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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Monday, 1 September 2008 16:39 UK

British basketball's long road to 2012

GB basketball players

By Ollie Williams

The next month could make or break Britain's Olympic basketball hopes.

NBA star Luol Deng says he is confident, coach Chris Finch believes the team has "momentum", and supporters say they have a chance.

But if the British men's basketball team fail to qualify for the 2009 European Championships, their chances of earning a place at London 2012 will begin to fade.

Hosting the 2012 Games does not earn the team an automatic place in the Olympic basketball tournament.

Despite their host nation status, Britain's basketball players are not guaranteed a place at London 2012
In order to reach the Games, governing body Fiba say they must qualify for the 2009 or 2011 European Ch'ships
Qualification for the 2009 Euros rests on September's six-game, four-team EuroBasket group
If GB win their group or finish as one of the three best second-placed teams, they qualify
Failing that, the next six teams play off for one remaining qualification place in early 2009
If Britain are relegated from EuroBasket Division A, they can no longer reach London 2012

Fiba, the world governing body, is believed to have demanded that the British team prove competitive at European level before awarding them a place.

It is expected that qualifying for the 2009 European Championships will be enough to satisfy Fiba - if they fail this time, Britain's last chance saloon will be reaching the same competition in 2011.

September sees Britain facing Israel, the Czech Republic and Bosnia & Herzegovina in their four-team, six-game EuroBasket Division A group.

"Now we're in Division A I think we have a chance to go on and win that group," Chicago Bulls star Deng told BBC Sport earlier this year.

"We just have to build on what we did last year and keep focusing on what we're doing."

Winning the group, or finishing as one of the three best second-placed teams (there are four groups in total), will be enough to qualify for next year's European Championships.

That would also more than likely guarantee a place at London 2012.

Finishing as one of the next six best teams would send Britain into a play-off in early 2009, where one of the six will earn last-gasp qualification for the Euros.

But Britain will not want to leave it that late, and will certainly not want to miss out on qualification altogether.

If that happens, their London 2012 chances will rest on reaching the 2011 European Championships.

Luol Deng
Chicago Bulls star Deng can now play for GB following an insurance row
The least palatable outcome from September's games, from a British point of view, is relegation from their EuroBasket division.

Should that happen, Britain will have no way of reaching the European Championships, and will definitely miss out on London 2012.

However, Britain are well-placed to perform in September's matches.

They avoided a number of strong teams in February's draw, including Turkey, France, Serbia and Italy.

"There's a lot of excitement and momentum out there (among the players) for the programme," said Finch following the draw.

"We managed to stay clear of the some of the traditional powerhouses."

Israel, the top seeds in Britain's group, still represent tough opposition, but the second-seeded Czech Republic are missing players through injury and unavailability.

Bosnia & Herzegovina are also a capable team, but Britain recently beat them - even with talismanic NBA star Luol Deng missing from the GB line-up.

The 23-year-old Chicago Bulls star was initially expected to miss these crucial EuroBasket games, having been refused insurance cover for international duty.

But British officials subsequently produced in the region of 200,000 to fund additional insurance for the six matches.

European basketball is something of a level playing field - although Britain have to fight through qualifying to reach the Euros, previous qualifiers have gone on to lift the title.


Two years ago, Russia followed the same route through qualifying to win the tournament.

But thoughts of success at European Championship level will be a world away as the British team, only formed in 2006 following a 14-year absence, prepare for their EuroBasket group.

They know that September represents much more than a chance to play at the Euros.

September's EuroBasket Division A matches:

3 Sep: Israel v GREAT BRITAIN
6 Sep: GREAT BRITAIN v Czech Republic (at O2, London)
10 Sep: GREAT BRITAIN v Bosnia & Herzegovina (at NIA, Birmingham)
13 Sep: GREAT BRITAIN v Israel (at Echo Arena, Liverpool)
17 Sep: Czech Republic v GREAT BRITAIN
20 Sep: Bosnia & Herzegovina v GREAT BRITAIN

see also
GB's Deng cleared to face Israel
30 Aug 08 |  Basketball
Deng believes Britain can qualify
10 Aug 08 |  Basketball
Mensah-Bonsu optimistic for 2012
20 May 08 |  Basketball
European draw offers GB men hope
16 Feb 08 |  Basketball
GB absent from Beijing basketball
30 Nov 07 |  Basketball
Basketball results
12 Oct 00 |  Basketball

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