By Chris Macmillan.
GREAT BRITAIN’S men’s basketball team tip off their qualifying campaign for the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup in 2019 tonight, hosting top seeds in their group Greece at the Leicester Arena.
After qualifying for EuroBasket this summer, Great Britain are looking to make it to the FIBA World Cup for the first time. The two sides played each other twice earlier this year ahead of EuroBasket, with GB slipping to a defeat in Patras before a closer encounter resulted in another defeat, 84-88.
GB captain and Glasgow Rocks power forward Keiron Achara believes a good start is the aim, especially before the squad travel to Tallinn to face Estonia in the second match just three days later.
The Scotsman said: “I believe it to be more desirable. As a professional athlete you are always looking to get off to a good start and carry that momentum on to the next game. I see it as a great honour to captain GB. It is something I take very seriously and never take it for granted.”
Achara’s coach for the Glasgow Rocks, Tony Garbelotto, was appointed the first British-born Head Coach at the end of September and is set to take charge of his first match, having previously been assistant coach before the 2012 Olympics in London.
Garbelotto, who is also coaching Scotland before the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year, announced his first squad which included nine of the team which competed at EuroBasket, as well as Achara’s teammate, small forward Gareth Murray.
Achara said: “Tony has a strong passion for British basketball and he will bring an added motivation for us to go out and show what it means to play for GB.
“He will make sure we are competing and giving our all. It’s familiar, which is a real strength to have, especially with constant change and uncertainty in teams these days.”
Greece will provide tough opposition tonight for team GB, but Achara is looking forward to the tests that lie ahead and is excited about the prospect of making history by reaching the World Cup in Beijing in two years time.
“That is the aim. We wouldn’t have shown up for camp if we didn’t believe [qualifying] was possible. I am always excited to compete for GB whether it is a friendly or big tournaments. That is something that has remained a constant in my international career.”
Great Britain’s match against Greece will be streamed live for free for viewers in the UK, courtesy of FIBA, and you can catch up with all the action from 19.30 tonight at www.gbbasketball.com.
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