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Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

British basketball back at The O2

By Rob Dugdale

The O2
The O2 in London's Docklands stages many big concerts and events

Great Britain are to host a tournament at The O2 Arena in London this summer as part of their preparations for this year's EuroBasket finals in Poland.

Game On At The O2 will be the first top-level international tournament hosted in Britain since 1998.

The tournament, from 14-16 August, will feature Turkey, Israel and Poland.

The Polish team replace Great Britain's fellow EuroBasket group opponents Slovenia, who pulled out of the event on 27 March.

GB head coach Chris Finch said: "Poland are a great addition to our event, and I know our players will be excited to play them come August."

Finch told BBC Sport: "The O2 Arena has to become our symbolic home. We got a lot of support from The O2 last year - it's a world class venue."

GB played their opening home qualifying match at The O2 against the Czech Republic, a game they won convincingly, 87-68, in front of a crowd of 6,500.

"I don't feel the full impact of that day was felt until you saw that first quarter against the Czech Republic and way we jumped out," recalled Finch.

"You could see our players were motivated on a whole different level. Driving all of that was the emotion of playing in front of such a big crowd in such a fabulous place."

Chris Finch
GB coach Finch is relishing the chance of a return to The O2 Arena

All three of GB's opponents at The O2 have qualified for September's European finals in Poland.

A good result in Poland would leave GB on the verge of being confirmed for a hosts' spot in the 2012 Olympics, something they have been told is not guaranteed.

Last summer, GB split their two qualifying games against Israel, losing in overtime in Tel-Aviv and gaining revenge with their best performance of the summer in a 96-86 win in Liverpool.

Turkey invited GB to their World Cup tournament in Konya, a tournament Finch described as 'Our rediscovery'. GB finished second behind the hosts in the last games they played before starting their qualification campaign.

Slovenia, who narrowly missed out on a place in last year's Olympic tournament, will be GB's opponents in first-round Group C in Warsaw, along with Serbia and Olympic silver medallists Spain.

GB will be expecting to have a full squad available for The O2, with NBA stars Luol Deng, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and possibly Ben Gordon teamed with European-based standouts Andrew Betts and Robert Archibald for the first time.

The timing of Game on At The O2 will be a little early for Finch's squad, coming a full three weeks before the team debuts in Poland in the nation's first appearance at a European finals in 28 years.

"For us The O2 tournament is many things," he said. "We're going to take an expanded roster there, so we can have a look at a combination of guys. It's also a chance to have a home-based competition."

The GB-Slovenia game in particular would seem likely to be a cagey affair for the Group C rivals.

"I'll tell you now - what you're going to see in The O2 is going to be a far cry from what you see in Poland," said Finch.

"Because we're not going to show everything we've got. It's going to be about us and what we can learn about ourselves."

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see also
Next stop, Poland
20 Sep 08 |  Basketball
GB defeat Czechs to reach Euros
17 Sep 08 |  Basketball
GB overcome Czechs for first win
06 Sep 08 |  Basketball

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