Former U.S. collegians join UK olympic bid

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The Olympics will be full of basketball players who attended U.S. colleges. Perhaps more on non-U.S. squads than on Team USA, given that stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James never set foot in college.

Team Great Britain is excited about a chance to defend its home turf as hosts of the event, and the group from across the pond isn’t short on U.S.-seasoned talent. In fact, steel yourself for a blast from the past: remember former George Washington standout Pops Mensah-Bonsu? The big man from Ghana by way of Tottenham is a major player for the UK team, posting 16 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks in a warm-up loss to Lithuania on June 29.

Whether the GB team win a game in London or not, they’ll put some familiar faces on the floor. Ogo Adegboye (St. Bonaventure), Matthew Bryan-Amaning (Washington) and Eric Boateng (Arizona State) all suit up for the Brits, and the team is eagerly awaiting the arrival of former Duke star Luol Deng, who is resting his wrist and will only appear in matches that count this summer.

It’s kind of cool to see players from all around the world get together and play for national pride, including those that got a little training on U.S. soil before heading back to play for their national teams. Be sure to tune in and watch the games, not just to watch the U.S. all-stars dominate (?), but to welcome back some familiar faces from around the globe.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor and a new site called World Basketball Project.

UK Futures team features US college stars

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Basketball has long been a truly international sport. Some nations have been more successful in implementing the theories and practices of good ol’ Dr. Naismith than others, of course. The United Kingdom would be one of those less assertive roundball non-dynasites, but for how much longer?

With the 2012 Olympics set to begin in London, British basketball is on the rise. The national men’s team, under the leadership of Chicago Bulls guard Luol Deng, is preparing to engage in a rather quixotic — yet proud — quest to protect their turf this summer.

Perhaps more importantly, the basketball establishment in Britain has a unique opportunity to promote the sport to younger players, in an attempt to secure the future of hoops in the United Kingdom. To that end, they’ve hired former NBA player and Kansas Jayhawk Paul Mokeski to coach the Great Britain Futures team. British hoops site posted some of Mokeski’s hopeful comments recently:

“I am excited and honoured to be the head coach of the GB Futures team. This will be my third year with the GB program and the experience has been very rewarding. The Futures programme is very important in the development of young players and gets them ready for the transition into the senior squads. This year the Futures program is the beginning of our preparation for the Olympics in London this summer.”

If you don’t happen to remember Mokeski’s college career (it was the 1970s, after all; it’s quite possible Mokeski himself doesn’t recall every detail), there’s a more recent connection to US college hoops. Former US college stars Matthew Bryan-Amaning (pictured), Ovie Soko and Ogo Adegboye will star on the team alongside lesser-known UK-bred talents.

In fact, the UK’s relationship to, and hopes for, basketball are incredibly similar to what we see between the US and soccer. If England and associated countries wish to continue to send their best players overseas to face top competition, that can only be good for the talent pool in college hoops.

Washington realistic about it's 'next' Pondexter

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Quincy Pondexter turned a summer spent playing with Team USA at the World University games into the finest season of his career, just missing out on the Pac-10 player of the year.

Harry How/Getty

Senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning is doing the same thing with Great Britain’s national team this summer – but the Washington coaching staff isn’t ready to proclaim Bryan-Amaning the next Pondexter quite yet.

But they’re crossing their fingers.

“I certainly hope so. … I know he wanted to make that team and he did,” assistant Paul Fortier told the Seattle Times. “You don’t want to get cut. I don’t think the coach had seen him play before so he was going in there. They just invited him and he ended up making that team. I thought that was huge and confidence wise that should be good. I think he’s going to get ready for a good senior year.”

The 6-9 forward is certainly a key for the Huskies in 2010-11. At 6-9, he’ll be their most reliable post player and a dynamic shot blocker. But he’ll need  a monster leap to have a season like Pondexter’s. He turned in 19.3 points, 7.4 rebounds a game and hit 53 percent of his shots, a significant boost from his 12.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg as a junior.

Bryan-Amaning put up 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds game last season. Safe to say, he’s a ways from being Q. And the coaches know it.

We want Matthew to be better in his weak areas, but for sure we didn’t forget where he’s strong at as well. We want to make sure he’s rebounding the ball and shooting a pretty good percentage. If he does that, he’ll be fine,” Fortier said. “We’re not going to say now that Matt is going to turn into a face-the-basket guy. We know his strengths. He knows his strengths. Yes we want him to get better in other areas and we hope that becomes a part of his game.”

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.