Great Britain 'must work harder' for 2012 Olympic spot
British basketball must 'work harder' - Baumann
By Nick Hope
GB must work 'even harder' if they are to be allowed to enter teams into the London Olympics, says the boss of the sport's governing body.
Basketball is currently the only one of the 26 Olympic sports in which the 2012 hosts have not been guaranteed entries.
Patrick Baumann, secretary general of governing body Fiba, told BBC Sport he is seeking assurances over legacy.
"We understand the host deserves a place, but we need to know their plans for after the Olympics and the future."
The message comes as Great Britain prepare to take part in qualifying for the 2011 European Championships, the men beginning an eight-game campaign on 2 August and the women playing the first of six games 10 days later.
The performance needs to grow e and we need to know that the basketball family in the UK has a clear view of where it wants to go when the Games are finished
Patrick Baumann, Fiba
Basketball is a multi-billion pound thriving sport in several European countries, as well as in North America.
Britain's professional domestic league is low-key by comparison, with the bulk of the GB squad playing overseas.
On the international stage the men's team is still ranked outside the top 50, although that is in part because representatives of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were only brought together as Great Britain in 2006.
The women's team do not have an official ranking.
In 2005 after London were awarded the Olympics, Fiba met British basketball representatives to outline their concerns and Baumann said they were still seeking answers to a number of key questions.
* Where will the home of British basketball be after 2012 (will one of the venues from the London Games be used?) * When will GB organise a European Championship? * Which club will go and play in the European club competitions on a regular basis? * Where does GB Basketball wish to be in 2016, at the time of the Rio Olympics?
"We spoke to all of the home nations and representatives from Great Britain and told them 'this is your chance to make something out of this Olympics'," Baumann said.
Luol Deng looks forward to 2012
"We are now at 2010, four years down the road, some things have happened, some things haven't happened.
"What needs to go hand-in-hand is that the performance needs to grow over time and we need to know that the basketball family in the UK has a clear view of where it wants to go when the Games are finished.
"How is the game going to be structured? What are they going to be doing over the next four to eight years to make themselves competitive with other nations?
"If these things come together, there's no reason why GB should not be at the Olympics Games."
Baumann conceded the British basketball authorities were heading in the right direction, and if they continued to make progress in meeting Fiba's concerns, the team's place at 2012 could be assured next summer.
"We may qualify them before the European Championships [in September 2011], subject to their plans being approved and their performances this summer being successful."
He added: "The government tells us that basketball is the highest participation sport at grass roots level in the country, so that's a very promising sign that basketball is a sport that has potential in this country. "
Ranked 58th in the world, GB's men face a tough task just trying to qualify for next summer's Eurobasket in Lithuania.
Automatic qualifying from there is a complicated process, including performance of European teams at the World Championships this September but GB are highly unlikely to secure their place by performance alone.
"We would love to see them being competitive at the Championships in Lithuania, play well and win games.
"Will it be sufficient to qualify from a sporting criteria? That may be difficult for the GB team, but that won't preclude them from us taking a decision that we will still qualify them for the Games," Baumann told BBC Sport.
"The sporting channel is a bit of a risk for GB, but it's an important one in order to test the performance and the psychological strength of the team."
At the start of 2010, the GB men's squad had a major boost when NBA stars Luol Deng and Ben Gordon both committed themselves to playing for the team, which in their absence narrowly lost all three fixtures at last year's Eurobasket.
However Gordon, who is yet to make his debut for Great Britain, has now pulled out of the qualifier series with an ankle surgery.
Baumann re-iterated that in the men's game, the inclusion of some of the sport's 'star-names' could be important.
"If everyone wants to participate, we want everyone to show commitment," he said. "It wouldn't be very nice if someone said, 'I don't care about it and I don't want to play.
"Then it would raise some doubts over all the enthusiasm there is now in the British Basketball Federation, which has a programme that leads them to the Olympic Games.
"Nothing is going to be terminal, but it would not be nice."
Ben Gordon had ankle surgery after the NBA season
Aside from performances, though, Baumann insisted that Deng and Gordon had a greater role to play by making themselves available for Great Britain.
"I think they can be great role models for the future of basketball," said Baumann. "On top of this, in the very short term they can maybe bring that little experience that raises GB's performance by 10-15%, which may be sufficient to start winning games."
Great Britain's women do not have the same depth of talent and at this stage Baumann would not be drawn on whether their inclusion in the 2012 Olympics would be treated separately from the men's team.
The women are in the middle of a series of friendlies around Europe before their Eurobasket qualifiers begin in mid-August.
However, having failed to compete at any of the ranking events in recent years they stand outside of the top 69 nations, without an official international world ranking.
"We have said at the Olympic Games we want the best of the best and it's very important to understand the level of competition is high," added Baumann.
"Of course we understand that the host deserves a place, but it first needs to perform, it needs to organise itself, play at the European Championships and make sure it can get the very best players around the teams, both men and women.
"You can see that this is being done and you can see some of those results, but they need to work even harder."
GB's European Championships qualifying fixtures: MenWomen
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