Achara stepping up for Great Britain

For Scotland’s own Kieron Achara, he wasn’t even in the Great Britain team for Eurobasket two years ago. He was a surprise exclusion from the squad.

Two years later, Achara will be the veteran leading Great Britain into Slovenia.

This will be Great Britain’s third straight Eurobasket and they will be forced to compete without their three most recognisable players in Luol Deng, Joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

It’s a tough ask for what will be a relatively inexperienced GB side to even advance past the second round of the tournament where France, Germany, Israel, Ukraine and Belgium await them in Ljubljana’s Hala Tivoli Arena. Achara admits that this will be a learning process and while the timing for Eurobasket is unluckily closer than what he would have liked, he, along with the team are remaining positive.

“The process realistically comes down to finding a way to become a team,” Achara said. “Sometimes it takes a bit longer than most and we don’t have that time anymore so we have to go with a positive mindset and find an identity because right now we don’t have an identity of who we actually are.

“I’m not making excuses, we got a lot of young guys and whole new program. I believe we need to find a way to become a team and build up a sense of urgency, so we’re staying optimistic, staying positive and hopefully we’ll find a way to click.”

Achara was released from the Great Britain squad in the summer of 2011 shortly after their opening warm-up games against the Netherlands and Nigeria. Many questioned the decision to leave the Stirling-born forward out of the rotation, but Achara didn’t moan. He continued to work hard and fight for his place at the London Olympics a year later, a place he reclaimed and he stood out in the five games played. He even top-scored in their victory over China, hitting 16 points to lead the Brits.

12 months on from London 2012 and Achara, who has made cameo appearances for Scotland since is now an international veteran who GB coach Joe Prunty will look to as a main option on both ends of the floor.

“We are asking a lot from Kieron,” Prunty admitted. “His role is different this year, we’re asking him to do more things, to be more aggressive, we want him to be very active on the boards at both ends, offensively and defensively and if he’s open, we want him to be comfortable and be ready to shoot it.

“Kieron though will be tested, we are asking a lot of him, but he’s up to the challenge, I appreciate that but like all the guys on the team, I’m going to need more from them as Eurobasket approaches.”

Great Britain are on the verge of naming their final squad that will board the plane to Slovenia in a couple of weeks time. Their first game on September 4 will be against Israel.

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