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Telegraph.co.uk: Basketball: Great Britain await confirmation of London 2012 spot

As Great Britain nursed their well deserved hangovers yesterday and stretched their long legs on a sunny five hour coach journey from Zagreb to Cazin there was only one cloud in the blazing autumn sky after their historic achievement of qualifying for the European Championship finals in Poland next year.

 
Great Britain await confirmation of London 2012 spot

Is the struggle over? Luol Deng and his British team-mates are still waiting to hear they have earnt the right to play in the London Olympic Basketball competition Photo: PA

Have they qualified for the 2012 Olympics – or not – after winning Pool D of the qualifying tournament with a win in the Czech Republic on Wednesday night? Coach Chris Finch firmly believes they have but wants to see it in writing before making detailed plans for the future.

“The goalposts seem to change pretty regularly” says Finch. “When GB originally reformed three seasons ago we were told that we had to be ‘competitive’ to take our place as hosts in London. Absolutely, we simply couldn’t have a substandard GB team being outclassed by everybody. We all understand that.

“Then we were told that we had to win promotion from Europe B Division and into the A Division which we accomplished last summer. Then we were told that we had to qualify for the finals of Eurobasket 2009 or 2011 which we have now achieved, possibly two years earlier than some doubters thought possible.

“So it would be really helpful now to know from the authorities what the final word on the subject is. We still have nearly four years left before 2012 and that is loads of time to develop and expand but we also now have a massive competition in Poland next year to specifically to prepare for.

“It is always going to be a balancing act but we need to know the criteria. Are we still on trial or probation? Have we got the green light or not?”

Apart from that minor irritant, it was smiles all the way with the GB squad as they made their way from Prague to Zagreb and then on into the Bosnia hinterland. A relaxed day on the road reflecting on a job well done and looking ahead to the future.

“We have spent the last two months on the road together at camp and at pre-pool tournaments and the whole experience brings you together,” says Finch.

“We even played our three home games at three different venues – O2, Birmingham and Liverpool – to move the GB team around a bit and get people involved.”

“It’s been tough at times but it has accelerated the process of building a team and guys getting to know each other and these days chilled out on the bus enjoying a gossip or a sleep like Luol Deng down there at the back are the days you often remember.

“They haven’t put themselves through the mill for the money – we can offer a £70 a day maximum allowance – they are going the extra mile to give GB a basketball team to be proud of and to pursue their Olympic dream.

“I’m delighted of what we have achieved so far and excited – really excited – at the potential of what we can yet achieve.

“Many will be going their own ways for the next nine months or so, after our final game on Saturday, to pursue their club careers before returning to the GB camp next summer but the work won’t stop.

“Those left have a busy programme developing the talent coming through, planning for Poland, organizing the best possible warm-up games and of course the search for talent worldwide never stops.

“Great Britain Basketball has plenty to offer now but those who want to get involved must roll up their sleeves and fight their way into the squad – like any other team – if they share the same dream as us. From this point on Great Britain are only going to get stronger and stronger.”

Great Britain, whose win in Pardubice on Wednesday is the only “road” win of the pool thus far complete their campaign against Bosnia and Herzegvovina on Saturday night.

“The temptation is probably to relax and have a bit of fun after the tension of the Czech game but I would like to see us put together a complete team performance and go to the Euro finals 5-1 in the Pool.” says Finch. “That would be a great statement of intent.”

Eurobasket Qualifying – Pool D

PF  PA  PD  Pts 
Great Britain*  423  393  +30 
Czech Republic  371  375  -4 
Israel  417  430  -13 
Bosnia & Herzegovina  376  390  -14 

*Great Britain qualify for Eurobasket 2009 in Poland next September

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