GIANTS HOLD NO FEARS FOR STAFFORD

Nat Stafford insists Great Britain won’t be intimidated when they embark on the second round of EuroBasket Women on Thursday.

Tom Maher’s side, fresh from Monday’s historic triumph over Israel, spent little time celebrating progress out of the initial phase before thoughts turned to the challenge of taking on Lithuania, Russia and Turkey for an unlikely place in the quarter-finals.

Two wins, at a minimum, are likely to be required to advance further. A tough task, Stafford acknowledges, but there is no point in aiming low.

“Everyone’s beatable,” she said. “Looking at the other games, Slovakia beat Lithuania and we’ve beaten the Slovaks. We’ve played Turkey but we didn’t have Jo (Leedham) or myself in that one. It’s anyone’s game. If we keep playing tough defence, we’ll be ok.”

Growing up in the small Queensland town of Dee Why, Stafford never imagined in her wildest dreams that would one day be representing what the Australians like to consider their greatest sporting foe.

Marrying “an English boy” opened the door for the guard to take up the single naturalised spot in the GB line-up two years ago. Tom Maher knew what she could do from up close, Down Under. He handed her the keys to his basketball team, his general on the floor.

“I’ve got an Australian accent. I can understand him,” Stafford laughs by way of explanation.

“But I’ve got a little bit of experience. Tom saw me play a long time ago and he knows the kind of player I am. I’m normally pretty consistent defensively and I think he likes that.”

Offensively in Poland, the 34-year-old threatened to fall off a cliff after a formidable build-up. The Sydney Flames player went a combined 1-15 against Belarus and the Czech Republic before recovering with a 6-11 show versus Israel.

“That bad?” she said. “I was having a shocking shooting game the first two games but I’m a shooter. I’m going to keep throwing it up there and hope it goes in. I was hoping I’d get my head round it all and they started going in.

“In the first game, I started getting a few good looks. In the second I was forcing a few shots up there. In this one (v Israel), I was getting good looks and that worked.”

The next three games will be another step up in class. Even one win would be a plus, in reality. With all energies concentrated on the Israelis, GB has had little freedom to think beyond the present.

The only answer, Stafford declares, is to trust in defence and hope that the shots can fall.

She confirmed: “That’s our biggest strength and that’s what we’re going to keep focusing on.”

In reality, there is nothing to lose.

 

 

Round 2 Schedule

Thursday 23

GB v Lithuania (2.30pm BST)

Saturday 25

GB v Turkey (2.30pm)

Monday 27

GB v Russia (2.30pm)

 

 

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