|13 July 2010|
The much anticipated debut of Ben Gordon in a British national team jersey this summer will not happen with the Detroit Pistons guard officially ruled out of the EuroBasket 2011 qualifying campaign after failing to recover from a post-season ankle operation.
Great Britain have suffered an even bigger blow with the loss of Unicaja Malaga power forward/center Joel Freeland, who continues to be plagued by back problems.
|Andy Betts is another big man who is unlikely to show up in a Great Britain jersey this summer|
With veteran center Andy Betts not expected to play and Freeland's Unicaja Malaga teammate Robert Archibald also doubtful, Britain's once formidable frontline will now consist of CSKA Moscow power forward/center Pops Mensah Bonsu and youngsters trying to break into the national side.
Britain coach Chris Finch is taking the setbacks in his stride and looking forward to a good summer with the national team.
"This is undoubtedly a blow to the team as they would have both been key players in what is going to be a challenging summer with four EuroBasket qualifying games home and away," Finch said.
"However, it will be a great opportunity for some of the younger players to step up to the mark and stake a claim for a regular place.
"Players like Justin Robinson, Matthew Bryan Amaning and Ashley Hamilton all performed well for the GB Futures, so we should be positive about what the younger players can offer."
The Brits have wanted Gordon, who was born in London but grew up in the United States, the last couple of years and could have used him last summer in Poland at the EuroBasket when they lost all three of their games to Slovenia, Spain and Serbia.
But the NBA marksman was reluctant to join the squad without the presence of Luol Deng, who was unavailable through injury.
Gordon finally committed to Britain for this summer but now won't be able to play after having surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle.
He said in a statement through British Basketball: "I am really disappointed that my injury will not be fully healed in time for me to join GB. The British medical staff and management have been in touch with the Pistons over the past few weeks.
"Every effort has been made - unfortunately, I just won't be ready to play come August."
Gordon was a teammate of Deng's with the Chicago Bulls before moving to Detroit last season.
He played in 62 of Detroit's 82 games and saw his scoring average drop from 17.9 points per game to 13.8.
A career 40.4% shooter from long range, Gordon made 75 of 234 (32.1%) attempts with the Pistons.
Freeland played at the EuroBasket but back problems limited his time on the court.
He was very good at Unicaja this season, averaging better than 12 points and five rebounds in the regular season, 12 points and almost six boards in the play-offs.
Britain will this summer attempt to qualify for EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania.
They have a tough Division A campaign with home and away games against Hungary, FYR of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine.
Should Chris Finch's team make it to the Baltics, Gordon says he would hope to make the team and play next year.
"I am really looking forward to playing next year and will follow the team's success this summer," he said.
"It would have been great to play with Luol this summer - it will just have to wait until next year."