Head coach Tom Maher has reduced the Great Britain Senior Women’s squad to 14 with the release of Kate Butters and Georgia Jones this weekend.
The cuts come ahead of the team’s first warm-up this summer as they take on Croatia in back to back games on Monday and Tuesday.
Among those who remain, Maher is seeing signs that Great Britain’s best are ready to take another major step forward and has been particularly impressed by Temi Fagbenle:
“We have quality players, we’re not going to be the most loaded team. We’re not going to have a bunch of 6-foot-5 gazelles. But we’re going to be a competitive team.
“We’ve had a real fillip with one girl coming in for her first year in Temi Fagbenle. She’s special.
“But everybody is so much more professional. Their IQ is better. They’ve taken a leap forward.”
Fagbenle, who has just completed her first year at Harvard but was unable to play due to eligibility issues, and Dominique Allen, fresh from finishing her degree at Oral Roberts University, will be in line to win their first caps against the powerful Croatians who are building towards next month’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey after reaching the quarter-finals of last year’s EuroBasket Women in Poland.
It is the first of 17 warm-up fixtures for GB in a schedule that also includes games in Belgium, Turkey, China and the Czech Republic, as well as two tournaments in Edinburgh and Sheffield.
With Durham-born forward Chantelle Handy back to full fitness after recovering from a broken metatarsal, Maher is now keen to put theory into practice with one eye on the Olympics.
And with three more tests to come next weekend in a four-team tournament in Belgium before Britain hosts Canada at Meadowbank on June 9 and 10, the veteran coach is expecting his side to be challenged from the start.
“Croatia’s in our league,” he said. “Canada would be ranked considerably above us. But they’re great tests, fantastic.
“The preparation is spot on. As long as we stay healthy, we couldn’t ask for better preparation as a coach, you couldn’t ask for better organisation. It makes my job really easy.”
Great Britain Senior Women’s Squad
Dominique Allen, Oral Roberts University, USA
Rose Anderson, UWIC Archers, Cardiff
Kim Butler, SK Cesis, Latvia
Stef Collins, UWIC Archers, Cardiff
Temi Fagbenle, Harvard University, USA
Steph Gandy, Sheffield Hatters
Chantelle Handy, Athinaikos, Greece
Jo Leedham, Bulleen Boomers, Australia
Julie Page, Torun, Poland
Natalie Stafford, Sydney University Flames, Australia
Azania Stewart, University of Florida, USA
Lauren Thomas-Johnson, Sheffield Hatters
Rachel Vanderwal, University of Limerick, Ireland
Jeneya Wade Fray, UWIC Archers, Cardiff
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