• Former Duquesne Duke named to British Olympic basketball team


    PITTSBURGH - Former Duke Kieron Achara (2004-08) has been named to the British Olympic basketball team.

    The 6-10 Stirling, Scotland native is one of 12 players selected to represent Great Britain in the London Games. He will join former Duquesne volleyball player Andrea St. Bernard (1999-02) who will represent Grenada in taekwondo at the Olympics.

    The British team, coached by NBA Houston Rockets assistant Chris Finch, includes Achara, Robert Archibald, Eric Boateng, Dan Clark, Luol Deng, Joel Freeland, Kyle Johnson, Andrew Lawrence, Mike Lenzly, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Nate Reinking and Drew Sullivan.

    “I am unbelievably proud and honored to have the opportunity to represent Great Britain in London,” said Achara who celebrated his 29th birthday on Tuesday. “This has been a goal of mine for a long time.”

    Achara, who has played professionally in Italy and Spain since finishing his Duquesne career in 2008, was one of 18 invited to Team GB training camp in Houston in mid-June.

    “I shot the ball extremely well,” said Achara of the camp which saw the team play a total of five exhibitions in two weeks against national teams from various countries. “Coach Finch told me he thought I was twice the player I was a year ago.”

    Achara spent this season playing for Assignia Manresa of the Spanish ACB - Europe’s top professional league.

    “I definitely feel playing in Spain helped me improve as a player,” said Achara. “The level of competition in that league forces you to be at your best for every game.”

    This is the first time since 1948 - the last time London hosted - that Great Britain has fielded an Olympic basketball team. The 2012 team will be led by Luol Deng a standout swingman for the Chicago Bulls who grew up in south London.

    In addition to Achara, the Atlantic 10 Conference will also be represented by former George Washington star forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu (2003-06), who hails from Tottenham.

    First-year Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry also had a former player named to the squad in 6-4 guard Kyle Johnson. Johnson, the 11th-leading scorer in Long Island history, helped lead Ferry’s 2011 LIU team to a Northeast Conference title and appearance in the NCAA tournament.

    Achara, who has been part of the British national team since 2007, finished his career ranked 19th on Duquesne’s all-time scoring list with 1,240 career points and second in career blocked shots with 185. The 2008 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Student-Athlete of the Year earned a spot on the A-10 All-Defensive Team in 2007 and was named the league’s Chris Daniels Award (Most Improved Player) winner in 2006. He was a member of the All-Academic Team for three consecutive seasons.

    Achara began his professional career with fortitudo Bologna before moving to Angelico Biella also in Italy. He then moved on to Barcellona in Italy’s Lega2 before signing with Assignia Manresa.

    The British team was greeted by cheering crowds upon landing at Heathrow Airport on July 1 at the conclusion of the Houston camp.

    “We were all quite taken aback by the reception we received when we returned home,” said Achara. “The support the fans showed was something special. This has really been the experience of a lifetime. I am looking forward to contributing to my team and enjoying every aspect of the Olympic games.”

    The British team returns to action on Saturday against France. They will play three more games before hosting the United States on July 19 in Manchester.

    The team begins Group B preliminary round Olympic play on July 29.

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