LONDON 2012: Maher confirms his 12-strong Team GB Olympic basketball roster
TOM Maher believes he has the perfect mix of youth and experience after he confirmed the line-up of Great Britain's first-ever Olympic women's basketball team.
CONFIDENT: British coach Tom Maher is upbeat after naming Team GB's first-ever women's Olympic basketball squad (British Basketball)
Although it's just five years since the British squad was formed, they have made giant strides - reaching the second round of last year's EuroBasket and claiming wins over higher-ranked South Korea, Argentina, Canada and world number four Czech Republic in recent weeks.
Natalie Stafford is the oldest member of the 12-strong squad at 35 while Dominque Allen, 22, and Temi Fagbenle, 19, are both graduates of the youth development programme.
But much will depend Jo Leedham, who plays club basketball in Australia with the Bulleen Boomers and has consistently turned in high-scoring performances in recent matches.
“Our programme continues to grow and competition for places gets stronger each season," said British Basketball performance director Chris Spice.
"This year has been our hardest selection to date. I congratulate all those players who have been selected for the Olympic Games in London but equally I would like to thank all of the other squad players that have pushed themselves to the limits but just missed out.
"It is only by increasing the depth of our squad can we expect to sustain and improve upon our fantastic performances over the past two years.
“I particularly want to congratulate our two new GB youngsters who have come through our home nation and GB junior ranks in the past few years – Dominque Allen and Temi Fagbenle. They have shown this season an incredible willingness to learn but at the same time improved their game and fully deserve their selection.
“The key now for the team is to continue their development over the coming weeks to ensure we are well prepared come Games time. Making the team is one thing, playing well for your country in the Olympic Games is another.”
Before the Games, Team GB will play preparatory matches against Angola, Australia and France in Sheffield before meeting reigning gold medallists USA in Manchester. They tip-off their Olympic campaign against Australia, who Maher led to Olympic bronze and silver in 1996 and 2000, on July 28.
“The progress that British Basketball has made over the past five years is remarkable and the British women have already proven that they can punch well above their weight with a number of victories over higher ranked opponents," said Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt.
“London 2012 presents a fabulous opportunity for the women’s team to showcase British basketball to a new generation of sports fans. Home support can make a huge difference and I’m sure the crowd at the Basketball Arena will be willing the team on to cause a few more upsets."
© Sportsbeat 2012