.

Portland Trailblazers are definitely going to want to take another look at him this summer

Robert Archibald
On reflection Archibald got both his major decisions right over the summer, namely opting out of national team duty in order to rest his weak knees and not trying out again for the NBA.

Archibald’s big money contract in Malaga is the perfect situation for him – he gets plenty of rest on their deep roster but can thrive in those big Euroleague and ACB games. The result is 11 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Arch will need those breaks on the bench, as it is likely to be a long season for him, as Malaga sit 2nd in the ACB and their Euroleague group.

The same production in the same minutes for GB at Eurobasket will do nicely thanks very much.

Doing OK…

Kieron Achara
Achara isn’t exactly pulling up trees in Italy but for his first full pro-season he is making a respectable contribution at Fortudio Bologna. Often British players sign for big European teams early in their careers only to find themselves riding pine for the season but Achara has appeared in most games averaging just under 5 points and just over 4 rebounds in 13 minutes.

Bumping up against the likes of legendary Euroleague players Gregor Fucka and Lazaros Papadopoulus in practice won’t be doing the Scot any harm either.

Great start but…

Pops Mensah-Bonsu
Mensah-Bonsu only finds himself in this part of the list, as he goes into 2009 without a club.

The North Londoner’s outstanding performances for GB and in the NBA Summer League meant there was no shortage of offers on the table for him. In the end, Mensah-Bonsu turned his back on the NBA – for now – in favour of more cash and court-time at Joventut Badalona.

Things started well and Mensah-Bonsu was Badalona’s star in early their games and earnt the MVP award in Week 2 of Euroleague after 24 points and 14 rebounds against Roma.

Then Mensah-Bonsu picked up a shoulder injury and ran into a dispute with the club as to where and how he should seek treatment. He went to see a trusted physio in the States to try and avoid an operation but after missing a deadline to return was cut by the club.

The injury could keep Mensah-Bonsu out for months but despite his acrimonious departure from Badalona expect a queue of clubs lining up to sign him on his return to fitness.

Not so good…

Eric Boateng
Just how highly Coach Finch rates Boateng is illustrated by the fact that he is the only Brit at college in the US to have got anywhere near the national team in the last couple of years.

The big word hanging around Boateng though is ‘potential’ and that continues to be the case. Last year, after a false start at Duke followed by the obligatory Red Shirt season it looked as if Boateng’s college career was finally underway at Arizona State but his court-time has fallen back this season to less than 8 minutes per-game.

Plenty more work for Boateng to turn that potential into product.

Dan Clark
Clark’s decision to miss out on the GB training camp in order to try and break into the reckoning at Estudianates has not paid off. The Madrid club continue to struggle in the ACB and as at this stage last season, Clark’s appearances have been limited to sporadic minutes off the bench and plenty of DNPs.

Last year Clark was loaned out to LEB Gold outfit Leche Rio in the 2nd half of the season and nearly helped them to gain promotion to the ACB. It now appears that a move to another league and another team may be the best way for Clark to kick-start his pro-career.

Andrew Betts
Betts’ contribution in the Eurobasket qualifiers was restricted due to a back injury and that is surely a factor as to why the experienced centre has yet to find a team, after being released from Seville at the end of last season.

Betts had been linked with Turkish giants Efes Pilsen and Beskitas but no deal was concluded. He was also rumoured that to heading to French Euroleague team Nancy to replace Rod Benson but they have now inked ex-NBA D-Leaguer Akin Akingbala.

If Betts has returned to full fitness you’d have thought that he’ll be snapped up by a major club as a back-up or smaller team as a starter early in the new year.


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