Luol Deng Powering Britain Through EuroBasket Qualifying
The team's best hope in convincing a clearly skeptical FIBA that Great Britain is fit to accept its potential Olympic host slot is to get into EuroBasket 2011 and perform well. Luckily, Deng has been able to play this summer as the British attempt to qualify for that tournament. And, per usual, he's playing great and carrying Britain to a strong performance.
Britain is the only unbeaten team among 15 attempting to qualify for EuroBasket. The British beat Ukraine 90-76 on Saturday, with Deng leading the way with 28 points and seven rebounds. In qualifying, Deng has topped the field with 24.8 points a game, and he's third on the boards with 8.5 rebounds a game. He's been the best player in qualifying, besting Montenegro's Nikola Pekovic, who will be a rookie for the Timberwolves next season.
Of course, the competition level in qualifying is lower than at a major tournament like EuroBasket. Deng has yet to play against the top European nations like Spain and Greece in his British career. But he's been an ace in his opportunities, and if he can get this team to EuroBasket and remain available next summer, there's a good chance he can be a difference-maker at the top level of Europe.
Deng has had help. Former Raptor Pops Mensah-Bonsu leads qualifying in rebounding with 11.8 a game. London native Dan Clark, 21, has shot brilliantly through four games playing between Pops and Deng. The Brits hope to have even more help next summer, should they make EuroBasket, as Pistons guard Ben Gordon remains interested in playing for his birth nation.