Olaseni praises Prunty's efforts as Britain bow out of EuroBasket

Olaseni praises Prunty's efforts as Britain bow out of EuroBasket
By Sportsbeat

07/09/2017 at 19:07Updated

Gabe Olaseni paid tribute to departing coach Joe Prunty as Great Britain's EuroBasket campaign ended with defeat to Russia – and the centre admits he will cherish the pair's special relationship in the next chapter of his career.

Olaseni produced an impressive 19 points and nine rebounds in Britain's 82-70 defeat in Istanbul, which was Prunty's last official match in charge of the side.

Britain came close to winning in the fourth quarter, when they trailed by just a point with three minutes remaining, but Russia's Alexei Shved showcased his trademark clinical attacking prowess in front of the net to ensure victory for his side.

Despite ending the tournament without a win, Olaseni, who averaged over 16 points and 11 rebounds in the tournament, hailed Prunty for encouraging him not to give up on his international career, after being cut from the under-18 set-up.

"For many years, I didn't want to play for my country. I was angry and upset," said Olaseni.

"I was confused about why it happened. But then Coach Prunty came along and we developed a really good relationship.

"But during my first two seasons as a pro, I was essentially fired from both my teams in Germany and in Italy.

"The time with the GB team is definitely the best of my short career and I give that to coach, Nate [Reinking] and all the other guys in the locker room. I'm going to use this as a confidence builder but this has been one of the best experiences of my career."

Britain's gritty performance suggested a much-improved side than the one which faced Russia at the London 2012 Olympics, where they ended up on the wrong side of a 20-point loss.

The prolific Dan Clark led the scoring with 21 points over several phases of play which displayed periods of positive ball movement in a bright opening quarter.

But Britain failed to counter a long-range shooting threat in the first half which saw nine three-pointers, as they trailed by double digits for most of the second.

They reduced that to three points late in the third quarter after rapid threes from Clark and Gareth Murray inspired a British resurgence, before cutting the deficit to just 68-67 after a pair of dunks by Olaseni.

Teddy Okereafor's layup kept Britain within two inside the final three minutes, but Britain had no answer to Russian ace Shved, who inspired a 11-1 run to seal his side a memorable, hard-fought triumph.

Speaking after his side's exit from the tournament, Prunty, who took over as Britain's head coach in 2013, backed Olaseni to achieve more in his burgeoning career.

"It's not the way we wanted to end EuroBasket – we'd love to still be playing next week, but now we have to move forward," said Prunty.

"It's been an honour to do this. I think the programme is in an unbelievable spot. But the most efficient player [Olaseni] in this tournament is 25. He's pretty good. I'd say the future is bright."

Sportsbeat 2017