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Warrior mode on for Team GB: 2021 crucial for their upcoming talents
MUNICH (FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers) - Great Britain have gotten used to FIBA EuroBasket appearances, but found themselves having to start over from the beginning. They don't mind it, as it's an opportunity to grow.
Just a year ago, they seemed to be challenging for a spot at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. In fact, one of the most dominant teams of the Qualifiers only managed to defeat Team GB in the closing seconds, with Giannis Athinaiou hitting the clutch three-pointer to start what was a highly successful qualifying campaign for Greece.
Meanwhile, Great Britain were unable to build on that good performance. A First Round exit wasn't even in their toughest nightmares, but now it is time for them to wake up and get back to the elite level of European basketball.
"Absolutely, we want to compete at the highest level and in the continent, there is nothing better than competing in a FIBA EuroBasket. The road is still very long, but the main goal is to be between the teams that are going to compete in the next continental competition. It's important for us, it's important for Great Britain's basketball and we all want to make it happen," Ovie Soko said.
The power forward has been outstanding for UCAM Murcia in the Basketball Champions League, but now wants success on the national level, something that he hasn't been able to taste with the senior national team.
But even Soko could not help the team in their first game of the FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers. Sylven Landesberg went off for 47 points, giving Austria a huge win away from home, especially because every single point counts, and only the group winners advance to the FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers, which are set to start in November 2019. Soko was not surprised by Austria's high-level game.
"When you lose by a very small margin against teams such as Germany and Serbia, you can play and compete at a great level. They had a great game and Landesberg had a hell of a game, such an incredible performance by a very talented player. He showed all his talents, he did everything to us on the offensive end, and he had a great game also on the defensive end of the court."
Great Britain will look to bounce back as soon as Monday, when they are away in Cyprus. Ovie used the term "warrior mode," which is something opponents should be afraid of, when such a physical team draws extra motivation.
"We have the talent. We also want to play in this kind of stage, and show what we can do (at FIBA EuroBasket). It's also important for the progression of our basketball, we all want to have basketball growing in our country, as we love the game so much."
The talent level is off the charts with youngsters like 17-year-old Kareem Queeley and 18-year-old Jacob Round getting ever closer to the senior national team.
"They can keep learning about the process and learn about the team and this group of guys. They are both very talented, they have been doing very well with the youth teams of Great Britain, so it's always nice to see young talents being called to play with the senior national team," Dan Clark explained.
Clark used to be in that similar role not that long ago, but now at 30, he knows how to lead the team mentally in the exhausting, three-year-long path towards the summit.
"(Pre-Qualifiers) are pretty interesting, as you have to stay focused and keep fighting for that spot, and take it step by step with the qualification for the main competition in mind. We still have many hours of work, many hours of practice and many hours of traveling for the rest of the these Pre-Qualifiers. But we are ready and we want to be in the continental competition in 2021."
By the time that competition arrives, Dan will be 33. Queeley will be 20, Round 21, and guys like Gabe Olaseni and Soko would reach the primes of their careers in their late 20s. Sounds like Team GB will have a lot of firepower, with potential to play eye-pleasing basketball and prove that they belong to the top slot of European basketball.
As for Clark, he doesn't mind being the leading voice in the locker room when the time comes to hand his minutes to the upcoming talents.
"I really enjoy that veteran role on the team. We have some young players and we are all here to help them and exchange with them in order to make them improve. I still remember when I first played for the senior national team, and now I am one of the oldest guys on the roster. Time goes by very fast!"
Indeed it does. In the blink of an eye, and 2021 will be here. The Pre-Qualifiers' test will only make the time go by faster for Team GB.