Lenzly made way through Lovejoy to Olympic tryout

Special photo
Former Lovejoy standout Mike Lenzly could represent Great Britain in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London.

Special photo Former Lovejoy standout Mike Lenzly could represent Great Britain in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London.

Former Lovejoy basketball standout Mike Lenzly has been on Great Britain’s national team three times and is trying out for a fourth stint that could be sweeter than the others for one reason.

“It’s the Olympics,” Lenzly said. “It would just be more special because it’s the Olympics and it’s in London. We would have the home crowd behind us and it would just be amazing to be a part of that.”

The Lovejoy grad from the Class of 1999 is trying out in Houston to represent Queen and country. He has spent the last nine seasons playing professionally in Europe. Lenzly’s career has taken him to teams from Spain and Italy to Germany and, most recently, the Czech Republic, where he helped lead the CEZ Nymburk team to its eighth straight title.

The former Wofford College guard, who averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as a senior in 2003, and played his way onto a spot on the Great Britain national team in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Lenzly’s chances of making the roster would seem to have improved with the news that British-born NBA players Byron Mullens (Charlotte Bobcats) and Ben Gordon (Chicago Bulls) either are injured (Mullens) or still haven’t shown up in camp (Gordon). Luol Deng of the Bulls is also British, and will try to play, but has a torn wrist ligament.

Said Lenzly of the degree of difficulty with added NBA star power: “It’ll be great. I’ve played with Luol a couple of times already. ... I just need to bring the same things I’ve always brought. Solid defense and making shots when I get the chance.”

Lenzly, originally from Oxford, England, moved to the Atlanta area with his family during his sophomore year of high school. After finishing high school at Lovejoy and a solid college career at Wofford, the 6-foot-2 guard found an agent and began his Euroleague career.

It is a career that, according to Lenzly’s agent, Adam Pensack, has been much more than just ordinary.

“In a word, he’s been stellar,” said Pensack who, with his brother Ben, owns and operates Pensack Sports Management group. “We’ve been representing Mike for 10 years and have watched him play at a really high level in Europe against future and former NBA players and has more than held his own.”

Often when the Olympics roll around, players who otherwise may not be interested in landing a roster spot on the team seem to “come out of the woodworks” looking to prove their nationality in order to play, Pensack said.

But neither he nor Lenzly seemed to be concerned about the uptick in competition.

“It’s a pretty safe bet he’s going to make it,” Pensack said. “The addition of the NBA players makes it a little tougher for Mike, but he’s done well for them in the past. I know the coaches like him. He’s paid his dues with this team, but we still won’t know until tryouts are done. But I think Mike’s chances are good.”

Lenzly said the scouts that make up the national team usually invite about 20 players to tryouts, keeping the best 12. After the team has been formulated, they will play Team USA in an exhibition “friendly” later in July.

Although the United States has seemingly cornered the market on basketball prowess over the years, Lenzly has experienced enough rigor in European circles to believe his potential team can continue closing the gap.

“Any country playing against USA is going to be a tough match-up,” Lenzly said. “But every year that I’ve played with this team, we’ve gotten better and I think we’ll continue to do that.”

Well established in Europe, Lenzly said he isn’t looking at this opportunity as a career booster, but rather a chance to achieve something in basketball that he’ll never forget.

“I’m pretty well known in Europe over these last nine years,” he said. “But this could be something that I’d look back on and be proud of that I was able to accomplish. Something I won’t ever forget.”