Newly appointed Great Britain Under-20 head coach Doug Leichner says preparations are well underway as training camp opens in a little over a month.
The GB U20s, who will be competing against Poland, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Romania and Luxembourg in the first round at the Division B European Championships in July, will feature Leichner at the helm after a failed experiment with Canada’s Dave Smart last summer.
The University of Maine assistant is undoubtedly looking forward to the summer ahead and is in full GB mode already, Tesco Clubcard and all, if his Twitter stream is anything to go by.
“I’m excited about the ‘long list’ of players that have been comprised through the hard work of British Basketball since the end of last year’s European Championships,” said Doug when talking to Hoopsfix from Maine, where he has been on the staff for over 8 years. “At this stage we’re working through the names getting the proper paperwork sorted and finalising details.”
Despite being unable to reveal who is on the long list just yet, Leichner said it would be comprised of a number of familiar faces.
Hoopsfix has learned that young star Devon van Oostrum has committed to the programme, whilst a number of other ’93 borns, including guards Joe Hart, Josh McGinn, new addition Nick Lewis (from the Sheffield Sharks, got his British passport in October), forward John Stewart, and seven footers Zak Wells, Dylan Johns have received invites, as well as a sprinkle of the younger 1994 born generation, such as big man David Akibo and wing player Elliott Sentance.
Some other first choice candidates are also believed to have have ruled themselves out; it remains unclear exactly who, but the talented Simeon Esprit has missed the majority of the season at UPenn with an injury, whilst others are thought to have college commitments.
It is a case of fifth time lucky for Leichner, who has applied for the role four times previously, and says, despite what many may think, he is extremely familiar with not only European basketball, but the top British prospects.
“My past applications for the position allowed me to continue to foster my relationships with British Basketball,” he continued. “I also feel that my attendance over the years at the U18 and U20 European Championships displayed my commitment to the international game. Being a NCAA Division I coach, I am very familar with the 1993 and 1994 generations in the UK and have recruited or watched many of the players over the last 4 years.”
The U20 warm up schedule is coming together, with tournaments arranged in Finland and Portugal, as well as a couple of domestic fixtures to take place, according to The Maine Campus. Leichner believes there will be no issues for him with the adjustments to FIBA rules.
“I don’t anticipate a major problem. There are minor rule differences between NCAA and FIBA such as shot clock, who and when timeouts can be called, closely guarding your defender, free throw alignment, format for the division of the 40 minutes.
“In the tournament, all coaches will have to adjust to how the game will be called regarding traveling and contact in the post. The referees will be comprised from countries competing in the European Championships and there are slight differences with what is emphasised similar to officials in the different regions of the USA.”
Leichner is communicating daily with British assistant James Vear regarding tactics and players, and said that his given choice will be to have a defensive minded team, that rebounds well and looks to run the floor on offence, however, he will play whatever style best fits the strengths of the final roster. “We want to dictate tempo and force our will upon our opponents,” he said. “We’ll establish our offensive and defensive schemes, focus on our goals and define roles.”
Though he may not be British, Leichner understands that, though winning it all is of course the goal, there is a major responsibility on ensuring the players gain valuable experience and develop for potential senior national team duties in the future. He emphasised that there will be individual skills development at camp, consisting of shooting, dribbling, passing and footwork.
And will Doug lead the side to the much desired Divsion A promotion?
“I can’t fathom thinking let’s finish a certain place or the highest position in GB history,” he exclaimed. “It’s all about playing together, sacrificing for the team and working toward a goal of winning a U20B European Championship!”
How do you think the GB U20s will do this summer?
Join the 8000+ others who follow Hoopsfix and subscribe.