All-American huh? Not so fast.
Two days after starting and registering 12 points and seven rebounds in an upset of the Czech Republic, sophomore Temi Fagbenle made the final 12-woman roster for the Great Britain team Friday in advance of the 2012 London Olympics, which begin in late July.
Fagbenle grew up in England before coming to the United States for high school. Following an impressive senior campaign, the 6’4” forward was named a McDonald’s All-American and was unanimously considered one of the top recruits in the Class of 2011. After Fagbenle’s Lavietes Pavilion debut was delayed as the NCAA forced her to sit out a year, she’s gotten on the court for the British National team faster than expected.
Since joining the squad for a series of warm-up contests this summer, Fagbenle has drawn immense praise from United Kingdom coach Tom Maher, which was backed up by her inclusion on the team at just 19 years of age. She is the only teenager to make the final roster, and only the second woman in Ivy League history to compete in the Olympics.
The British are guaranteed to be competing in the Olympic Games next month because the home nation is automatically qualified for the tournament. But, unlike in past years, this team may have been able to qualify the hard way. Officially ranked 49th in the world (right behind Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka) due to years of mediocrity, the Brits have been playing up to the competition in recent contests, topping global contenders South Korea, Canada, and Argentina this summer in addition to upsetting the No. 4-ranked Czechs. Some of the recent success can be attributed to the addition of Fagbenle, but she represents just one member of a growing crop of talented British basketball players that have taken the program to a new level.
Before tip-off of Olympic action July 28th, the UK has several more tough tests to prepare itself for the Games. The squad has upcoming matches with world No. 2 Australia and No. 7 China, two teams that have already qualified for the 12-team Olympic tournament, before playing its final pre-Olympics contest against the world No. 1, and defending Olympic Champion, the United States.
That American squad will face an England team tougher than any British squad they’ve faced in a long time, thanks in large part to the play of an All-American sporting the Union Jack.