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Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Wednesday, 14 July 2010 21:56 UK

GB's women can reach EuroBasket, says coach Tom Maher

By Rob Dugdale

Tom Maher
Maher says he is impressed with GB's programme

GB women's coach Tom Maher believes his team can qualify for next year's EuroBasket finals in Poland.

Maher guided his native Australia to Olympic medals in 1996 and 2000 and was made coach of the GB team in 2009.

"My expectation's gone up immeasurably because we've got so much better," he told BBC Sport. "We can qualify."

GB were spared relegation from Division A by world governing body Fiba to allow them to prove they deserved to play as hosts in the 2012 Olympics.

Maher, who recently reduced the size of his squad to 14 players, is pleased with the developing young squad he has been working with in training camp.

"I think we lack a little experience but that would just be an excuse," he added. "I supposed the capacity was there to improve two or three percent. But we've improved 20 per cent. My complaints when I first got here - I take all that back."

Maher also told BBC Sport he believes the infrastructure is now in place to ensure the GB women's team can make the same sort of impact the men have done at a European level.

"I think British basketball is taking the high moral ground," he stated. "There's no question - they're saying 'We're going to move to a new level and it's not just about these Olympics.

"'We're going to be a fanatical hotbed of European basketball.'"

Australia is number one or two in the world for women's basketball, yet it's every bit as professional here - in some ways more so

GB women's coach Tom Maher

Maher, who has also coached the national women's teams of New Zealand and China and the WNBA's Washington Mystics, believes Great Britain's programme is now professional enough to reach a high level.

"They're talking about having a legitimate basketball presence in Europe and therefore in the world - because if you're good in Europe you're good in the world," he said.

"They're definitely building it the right way - it's very professional," he added. "Australia is number one or two in the world for women's basketball and yet it's every bit as professional here - in some ways more so.

"In either the shortness or the fullness of time, this will be a basketball presence."

GB's qualifying schedule starts with a game against Slovakia in Birmingham on 14 August, the first of six home-and-away ties.

Before that, they will play nine warm-up matches, starting with back-to-back games against Portugal at Surrey University and four more matches in Belgium and the Netherlands in the next week.

"It's important - we get tired of beating up on each other as much as anything," joked centre Sarah McKay. "It's nice to try out things and see what works and what doesn't."

WNBA draftee Johannah Leedham will miss some or all of the next week's games as she recovers from a knee injury, although she has already returned to light running while the remainder of the squad trains.

"We're working on systems that complement us well and I think it's going to do us a lot of good," said McKay.

"It is a blessing that we got reinstated and now we have to take advantage of that and prove ourselves all over again. Now we have another chance and we can't just let it slip away from us again."

Squad: Rose Anderson (Central Oklahoma Uni, USA), Kim Butler (Panionios, Greece), Stefanie Collins (UWIC), Chantelle Handy (Marshall Uni, USA), Johannah Leedham (Franklin Pierce Uni, USA), Sarah McKay (unatt), Julie Page (Aix, France), Azania Stewart (Florida Uni, USA), Jeneya Wade-Frey (Tennessee-Chat Uni, USA), Joanna Claydon (Leeds), Natalie Stafford (Barking), Rachael Vanderwal (Limerick, Ireland), Lisa Hutchinson (Sheffield), Meagan Hoffman (UWIC).

Women's matches


GB v Portugal, 17 & 18 July at Surrey University
Belgium v GB, 20 & 21 July in Courtrai
Netherlands v GB, 23 & 24 July in Utrecht
Israel v GB, 3, 4 & 5 August in Tel-Aviv

EuroBasket qualifiers:

GB v Slovakia, 14 August at Birmingham NIA
Germany v GB, 17 August in Wolfenbuettel
GB v Ukraine, 20 August at Surrey University
Slovakia v GB, 23 August in Kosice
GB v Germany, 26 August at Liverpool Echo Arena
Ukraine v GB, 29 August in Dnipropetrovsk

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see also
Aussie Maher will coach GB women
11 May 09 |  Basketball
GB women's basketball coach quits
10 Feb 09 |  Basketball
GB women 'still working for 2012'
22 Jan 09 |  Basketball
Romania shred women's 2012 dream
19 Jan 09 |  Basketball
GB women secure opening victory
04 Jan 09 |  Basketball
Sports handed London 2012 budgets
03 Dec 08 |  Olympics
Basketball results
12 Oct 00 |  Basketball

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