basketball

Opportunity knocks for GB Senior Women’s newcomers

Great Britain’s Senior Women are back in action for the first time since missing out on a spot at the Olympics during February’s qualifiers, in Belgrade.

Chema Buceta’s side turn their attentions back to the Women’s EuroBasket qualifiers as they take on Poland – in their second meeting in the group of three – played behind closed doors in Istanbul.

GB have a 1-1 record going into this weekend with their sole victory coming against Poland in what will be exactly a year ago by the time they take to the court on Saturday evening.

Opportunity knocks

There’s a new-look feel to the GB roster, albeit forced due to the absences of Jo Leedham-Warner, Karlie Samuelson, Rachael Vanderwal and Georgia Jones – all regulars in recent years, and beyond – with capped centurion Stef Collins also taking up a position on the bench as an assistant coach.

Spaces needed to be filled and GB turned to Renee Busch for the first time since 2013, while giving Sammy Roscoe a recall – having been invited to camp previously – though the Australian native is now set for a Senior debut alongside Evelyn Adebayo and late call-up Hannah Robb.

Whilst relatively inexperienced on this stage, the quartet are not complete newcomers to the GB setup – Adebayo and Robb played with the Under-20s – but none of the four have been part of a final roster under the reign of Chema Buceta.

Roscoe previously impressed in the WBBL with Manchester Mystics, during which time she earned a first call-up with GB, and has made a strong start to the new campaign in Germany with Goettingen.

Adebayo is settling in nicely in Spain’s second division with a 16-point debut for Alcobendas having initially signed with a EuroCup Women side in Belgium after graduating from UConn.

Busch made her Senior debut for GB in 2013 against Belarus during her four-year spell at the University of Pennsylvania before later joining Sevenoaks Suns, where she has continued to excel in her role with the leading side in the WBBL.

Robb is the youngest of the four players with the 1998-born guard a former captain of the GB Under-20s side having developed through the Caledonia Pride programme over the past four years.

A summer move saw Robb switch the Pride for the Riders in signing with Leicester and the four newcomers all bring something different to the table for Chema Buceta to work with on Saturday.

Kristine condition

Kristine Anigwe has been one of the top performing Brits overseas to start the 2020-21 season, averaging a double-double of 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game with Mersin in her second year in Turkey.

The 23-year-old is no stranger to being in a ‘sports bubble’ having featured with the LA Sparks in the 2020 WNBA season, which was held in its entirety at the IMG Academy, in Florida.

Anigwe’s introduction to the GB set-up was sudden back at the start of the year, yet would not have the desired impact ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament as an ankle injury hampered her participation.

The two-time World Championship gold medal winner with USA, as a junior, only took to the court for one of the three games and recorded three points and four rebounds in 11 minutes against Korea.

With GB needing additional scoring punch, this window could provide the perfect platform for an in-form Anigwe to explode onto the international stage and deliver a crucial performance.

Handling the responsibility

As already mentioned, GB are missing some key pieces to the squad, but notably they come in the back-court. Premier ball-handlers in Vanderwal and Leedham as well as the elite perimeter threat of Samuelson.

Eilidh Simpson could shoulder that responsibility on both fronts. In the previous meeting against Poland, Simpson stepped up with 18 points including 3 of 4 shooting from deep along with three assists and will likely see a heavy workload once more.

Busch has been one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in recent WBBL history and could be a secret weapon in catching Poland cold if she finds her range, as a respite for the vast experience of Chantelle Handy – which will also be vital.

It could also be a big opportunity for Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee. The new Mystics guard has seen limited action in previous GB appearances, though has proven her capabilities in the WBBL – not just as a scorer, but also as a play-maker and could see extended time in that point guard role.

GB will need to be smart with their ball movement in looking to utilise the inside threats of Temi Fagbenle and Anigwe and creating space for their outside options, whilst limiting turnovers in order to help with their trusty defence at the other end.

GB take on Poland in Istanbul on Saturday with tip-off at 6pm UK time.

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