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Drew Sullivan Uncovered

Sullivan started his career playing with teams from the other side of the Atlantic. He moved from his native London to the USA in 1996 where he attended St Augustine College Preparatory School in Richland New Jersey and in his first season he scored 1368 points and was named as South Jersey player of the Year.

In 1999 he attended Villanova Universityhome of the Wildcats basketball team- from where he graduated in 2003, but now he is facing a new challenge. This is the first Great British team to contest the Olympics since 1948, but the GB squad has a lot to offer this time, says Sullivan: “The goal is to be on the rostrum receiving a medal. The team has put in a lot of hard work to get to this stage, and there’s no point going there if we don’t think we can achieve something. It’s about doing the best we can.”

It seems that the 6’8” forward would have been as committed to the GB squad even without the captaincy, but commanding the national team makes him very proud. Drew said: “For me personally it’s absolutely huge, especially when you look at the team and how it’s grown. It’ll be the pinnacle of my career.”

However he knows that a mentor like coach Chris Finch, who encouraged him to be a better athlete and trusted him since day one, has been a key player in his career. He added: “We’ve had some high profile players join the team over the last few years and it would have been easy for our coach Chris Finch to make someone else the captain but he’s kept his trust in me and I’m extremely honoured by that.”

In October 2011 Sullivan joined the Leicester Riders and, on December 1st, he signed for the rest of the season. The Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro has no doubt that Sullivan has helped the team achieve their best ever record in the BBL Championship in his first ever season at the John Sandford Sports Centre, but at the same time, playing with the Riders has given Sullivan the inspiration he needs to succeed in the Olympics, even though the experience in both teams is different. Drew said: “I think about how hard I will be playing if I was playing for team GB and, from that stand point, it has helped me go from the regular season to the intensity of representing your country because it is a step or two above what you find at club level.

“Working alongside Team GB coach’ Chris Finch is also very different. He runs a tight ship and I find that I respond very well to his methods, and he certainly provides me with plenty of positive reinforcement.”

In the draw, team GB did avoid playing favourites the USA in the group stages, but Sullivan remains cautious: “It’s still a tough draw, and even though I’ve heard a lot fans saying their excited about avoiding the USA I think that’s a little disrespectful to the other teams and if we make too much noise they may take it out on us!!”

Andrew is feeling fortunate in having a very supportive family behind him throughout his career. His relatives will be in Newcastle watching him play this summer, but he will also have plenty of support from those he grew up with in London. He said: “I’ve got huge amounts of family and fortunately as an athlete I’ve been told that there are some tickets there for us, but we still have to pay for them. My family are just happy that they can be there. All my friends and relations are very excited about it, but to be honest with you I think they’ve got more of a buzz about it than I have. I think that will change when I get to the Olympic Village!”

The Riders’ player is also hoping that his American colleagues will follow his progress even if they are supporting their own country: “I’m still very close to the family that I lived with in high school and I speak to them as often as I can. To be honest there’s a few families over there that I’m in touch with, but Lou and Tommy, two of my closest friends, follow everything I do.”

Basketball has always been an important part of Andrew’s family and now it also emerges that the Sullivan household may also produce some more players. He added: “I think I’ve got two budding stars of the future and they’ll hopefully one day represent the women’s team. My two girls are quite keen on the game and anytime it’s on TV in the house they sit and watch it. My four-year-old is already displaying some pretty decent skills. She can dribble the ball with both hands without looking at it and when people see her they are impressed. So here’s hope another Sullivan might one day represent Great Britain!”

London 2012 will certainly be special for British basketball, but the GB captain is aiming for another milestone. Drew said: “The goal after this year is to represent our nation at an Olympics outside of this country, which has never been done before. Although we’re all proud to be involved in this summer games, I think it will be equally important to represent Great Britain in Rio in four years’ time because we’d have to qualify to do that.”

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