GB seek EuroBasket top-six finish to secure Olympic funding

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Drew Sullivan
GB Basketball men head to Slovakia for their crucial EuroBasket campaign

Great Britain men's basketball team head to the EuroBasket in Slovenia knowing the future of their Olympic funding hangs in the balance.

UK Sport initially axed all support for the men's and women's programmes in December, but then offered a conditional reprieve in February.

For funding to extend beyond an initial 12 months, they were set the target of a top-six finish at the EuroBasket.

They begin against Israel on Wednesday in the first of five games in six days.

"Anything is possible," GB head coach Joe Prunty told BBC Sport.

"The whole tournament is very important and we want to have a great showing."

Despite impressive EuroBasket victories over Serbia, Latvia and Croatia in June, the GB women's team failed to achieve their target of a top-six finish and have admitted concernexternal-link about future funding.

The men are understandably keen to avoid finding themselves in a similar situation.

A top-three finish in Group Aexternal-link will put Great Britain's men into the second round and a top-four place at the end of those additional games would put them through to the all-important knock-out phase.

Their prospects have not been helped by the absence of three star players, with Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Joel Freeland and Luol Deng all unavailable this summer, while attempts to recruit NBA stars Ben Gordon and Byron Mullen failed.

They have lost their last six warm-up matches, culminating in a record 100-46 defeat by Spainexternal-link last week, but vice-captain Kieron Achara believes they can reverse that form in Slovenia.

"Our focus is not on what UK Sport are thinking, it's about being the best that we can be," he said.

GB team relish EuroBasket challenge

"We're trying not to put that kind of pressure on ourselves by thinking about funding - it's more about what we can do as a team and how we can have the best EuroBasket we've ever had.

"We're lacking a little bit with that experience, so we're not sure what to expect on day one, but it's a younger unit, maybe with a little more hunger and energy, and I know we'll do the best that we can."

Six of the 12-strong squad are currently without domestic clubs,external-link so the competition could potentially help players attain some much-needed attention ahead of the new season.

Dan Clark is one of those players, having seen his contract terminated following a disagreement over an ankle injury.

CAI Zaragoza wanted the Olympian to rest for two months, but Clark declared himself fit to join up with the GB team.

"I had a few problems changing clubs and had a disagreement about certain contractual issues, which made the decision a lot easier to come away with the GB team and I couldn't be happier about it," Clark told BBC Sport.

"There are a lot of opportunities to show your skill set, but if you're on a winning team then you're obviously going to get more attention because clubs want winners, so I'm ready to help the team in any way possible."

Prunty, who took over from GB's Olympic head coach Chris Finch earlier this summer, believes his squad are highly focused despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of certain players.

"We have a very solid group and good team that is ready to play unselfish basketball," he said.

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