Fagbenle tipped for superstar status
August 11, 2012 14:56 pm
The future was on show for British women's basketball at the London Olympics and a superstar may have been uncovered.
Teenager Temi Fagbenle only made her debut for the team in their warm-up games earlier this summer, but by the time the Olympics arrived she had established herself as a regular starter in Tom Maher's team.
"It's still a bit surreal for me," the 19-year-old said, even after Britain's tournament had come to an end following the group stages. "I can't believe I'm an Olympian. I think it might hit me when I leave here, but for now I'm just soaking it up."
Fagbenle has taken a long road to get here. Born in Baltimore in the United States as one of 12 children, she was raised in London.
She learned the game of basketball with the Haringey Angels and her immediate talent saw her snapped up by the Blair Academy in New Jersey, the same school attended by British men's star Luol Deng after he honed his game in Brixton.
In high school, Fagbenle built a reputation as one of the best young players in America, and subsequently landed a scholarship to Harvard.
A technicality in American college regulations ruled her ineligible to play throughout her freshman year last season, but despite coming into the British camp without that game sharpness, she not only did enough to earn a place in the final 12, she secured a place in the starting five.
"It's been an amazing experience," Fagbenle said. "It's pretty much once-in-a-lifetime stuff. I'm just glad to have had the opportunity."
Britain lost all five of their games in group play but at least earned plaudits for their battling displays, not least when they took eventual finalists France to overtime, only losing to a stunning three-pointer from Celine Dumerc in the final second of the extra period.
Veteran Australian coach Maher believes Fagbenle has the chance to change that, and he said: "She's got unbelievable talent. It's first-class talent. Flat-out talent. If she wants it, she can be that superstar player."
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