Finch: GB are worth their place

26 July 2012 / 16:16

Great Britain's men's basketball team will savour the fruits of six years' labour when they turn out for their Olympic opener against Russia on Sunday.

When London was awarded the Olympics back in 2005, the British basketball team did not exist. It was formed from the home nations in the following months with the goal of being able to play in the 2012 Games.

The host nation is generally granted automatic qualification, but given Britain's lack of pedigree in the sport, world governing body FIBA first demanded that a series of targets be met by the team as they had to earn promotion from Europe's Division B and then qualification to a EuroBasket to show they could compete on court.

During the process, they dragged their world ranking up from somewhere off the scale to sit 43rd, and FIBA responded to their efforts by granting the home nation a place last year.

On the journey to London 2012, coach Chris Finch said: "It was a great experience. People can make what they want of the qualification, but it didn't feel very automatic when we were sat at the bottom of Division B.

"We had to earn our way here, we met every marker FIBA put down for us to achieve and made it to two EuroBaskets. The next step for us is to get some breakthrough wins. But this process galvanised us, and made us value this more than if we had come through by more traditional means."

The players are clearly itching to get on court and savour the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a home Olympics.

"Growing up in England I know how much of an honour it is to represent your country, and it's even bigger playing in a home tournament," Pops Mensah-Bonsu said. "I would pay to play in the Olympics."

Captain Drew Sullivan, a Londoner like Mensah-Bonsu, added: "I'm extremely excited about taking part in these Olympics. To be here in London where I grew up is something special to me. I've been here since the start when we began working towards this and I can't wait for the Games to start."

Britain will face Spain, Brazil, Australia, Russia and China in Group B, needing to finish fourth or better in the group to advance to the quarter-finals.